Friday 31 May 2019

Book Extract ~ The Wartime Midwives by Daisy Styles

Michael Joseph
16 May 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book and the chance to share this extract


Mary Vale, a grand and imposing Mother and Baby Home, sits on the remote Fylde coast in Lancashire. Its doors are open to unmarried women who come to hide their condition and find sanctuary.

Women from all walks of life pass through Mary Vale, from beautiful waitress Emily, whose boyfriend has vanished without trace, to young Isla, cast out by her wealthy family after her first year at university goes horribly wrong.

Awaiting them is Nurse Ada and Sister Anne who work tirelessly to aid the mothers and safely deliver the babies. But the unforgiving Matron and Head of Governors, Captain Percival, have other, more sinister, ideas.

As war looms the women at Mary Vale must pull together for the sake of themselves and their babies and Ada and Anne must help protect their patients, no matter what the cost.

✨ I'm delighted to be able to share this tantalising extract 
from The Wartime Midwives - the first book in a new heartwarming series by this popular author 

‘More! Please, Mummy, more!’ 

With her head on the same pillow as her son, Gloria stared into her five- y ear old’s sparkling g green eyes and sighed. With her long, raven- black hair fanned out around her slender shoulders, she had the same stunning Mediterranean colouring as her son, except that his hair was a mass of dark curls. Right now his cherubic little face was lit up with excitement, unlike his mother’s, which was drawn with fatigue. She had so much to do before Stan arrived home from work, but how could she resist Robin’s beseeching smile? 

‘Just one more chapter, then I have to go and cook Daddy’s supper,’ she said with an indulgent smile. 

Robin giggled happily and snuggled up closer to his mother. ‘What happens next in the Enchanted Wood?’ he whispered. 

Once again, Gloria opened Enid Blyton’s popular book and continued reading until Robin’s long, silky eyelashes drooped and he finally fell asleep. Laying the book on the bedside table, she stood up and tiptoed to the door, where she turned to smile adoringly at her darling boy. If she’d got her dates right, Robin might well have a little brother or sister to play with in the New Year. Heavens! How would she manage with two? Hurrying downstairs, she checked the meat pie that was baking in the oven in the back scullery, then set about peeling carrots and potatoes. 

Excited as she was about the possibility of a new arrival, she wondered how long she would be able to hold down her job teaching infant children at the local school in Battersea. There was no question that she loved her job, especially now that Robin had just started in the reception class right next door to her own classroom. But with a new baby in the house, surely she would have to give up work to take care of her growing family. Stan had advised her not to dwell too much on what she would or would not have to do. 

‘With war imminent there’ll soon be changes beyond our control,’ he said whenever Gloria started to worry about the future. 

Staring thoughtfully at the bubbles forming in the pan of water she’d put on to boil, Gloria wished that Stan wasn’t quite so insistent about war breaking out. Like most people, she wanted peace, after the horrors of the last war, in which so many millions of men were slain (including her own beloved father). Gloria approved of the prime minister’s appeasement tactics with Hitler, but recent aggression by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia had caused concern. It seemed increasingly obvious that duplicitous Hitler said one thing and then, as soon as Chamberlain’s back was turned, he did exactly the opposite. She knew for sure that her fiercely patriotic husband would be the first to sign up; she’d only to see his expression every time he read an article in the paper or heard a radio announcement about the latest atrocities to know how much he detested the man. 

‘That fella needs teaching a lesson,’ Stan would mutter darkly. ‘A short, sharp shock to put the cocky little upstart in his damned place.’ 

For all her attempts to turn the conversation away from ‘taking on the Hun’, Gloria found that Stan remained steadfastly determined that he would not abandon his country when the call came. The thought of her husband marching off to fight the enemy made Gloria almost sick with fear; all she wanted was to keep her happy little family safe and to bring her children up in a country that was at peace. When she heard the familiar sound of the key turning in the front door, her face lit up; quickly wiping her hands on her pinafore, she smiled at her tall, broad-shouldered husband framed in the kitchen door- way. Even now, after seven years of marriage, her heart still skipped a beat at the sight of his wide, generous smile and the mop of jet-black hair that fell carelessly across his dark blue eyes. 

‘Hello, sweetheart,’ he murmured, and stooped to kiss her full on the mouth. 

Gloria laid her head briefly against his strong chest, where the familiar smell of soap combined with engine oil assailed her senses. 

‘Good day?’ she asked. 

‘Long and hard – London’s getting too busy,’ he joked, as he hung up his coat and washed his hands under the scullery tap. ‘Mmm, supper smells good,’ he said appreciatively, as Gloria laid the hot meat pie on the table alongside a bowl of vegetables dotted with melting butter. ‘How lucky am I?’ he joked. ‘To have a beautiful, clever wife who can cook like an angel after a hard day teaching little ’uns reading, writing and arithmetic!’ 

Gloria smiled as she set down two glasses of cold water by their dinner plates; she knew how proud her husband was of her academic achievements. At the same age as Robin was now she and Stan had started school together; she’d always been the brightest student in the class, while he was just an average learner with an overriding interest in football and car engines. Their easy friendship had blossomed into love, and as teenagers they were inseparable. Stan had started working for London Transport as a bus driver as soon as he left secondary school at fourteen, while Gloria had remained on at school until she matriculated, after which she’d attended a nearby teacher-training college. 

Everybody had said when they got engaged that beautiful, clever Gloria could do better for herself than marry a bus driver, but Gloria had never strayed from her first and only love, even though other men had regularly tried to court her. And when she qualified as a primary-school teacher she married her childhood sweetheart in the church at the end of the street where she’d grown up. Two years later Robin had been born, but it had taken another five years to conceive again; she and Stan couldn’t have been happier or more excited. The only thing that marred Gloria’s joy was the constant, worrying talk of a blasted war! 

After supper they washed and dried the dishes in the back-scullery slop sink, then – as was their nightly habit – they settled down with a cup of tea in front of the coal fire to listen to the radio. Absorbed in following a complicated knitting pattern for a baby’s layette in a neutral cream colour, Gloria wondered dreamily whether the baby she was carrying would be a boy or a girl. 

Daisy Styles grew up in Lancashire surrounded by a family and community of strong women whose tales she loved to listen to. It was from these women, particularly her vibrant mother and Irish grandmother, that Daisy learned the art of storytelling. There was also the landscape of her childhood – wide, sweeping, empty moors and hills that ran as far as the eye could see – which was a perfect backdrop for a saga, a space big enough and wild enough to stage a drama, one about women’s lives during the Second World War.

Twitter #TheWartimeMidwives #DaisyStyles



Thursday 30 May 2019

Review ~ In Two Minds by Alis Hawkins

The Dome Press
2 May 2019

Teifi Valley Coroner #2

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Harry Probert-Lloyd, a young barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has begun work as the acting coroner of Teifi Valley with solicitor's clerk John Davies as his assistant.

When a faceless body is found on an isolated beach, Harry must lead the inquest. But his dogged pursuit of the truth begins to ruffle feathers. Especially when he decided to work alongside a local doctor with a dubious reputation and experimental theories considered radical and dangerous. Refusing to accept easy answers might not only jeopardise Harry's chance to be elected coroner permanently but could, it seems implicate his own family in a crime.

My thoughts..

Those who have read the first book in the Teifi Valley Coroner series will be familiar with lead characters, Harry Probert-Lloyd and his assistant Harry Davies, and in this second book we meet up with them again just as Harry has taken over the role of acting Coroner for this corner of rural Wales. When a body of a man is found washed up on the beach, it's not only his horrific injuries which causes problems but also Harry's involvement in the investigation upsets a few people as not everyone approves of the way he is conducting the enquiry. 

In Two Minds has a really authentic feel and cleverly combines both history and mystery in a story which is filled with lots of twists and turns. I like the way that the author gives us both Harry's and John's views in individual chapters which, sort of, reiterates the two minds of the title, and shows us that Harry and John's relationship is still evolving. The story also highlights the dilemma of those people who are eking out a living in struggling rural communities, and who are undecided about their future in Wales, and for some the prospect of emigration to America is a real possibility.

The author writes well and continues to pay close attention to historical detail. I can definitely see a lovely progression with both Harry and John's characters and I enjoy the way they work together, not always seeing eye to eye, especially with John's burning resentment towards his lowly station in life, and Harry's growing discomfort at being from the local gentry. 

Whilst this is the second book in the series it is perfectly possible to read it as an enjoyable standalone historical mystery. The author includes references to Harry and John's background which makes it easier to pick up on their relationship and we get to know the reasons why Harry relies on John in certain situations.

I can only see this series going from strength to strength and I look forward to meeting up with Harry Probert-Lloyd and John Davies in future Teifi Valley Coroner stories.

Alis Hawkins grew up on a dairy farm in Cardiganshire. Her inner introvert thought it would be a good idea to become a shepherd and, frankly, if she had, she might have been published sooner. As it was, three years reading English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford revealed an extrovert streak and a social conscience which saw her train as a Speech and Language Therapist. She has spent the subsequent three decades variously bringing up two sons, working with children and young people on the autism spectrum and writing fiction, non-fiction and plays. She writes the kind of books she likes to read: character-driven historical crime and mystery fiction with what might be called literary production values.

Twitter  @Alis_Hawkins #InTwoMinds


Wednesday 29 May 2019

Review ~ The Widow's Confession by Sophia Tobin

In the hope of clearing the back log of books on my Kindle I'm restarting my

 One from the Shelf series where I'll feature some of the books which have languished, unread, 

for far too long!

Simon& Schuster
January 2015

My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for my ecopy of this book

Broadstairs, Kent, 1850. Part sea-bathing resort, part fishing village, this is a place where people come to take the air, and where they come to hide…

Delphine and her sister Julia have come to the seaside with a secret, one they have been running from for years. The clean air and quiet outlook of Broadstairs appeal to them and they think this is a place they can hide from the darkness for just a little longer.But this is a town with its own secrets, and a dark past. And when the body of a young girl is found washed up on the beach, a mysterious message scrawled on the sand beneath her, the past returns to haunt the town, and they cannot escape what happened here years before… 

A compelling story of secrets, lies and lost innocence…

My thoughts..

This dark historical mystery has a real Gothic feel to it and the discovery of a young girl's body on the beach at Broadstairs in Kent only adds to the sense of doom which hangs heavily throughout the whole of the story. 

The story gets off to something of a slow start and it took me a little while to start to become comfortable with the main characters but I think what the book shows is the way that women lived their lives in Victorian England. There's a nice sense of history, and the author brings to life this part of the south coast and the restrictions of living in a small coastal village. The mystery at the heart of the story is handled well and there enough twists and turns in the plot to keep it meaningful and whilst its not an all action novel there are some interesting moments of discovery which kept my attention throughout.

The air of tragedy which pervades throughout the whole of the story is one of the trademarks of this author and I remember being impressed with her debut novel, The Silversmith's Wife.

Twitter @SophiaTobin1

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons

Jaffareadstoo is excited to be part of the blog tour for The Tiger Catcher

Harper Collins
30 May 2019

End of Forever #1

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

True Love Never Dies. The young and handsome Julian lives a charmed life in Los Angeles. That is, until his world is turned upside down by a love affair with Josephine, a mysterious young woman who takes him by storm. But she is not what she seems, carrying secrets that tear them apart—perhaps even forever.

And so begins Julian and Josephine’s extraordinary adventure of love, loss, and the mystical forces that bind people together across time and space. A journey that will propel Julian toward either love fulfilled…or oblivion.

My thoughts..

Julien lives a really lovely life in Los Angeles, he runs a successful blog, has good friends and enjoys the lifestyle of a young man about town, however, a chance encounter brings him into contact with the beautiful, Josephine Collins, a young woman who, it must be said, has many secrets. However,  Julien is, very quickly, attracted to both her beauty and her enigmatic personality, and that's when the story takes a very different sort of turn.

To be honest it took me a little while to become accustomed to the story, in some ways, it wasn't what I expected, and whilst I wanted to like the characters, particularly Julien and Josephine, I didn't always feel comfortable with them, and because of that it took me a little while before I invested in them emotionally. However, the quality of the writing, and the unique way that the story eventually develops, quite won me over in the end. Playing around with time in a novel is quite a difficult thing to achieve successfully but the author cleverly manipulates the story so that the time slip element adds an a different dimension to, what is,  after all, quite a unique love story.

The Tiger Catcher is an interesting story about love and grief. It's about what happens when something so dreadful happens that the brain looks for a myriad of reasons in order to rationalise a loss so great it plays around with the emotions.

The Tiger Catcher is book one of a proposed trilogy so with the expected publication of A Beggar's Kingdom planned for December 2019, there is still a way to go before the ultimate conclusion.

43180083 26198450

Paullina Simons is the author of thirteen novels, a memoir, a cookbook, and two children’s books. Born and raised in the Soviet Union, she immigrated to the United States in the mid-seventies. She graduated from the University of Kansas and wrote her first novel, Tully, at twenty-nine. She has lived in Rome, London, and Dallas, and now lives in New York with her husband and half of her children.

Twitter @paullinasimons #thetigercatcher



Monday 27 May 2019

Blog Blast~ The Book of Wonders by Julien Sandrel

30 May 2019

Translated by Rod Schwartz

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

Live every day like it’s your last.

Thelma is the busy single mum of 12-year-old Louis. When he is hit by a lorry one morning, their lives are changed for ever. Louis falls into a coma and if he doesn’t regain consciousness in the next four weeks, he may never wake up again.

At home in Louis’ bedroom, a devastated Thelma finds a list of all the things he wants to accomplish in his life, and suddenly sees a way to survive: she will fulfil her son’s dreams, in the hope that it will bring him back. With the help of his nurse, Thelma sets up an iPad in Louis’ hospital room so he can follow her adventures. His first wish: to spend a day in Tokyo. Thelma has just one desperate hope, that her son will come back to her.

My thoughts..

When twelve year old Louis is badly injured in a road traffic accident, his mother Thelma is devastated to discover that Louis has secretly made a bucket list of all the things he wanted to see and accomplish in his life. However, with only a limited time, before the doctors need to make a decision about Louis' future, Thelma decides to work through this bucket list and record her experiences  in the hope that it will aid her son's recovery.

The Book of Wonders is a salutary story about fulfilling your dreams as you never know what is going to happen. As in Louis' case, a freak accident changed both his and his mother's life forever, and yet, testament to Thelma's determination, that even though she was grieving, she drew on every ounce of her resilience to try to bring hope to her damaged son.

Sometimes its important to take a moment to stop and consider what's important and I think that's where the strength of this novel lies, in that, even though the story has the potential to be a sad and rather dark story about loss of hope, what the author has in fact done is to make this a really hopeful story about finding strength, courage and resilience in the face of great adversity. It's not an overly sentimental story and there were moments which made me smile, so all credit to the author for writing an uplifting story about a sad subject.

...It's never too late to live every day like it's your last...

#1-Climb a Mountain
#2-Swim in the ocean
#3-Catch a falling star

About the Author

Julien Sandrel was born in 1980 in the south of France, i s married and has two children, The book of Wonders is his first novel, La Chambre des meveilles was first published in France by Calmann-Levy in March 2018. 

He lives in Paris.

Twitter @JulienSandrel #BookofWonders



Sunday 26 May 2019

Review ~ The Lost Shrine by Nicola Ford

23 May 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
Clare Hills, archaeologist and sometime sleuth, is struggling to finance her recently established university research institute along with her long-time friend, Dr David Barbrook. When they are offered commercial work with a housing developer on a site in the Cotswolds, the pair are hardly in a position to refuse. There is just one slight catch: the previous site director, Beth Kinsella, was found hanged on-site, surrounded by mutilated wildlife. Despite misgivings, Clare leads a team to continue work on the dig, juggling lingering disquiet between local residents and the developers. When something unsettling is unearthed, will Clare uncover the truth before it is hidden for ever?

My thoughts...

With the university research institute struggling financially archaeologist Clare Hills is persuaded to take over an established dig in the Cotswolds which has already had its fair share of trouble. With an unexplained death and an irate housing developer on the scene, looking for a lost Iron Age shrine is never going to be easy. And for Clare and her team it soon becomes a race against time to keep one step ahead of those who seem hell bent on thwarting her every move.

Combining a fascinating sense of history alongside a complicated mystery, the author uses her considerable archaeological knowledge to make everything feel really authentic. There's a real sense of being involved as the deposits of soil are removed, and when artifacts and other mysteries start to be revealed it feels like complicated layers are being stripped away from a piece of ancient history.

The mystery at the heart of the novel is handled well and there were quite enough twists and turns to keep me guessing, alongside some good character details. As this is now the second book in the Hills and Barbrook series, it was interesting to see how the characters have settled into their individual roles. I especially like Clare who is a feisty and determined heroine and even those she always finds herself in a spot of trouble, it's interesting to see how she copes with whatever adventure the author sends her way.

Whilst its not important to have read the first book in the series, this is easily picked up as a standalone, it is however, it's alwyas far more interesting to follow a series from the very start. This well written series has the potential to run and run and I am sure that both Clare Hills and David Barbrook will be back in another exciting adventure before too long.

Nicola Ford is the pen-name for archaeologist Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. Through her day job and now her writing, she’s spent more time than most people thinking about the dead.

Twitter @nic_ford #TheLostShrine



Special book promotion

29th May - 5th June 2019

Saturday 25 May 2019

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

On Hist Fic Saturday

Lets go back to Georgian England...1785

January 2019

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This chance meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, a journey on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost…

What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

My thoughts...

Middle aged widower, Jonah Hancock is awakened early one morning to the news that one of his merchant ships has been lost at sea and in place of his livelihood the captain of his fleet has returned with, of all things, a mermaid. Jonah is both dismayed and intrigued by this turn of events and more than a little alarmed at being the owner of such an unusual curiosity.

With the need to recoup his losses, Jonah allows the public a tantalising glimpse of this creature and his mermaid exhibition causes a furore in London, with the great, and the not so good, queuing to see it. Against his better judgement Jonah comes into contact with Mrs Chappell, a notorious brothel keeper, who has her own more risquรฉ ideas on how to enhance the mermaid’s effect. However, Jonah’s uneasy association with the brothel keeper brings him into contact with Angelica Neal, a famed courtesan, who is the most beautiful woman Jonah Hancock has ever seen.

This is a really intriguing story about love, greed and obsession and is a real journey through Georgian London, with its fascination for curiosities and its ambiguous morality. The characters are a fascinating bunch, from the rather staid atmosphere of Jonah Hancock’s merchant’s house, to the bawdy illumination of Mrs Chappell’s establishment, there is never a moment when the story doesn’t draw you in. Angelica Neal takes some getting used to, she’s brash and lively, petulant and greedy and yet, by the end of the story I really liked her spirit and determination.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, is really a story of two definite halves; with, I think, the second half of the story being stronger than the first, but throughout it all is a real sense of time and place, and Georgian London with all its pettiness, squabbles and obsession with society is brought to life in quite a vivid way.

I listened to The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock as an Audible recording, which was beautifully narrated by Juliet Stevenson. ( 17 hours and 19 minutes)

About the Author

Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History before going on to work in museums. She began to write fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with, and in 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was a finalist in the MsLexia First Novel Competition and shortlisted for the inaugural Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award.

Friday 24 May 2019

Blog Tour ~ My Mother's Daughter by Ann O'Loughlin

Delighted to be sharing my book review on the last day of this blog tour 

16 May 2019

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

County Wicklow, Ireland. Margo has just lost her husband Conor and is grieving his passing, unsure how she and her daughter Elsa will survive without him. Then she receives a letter that turns everything she thought she knew on its head. Not only has she lost her husband, but now Margo fears she could lose her daughter as well. 

Ohio, United States. Cassie has just split from her husband acrimoniously. Upset and alone she does not know how to move forward. Then her ex-husband demands a paternity test for their daughter Tilly and sorrow turns to anger as Cassie faces the frightening possibility of losing her daughter.

My thoughts...

So many emotions run through this book that it's really difficult to say much about the plot without giving far too much away. However, it's safe to say that I was completely engrossed in the combined story of Margot and Elsa in Ireland, and Cassie and Tilly in the US. Both women have had their fair share of heartache as each is grieving the loss of their marriages, albeit for very different reasons. Not content with the trauma of coping as a single parent both women are devastated to learn that the daughter they each cherish could by some dreadful quirk of fate not be their biological child.

Getting right into the emotional heart of a story is what this author does best and My Mother's Daughter certainly shares some really tough emotional issues which, at times, threaten to engulf both Margot and Cassie. Throughout this emotional story there are some wonderful mother/daughter moments to cherish but equally there's also some really heart-breaking decisions to be made which the author handles with thoughtfulness, compassion and a real sense of empathy.

My Mother's Daughter covers some really sensitive issues around love and loss, and with some really sad stuff towards the end of the book which had me reaching for the tissue box, and yet, it's also a really uplifting story about the powerful bonds of both motherhood and friendship. 

Throughout this excellent story I was reminded of the lengths that mother's will go to to protect their children and that sometimes the strongest emotional bonds are not forged by blood but by unconditional love.

About the Author

As a leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O'Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades. Ann spent most of her career with independent newspapers where she was Security Correspondent at the height of The Troubles, and was a senior journalist on the Irish Independent and Evening Herald. She is currently a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner newspaper covering legal issues. Ann has also lived and worked in India. Originally from the west of Ireland she now lives on the east coast with her husband and two children

Twitter @annolwriter #MyMothersDaughter


Thursday 23 May 2019

Review ~ Ten Poems about Childhood from Candlestick Press

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to share this latest poetry pamphlet from
Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
April 2019

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this poetry pamphlet

Poems exploring innocence and experience

Childhood must be one of poetry’s very favourite subjects. Countless poems try to capture the light and shade of being very young – moments that lodge vividly in our adult memories.
This beautiful mini-anthology ventures off the beaten track with poems that will be new to many readers. From a group of children who:

“...thought words travelled the wires

In the shiny pouches of raindrops,”

from ‘The Railway Children’ by Seamus Heaney

to a baby entranced by mirrors and glass, we see the world in language that sparkles with newness.

Mimi Khalvati’s selection reflects her fascination with how we learn to talk and read, and there are poems about a first encounter with books and about children from different cultures playing ball and swapping words in a village square.

Mimi Khalvati is an award-winning poet and founder of the Poetry School.

Poems by Kayo Chingonyi, Jane Duran, Louise Glรผck, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Jennings, Mimi Khalvati, Hannah Lowe, James Merrill, Tracy K Smith and James Womack.

Cover illustration by Celia Hart.

Donation to Unicef.

My thoughts...

When I was a child I loved listening to poetry and I can remember how perfectly safe I felt when my mother read to me from a battered old copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's, A Child's Garden of Verse. In Ten Poems about Childhood, the magic of words comes alive and with such a wealth of emotion in this selection, it is difficult to choose a particular favourite.

Mimi Khalvati's thoughtful selection covers a whole range of experiences from her own work in:


"...children throwing languages in rotation-
their own, a new one, being made aware
as they leap, drop, pick up, catch, of translation..."

To The Railway Children by Seamus Heaney

"...We were small and thought we knew nothing
Worth knowing, We thought words travelled the wires
In the shiny pouches of raindrops..."

Reading Ten Poems about Childhood is a real celebration of childhood in all its many guises. Reading the poems took me back to those heady days of my own childhood, when summers stretched endlessly long, when with great excitement we build dens and dams, ran races and climbed trees and snuggled up with a glass of milk at bedtime and became lost in the universal language of words.

Ten Poems about Childhood makes a perfect gift for the child that lives in all of us.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Clouds, Walking, Birds, Home and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @PoetryCandle

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Review ~ The Effortless Mind by Will Williams

Simon & Schuster
2 May 2019

My thanks to the publishers and Midas PR for my copy of this book
Will Williams has taught thousands of everyday people to meditate with astounding results. Long term sufferers of debilitating conditions including insomnia, depression and anxiety have used Will’s unique form of Beeja meditation to transform their lives. Others have found a new sense of joy and fulfilment in their lives, and report becoming incredibly productive and creative at work and home.

Supported by scientific research, The Effortless Mind explains how Beeja meditation soothes and calms both the mind and the central nervous system - with fast-acting, tangible results. Each chapter in the book is dedicated to a different problem created in our increasingly pressured and demanding world including addiction, divorce, and work-related stress. Compelling real life stories reveal how Beeja meditation can help overcome these traumatic situations and help improve relationships with both ourselves and others, with chapters on family, anger management, digestion and overeating.

Stories from the book include Nick, a banker and father of two who was admitted to psychiatric hospital for depression. Within two months of learning Will’s technique his anxiety had halved, his medication reduced and a month later he returned to work. Then there is Mia, a medical researcher who suffered with chronic IBS. With GPs dismissive and medication ineffective, Will’s meditation course led to results within 72 hours. Mia’s IBS clinic discharged her citing meditation as the catalyst.

Will’s meditation technique is so successful at calming the mind that he has become one of the UK’s leading meditation teachers and experts. Will teaches Beeja meditation to the world’s biggest brands including Google, Microsoft, BBC, Spotify, HSBC, Sony and Universal. His celebrated courses and retreats have taught film stars, musicians, business leaders, royals, politicians and explorers how to use his simple method to increase productivity, release potential and foster creativity.

My thoughts..

I'm not usually a great reader of self help books but sometimes one comes along which piques my interest and allows the opportunity of looking at life in a very different sort of way.

In The Effortless Mind, the author presents a way of mediating which helps to calm the mind thus allowing a more relaxed state of being.  I found the book to be an interesting and thought provoking read and the author, obviously passionate about the technique he promotes, does a great job of explaining the benefits of Beeja mediation, a method he has perfected.

There are some interesting case studies which help to put the contents into perspective and I enjoyed reading the author's own interpretation of what can be gained by embarking on a series of mediation. The book is divided into easy to read sections and covers: Mind and Body, Relationships, Being Your Best and Finding Greater Purpose.

In our stressful world we all need coping strategies, however, what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for someone else but what The Effortless Mind goes on to explain is that sometimes we just need to step away from the stresses and struggles and allow ourselves the time to reflect and relax.

I have enjoyed reading through this introduction to the Beeja technique and found much to consider and some really good suggestions.

About the Author

A former music industry executive and insomnia sufferer, Will discovered meditation after he used it to cure his own chronic insomnia. Will William’s meditation expertise is based on over 11 years’ experience training with renowned meditation masters across the globe. Will teaches classes and courses from his Beeja HQ in London and runs regular weekend retreats across the UK. Will leads a team of Beeja meditation teachers worldwide, and will be opening new centres in Berlin, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles this year. Will founded World Meditation Day which takes place on the 15th of May, and this year will be launching the new BEEJA meditation app. Will is also working with the OECD to introduce meditation to all primary and secondary schools globally by 2030, with a trial initiative rolling out in 2020, with 20 schools in the UK expected to take part.

@beejameditation #TheEffortlessMind



Tuesday 21 May 2019

Blog Tour and Author interview ~ The String Games by Gail Aldwin

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host day two of this blog tour 

and to share an interview with the author 

Victorina Press
28 May 2019

My thanks to the author for inviting me to read her book and to take part in this blog tour

Hi Gail and welcome to Jaffareadstoo. What inspired you to write The String Games?

One of the worst experiences of my life was losing my three-year-old son for forty minutes on the beach at St Jean de Luz. I was rubbing sunscreen onto my daughter and when I looked up, he was gone. Although this episode ended happily it made me think about different possible outcomes, the vulnerability of little children in countries where they can’t speak the language, and the parental fear of losing a child. I decided this would be a good hook for novel readers but instead of telling the story from a parental perspective, I decided to explore the legacy of loss from the viewpoint of an older sibling.

Tell us three interesting things about your novel. 

๐Ÿ˜Š there are characters who are strung along, others who are puppets on string and those who need to cut the apron strings – string is the controlling metaphor of the novel

๐Ÿ˜Š it’s a three-part novel but I wrote the middle section last

๐Ÿ˜Šin terms of structure and themes, The String Games has similarities with the Oscar winning film Moonlight

Are you a plotter...or ...a start writing and see where it takes you sort of writer?

I started writing The String Games with an end in mind and could see the last chapter as if it were the closing shot to a film. However, the writing journey to get from start to finish was rather like entering a maze. Many chapters took circuitous routes, some paths led to dead ends where I had to backtrack, other chapters flitted around the outskirts and I needed to navigate a new path. When the first draft was completed, every subsequent draft (and there were many over the five-year period it took to finalise the novel) brought me closer to the heart of the novel and the completed story. 

In your research for The String Games did you discover anything which surprised you?

When I began the novel I also enrolled on an MPhil programme with the University of South Wales. I enjoyed the practise of creative writing alongside academic study so much that when the two-year course was over, I transferred to PhD. The String Games became the creative element of my submission and I wrote a thesis to accompany this. One chapter of my research looked at feminist theories about women writers. In “On Female Identity and Writing by Women”, Judith Keegan Gardiner describes the relationship between women writers and their female protagonists by use of the analogy “the hero is her author’s daughter”. This caused me to reflect on my relationship as a writer with my protagonist and to build greater understanding and empathy for her mother, who is quite a tricky character. 

What were the challenges you faced whilst writing this novel?

I am the sort of writer who wears the shoes of my characters. When writing about devastating events, it’s inevitable to feel something of the characters’ pain. To avoid this spilling into my everyday life, I’ve developed the habit of closing my workroom door whenever I finish writing. This helps to separate the experience of engaging with the tragic events in my novel from my life with my family. 

What do you hope that readers will take away from reading The String Games?

The String Games is a celebration of human resilience. It is possible for people to experience heart breaking events and become reconciled with those experiences. 

When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?

I’ve got into some very bad writing habits. The other day I started a writing task at 8am and didn’t leave my desk until 2pm when I was absolutely famished. My writing life spreads into all aspects of daily living like some amorphous creature. I always have several writing projects on the go at any time so it’s more a question of finding time to do the necessary that keeps a home functioning rather than the other way around. 

I share a desk with my husband and although he rarely works from home, his stuff takes up a lot of room. I pile all my notebooks and papers at one end and this has become my writing space. Once I’ve got my head down, it doesn’t matter that I’m in a tiny room. My writing takes me to many different locations. 

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

I write a blog called The Writer is a Lonely Hunter which includes lots of information about me, my projects, publications and events. I’m also part of a collaborative writing trio called 3-She. Together we write short plays and comedy sketches. We’re currently working on a show that will be staged as part of the Shaftesbury Fringe. I’m active on social media so please find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Social Media links:

Twitter @gailaldwin

My thoughts about The String Games..

It's every parents' worst nightmare to have a child disappear, I can well recall that heart stopping, gut-wrenching feeling when my daughter, then aged six, went missing for about half an hour and the sheer relief when she was found safe and well. 

The String Games reminds us of that feeling but it also cleverly focuses on the effects on the sibling in a missing child case, people who are, so often, overlooked, as so much emphasis is concentrated on the distress of the parents. Nim is only ten years old when her four year old brother, Josh, goes missing on a family holiday in France, and, whilst the impact of this devastating event on the parents is never underestimated, it is Nim's reaction to her brother's disappearance which becomes paramount to the story.

I found The String Games to be a very insightful family drama, which never over-sensationalises what has happened, but which looks introspectively into how much Nim suffered and of the grief and sense of loss that she carried with her and her need to have answers to so many unresolved issues. In a way The String Games is a rather poignant coming of age story as we witness Nim's constant search for resolution.

The author writes really well and the attention to detail and the authentic feel to the narrative make this a compelling and thought provoking read.

Monday 20 May 2019

Blog Tour ~ Stolen by Paul Finch

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

16 May 2019

Lucy Clayburn #3

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

How do you find the missing when there’s no trail to follow?

DC Lucy Clayburn is having a tough time of it. Not only is her estranged father one of the North West’s toughest gangsters, but she is in the midst of one of the biggest police operations of her life.

Members of the public have started to disappear, taken from the streets as they’re going about their everyday lives. But no bodies are appearing – it’s almost as if the victims never existed.

Lucy must chase a trail of dead ends and false starts as the disappearances mount up. But when her father gets caught in the crossfire, the investigation suddenly becomes a whole lot more bloody…

My thoughts..

The first chapter gets the book off to a really good start and this exciting atmosphere never lets up until the dramatic conclusion which had me scrabbling back into the story to see if I had missed any important clues. There's so many twists and turns and genuinely heart stopping moments that my fingers turned the pages ever faster so that I didn't loose track of what was happening.

In the town of Crowley in Greater Manchester random people are going missing, they are simply there one minute and then gone the next and whilst the link between the missing takes a while to become a police investigation, when it does, Lucy Clayburn and her team have a real challenge in trying to keep one step ahead of an investigation which gets more and more complex as time goes on.

Those who are familiar with the Lucy Clayburn crime series will know just how this gutsy detective operates, she's feisty, resolute and brimful of curiosity, and certainly doesn't suffer fools, and throughout this complex investigation she is absolutely determined to get to the heart of the matter, even if that means going into some very dangerous situations. It was interesting to see that the complication in Lucy's past is developed further in this story and I have enjoyed working out the connection, especially with her estranged father, which adds another dramatic layer to what is, already, an exciting crime thriller.

The author writes really well and, using both his police experiences and his local knowledge, brings this gritty northern series to life in such a scarily realistic way. Stolen is particularly gritty, with some genuinely dark moments which, at times, makes for uncomfortable reading, but which add such fascinating drama to this fine continuation of the Lucy Clayburn series.

Lucy Clayburn Series

Strangers (Lucy Clayburn, #1) 34522381 42959331

About the Author

Paul Finch is a former cop and journalist, now turned full-time writer. He cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British TV crime drama, The Bill, and has written extensively in the field of children’s animation and for Dr Who. However, he is probably best known for his work in thrillers, crime and horror. His most successful works to date are the six-novel DS Heckenburg crime series, and the new Lucy Clayburn series, the first instalment of which, STALKERS, reached no. 7 in the Sunday Times best-sellers chart.

Paul lives in Lancashire, UK, with his wife and children.

Twitter @paulfinchauthor #Stolen


Saturday 18 May 2019

Blog Tour ~ Night by Night by Jack Jordan

Jaffareadstoo is excited to be part of the blog tour for Night by Night

2 May 2019

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

‘If you’re reading this, I’m dead.’

Rejected by her family and plagued by insomnia, Rose Shaw is on the brink . But one dark evening she collides with a man running through the streets, who quickly vanishes. The only sign he ever existed – a journal dropped at Rose’s feet.

She begins to obsessively dedicate her sleepless nights to discovering what happened to Finn Matthews, the mysterious author of the journal. Why was he convinced someone wanted to kill him? And why, in the midst of a string of murders, won’t the police investigate his disappearance?

Rose is determined to uncover the truth. But she has no idea what the truth will cost her…

My thoughts..

What a roller coaster of a ride this turned out to be, from its dramatic opening, to its intricate middle and jaw dropping conclusion, there is never a moment when the plot doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rose Shaw is a really troubled soul and with very good reason as she has suffered more than enough tragedy in her life to justify her sleepless nights. At the start of the story, Rose feels that she has no purpose and we meet her with her family life in complete disarray. Late one night she inadvertently collides with a man who seems to be running away from something, in the aftermath of this altercation, Rose discover that the man had dropped a journal. Looking through this rather personal journal Rose discovers the story of a young man called Finn who has a nightmare of a story to share.

What then follows is a fast and furious psychological thriller which takes Rose to the very edge of despair and causes catastrophic rifts ,not just with her family but also with the local police force whose helps she seeks, but who seem intent to thwart her every move.

I thought that Night by Night was a really clever thriller, there are some genuinely sad moments which brought me to tears, and also some really dark situations which made me want to grab Rose and take her into safekeeping.

Thought provoking, hugely addictive, Night by Night kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through and, as this is the first book by this author I have read, it also introduced me to a wonderful new, and very original, writing talent.

Jack Jordan wrote his first novel at seventeen and self-published two e-book bestsellers, Anything for Her and My Girl, by the age of twenty four. He lives in East Anglia.

Twitter @JackJordanBooks #NightbyNight


Friday 17 May 2019

Blog Tour ~ Tick Tock by Mel Sherratt

Jaffareadstoo is excited to be part of the blog tour for Tick Tock 

2 May 2019
DSAllendale #2

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

In the city of Stoke, a teenage girl is murdered in the middle of the day, her lifeless body abandoned in a field behind her school.


Two days later, a young mother is abducted. She’s discovered strangled and dumped in a local park.


DS Grace Allendale and her team are brought in to investigate, but with a bold killer, no leads and nothing to connect the victims, the case seems hopeless. It’s only when a third woman is targeted that a sinister pattern emerges. A dangerous mind is behind these attacks, and Grace realises that the clock is ticking…

Can they catch the killer before another young woman dies?

The #1 bestseller returns with a breath-taking thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers.

My thoughts..

DS Grace Allendale's return to work in her home town of Stoke-on-Trent got off to a cracking start in Hush Hush which was the first book in this new crime series. In Tick Tock, DS Allendale once  again finds that she and her team of detectives have to keep one step ahead of a serial killer who is intent on targeting people who, seemingly, have no connection with each other.

The story gets off to a dramatic start and because of the emotional nature of the first case, which involves a teenage girl, Grace and her team are under huge pressure to close the investigation as quickly as possible. However, the creepy edginess and the realisation that the clock is ticking, and the many twists and turns in the plot, make this an incredibly difficult case to solve.

This is turning out to be such a great series, and with Grace Allendale's local connections adding interesting complications, there is never a moment when the tension isn't cranked up to a high level. The police procedural part of the story always feels totally authentic and I really enjoy watching how the investigative team set about cracking the, almost, impossible clues. The character detail is, as always, excellent, and there are some interesting observations into the mindset of the perpetrator which I won't spoil by giving anything away.

This crime series has such potential to run and run and I can't wait to see how Grace's character develops in future stories. If you haven't read the first book in the series then I would urge you to do so, but both books also work as standalone stories.

39929094 45436209

About the Author

Mel Sherratt is the author of eleven novels, all of which have become bestsellers. In 2018 she was named as one of her home town of Stoke on Trent's top influential people, she lives in Stoke on Trent with her husband and terrier, Dexter.

Twitter @writermels #TickTock