Wednesday, 12 May 2021

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ The House Guest by Charlotte Northedge

 

Harper Collins
13 April 2021

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book



Kate trusts Della, and Della trusts Kate.
Their downfall is each other.

When Kate moves to London after the disappearance of her sister, she’s in need of a friend. A chance meeting leads Kate to Della, a life coach who runs support groups for young women, dubbed by Kate as ‘the Janes.’

Della takes a special interest in Kate, and Kate soon finds herself entangled in Della’s life – her house, her family, and her husband. It’s only when she realises that she’s in too deep that Della’s veneer begins to crumble, and the warnings from ‘the Janes’ begin to come true.

Why is Della so keen to keep Kate by her side? What does Kate have that Della might want? And what really lies beneath the surface of their friendship?


๐Ÿ“– My thoughts..


Kate moves to London ostensibly to search for her older sister who has gone missing some time before the story opens. When we first meet her, Kate is living a lonely existence in a grotty flat share, with no friends, and a mundane job in a cafe, so when she meets the glamorous, Della, she is easily taken in by her charm. Life coach, Della starts to take an interest in Kate and whens she invites her to participate in a series of group meetings which Della holds at her beautiful home, Kate, although reticent about sharing her secrets, is drawn into what is on offer by this charismatic older woman.

The story flows, albeit it rather slowly in places but this doesn't detract from the overall effect of the plot as right from the start there is a sense of unease and a distinct feeling that something isn't quite right. Della is beautifully described, complex, manipulative and used to having things done her way and as she controls her group therapies as she does people it doesn't bode well for Kate who is easily drawn into this seemingly perfect environment. Kate was, by far, my favourite character, troubled beyond measure and yet so achingly vulnerable that only wanted what was best for her.

The House Guest is a well written, twisty, turny, psychological suspense novel about the bonds of sisterhood and motherhood and of the many differences between them which can so easily splinter and fracture into a million pieces. I won't give anything more away except to say that I raced through The House Guest in just one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed watching how everything came together.



About the author

Charlotte Northedge is joint Head of Books for the Guardian. She has previously written for a range of newspapers and magazines, including the Guardian, Psychologies and Cosmopolitan. She has an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature from Birkbeck and is an alumna of the Curtis Brown Creative writing course. The House Guest is her first novel.


Twitter @charnorth #TheHouseGuest


@Harperfiction @fictionpubteam




Tuesday, 11 May 2021

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Condemned by R C Bridgestock



Canelo
April 2021

Charley Mann #2

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book


An old house. A fire. Two corpses… DI Charley Mann returns in this gripping crime thriller.

West Yorkshire DI Charley Mann is called for what seems a routine job. Prior to demolition a deserted manor house appears to have been the target of an arson attack.

But something isn’t right.

The house has a dark history – and a dark present. When the remains of two bodies are discovered hidden inside, it soon emerges they were murdered decades apart. Who are they? What are their connections to the house? Why were they killed? And what is the connection to the fire? Amongst the ashes, Charley is soon drawn into a web of deceit and violent plots.

The ghosts of the past can be all too real. Face them at your peril, because what goes around, comes around.


๐Ÿ“– My Thoughts..

On route to a police job DI Charley Mann pulls over when she sees a house fire consuming what is left of the old house known locally as Crownest. Charley, like all the locals, has grown up thinking that the house is haunted and its chequered history certainly lends itself to spooky speculation. When the fire unearths rather more than was expected, Charley and her team are called in to investigate the discovery of the remains of two bodies, both hidden in unusual circumstances, and both with a distinctly macabre story to tell.

We first met Charley Mann in the first book in the series and it's a real delight to be back with this feisty detective in the area of West Yorkshire she calls home. The high moorland setting above Huddersfield helps to give the story such an atmospheric edginess and brings a real sense of desolation that it's perfectly possible to hear the cawing of the aptly named murder of crows as they circle in the brooding skies above this isolated area.

There's something about a spooky old house finally giving up its secrets that appeals to me and the sense of old history which surrounds the house is done really well. Add into the mix a couple of modern day mysteries and what comes out is another complex police procedural with the added enjoyment of watching how this talented writing duo, whose own police experiences always adds such credibility to the story, bring everything to its final conclusion.

With great writing Condemned brings us great characterisation, a complicated murder mystery and more than enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing until the end. I am sure that this isn't the last we have have seen of DI Charley Mann and I am definitely looking forward to spending time with her again. 







Bob was a highly commended career detective of 30 years, retiring at the rank of Detective Superintendent. During his last three years, he took charge of 26 murders, 23 major incidents, over 50 suspicious deaths and numerous sexual assaults. He was also a trained hostage negotiator with suicide interventions, kidnap, terrorism and extortion. Bob was seconded to a protracted enquiry investigating alleged police corruption in another force. He worked on the Yorkshire Ripper and Sarah Harper murder, and received praise from Crown Court Judges and Chief Constables alike for outstanding work at all ranks, including winning the much-coveted Dennis Hoban Trophy. 

As a police civilian supervisor, Carol also received a Chief Constable’s commendation for outstanding work. 

The couple are the storyline consultants / police procedural on BAFTA-winning BBC1 police drama Happy Valley and series 3 of ITV’s Scott and Bailey, and are presently working with Scott Free Production scriptwriters on two commissioned TV drama series. 

The couple pride themselves on being up-to-date on past and present day UK police procedures, and as a result, Bob is regularly sought by UK television, radio and national and local newspapers for comment on developing major crime incidents etc. They have also taken part in BBC Radio 4 (Steve) PUNT P.I. 

Carol and Bob are also patrons and ambassadors for several charities.


Twitter @RCBridgestock 

@canelo_co





Monday, 10 May 2021

๐Ÿ“– Publication Day Push ~ A Thousand Goodbyes by Ruth Graham

 

๐Ÿ“– Delighted to be part of this Publication Day Push today ๐Ÿ“– 

for

A Thousand Goodbyes

The Surprising Life of a Funeral Celebrant


Independently Published
10 May 2021

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for my invitation to be part of this one day push


If you liked Adam Kay’s book, ‘This Is Going To Hurt’, you’ll love the joyously life affirming memoir, ‘A Thousand Goodbyes’.

When Ruth Graham left the world of stand up comedy to become a funeral celebrant, she’d imagined a less combative career.Over a thousand services later ... she knows better.

Probably her most demanding role to date, Ruth has needed every ounce of diplomacy, courage,humour and her wits about her to juggle the daily challenges. From grief stricken families to amorous widowers through to plate smashing, warring siblings and even a flock of stoned doves at a Rasta funeral.

As the story unfolds we witness her new career developing into a 24/7 commitment. Will it break her?

Or will it be the spur she needs to get her own life in order?

Jaw dropping, informative, moving and hilarious in turn, ‘A Thousand Goodbyes’ is a reminder that nobody is guaranteed a tomorrow; whilst encouraging everyone to seize their day.


My thoughts..

I've been to many funerals over the years. All of them unique, some more poignant than others but all with a distinct sense of completing the circle of life. Mostly the funerals have taken place in church with a religious celebrant, but I have also been to services were religion was not the main focus and through thoughtful meditations,often chosen before death, the funerals were as special as the person who had died had wanted it to be.

In A Thousand Goodbyes, the author tells of her varied experiences as a Funeral Celebrant, from the funny and downright bizarre, to the incredibly sad and deadly serious, but one thing is certain, there is never a dull moment when participating in a funeral. Throughout the book I was struck once again by the vagaries of human nature, and I think that anyone who has spent time at the end of someone's life, or with grieving families, know that nothing is ever straightforward.

I've never considered the work of a funeral celebrant before, they are, quite simply, the people who you see calmly standing before a weeping congregation of people, bringing the deceased back to life for a moment with wise words and compassionate readings and eulogies. The author takes us through some interesting anecdotal stories, sharing her experiences in a thoughtful way neither making light of the work she does nor of making everything seem overly complicated. The book is written with warmth, and wit, and a much need sense of humour, and yet the author also oozes compassion, and a passionate belief in the unique service she offers to grieving families.

Despite everything we have been subjected to in this global pandemic when so many people have lost their lives, we still see death as something mysterious and to be avoided at all costs, but death is inevitable, and thank goodness we have people like Ruth Graham, and all those special people who offer a unique service to help saying goodbye to our loved ones a less painful process. 

A Thousand Goodbyes is a fascinating insight into the work of someone who, quite often, blends into the background but who is always there we need them most.


About the Author





Ruth Graham has written for many publications over the years on a variety of subjects. Initially working for Emap Elan on Period Living and Traditional Homes magazine, she then moved onto freelance for titles as varied as The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail.

A move back to the Midlands in 2000 brought her first big break with her own weekly gossip/opinioncolumn in The Sunday Mercury (Trinity Mirror), where she was billed as ‘Ruth Graham: More Balls Than Your Average Bloke’!

She then went on to launch her own magazine ‘Midlands Homes & Interiors’.Two years later (2007), came her first series of short comedy books, ‘The Bible Series’ (Know TheScore Publishing). One of these ‘The Break Up Bible’ was cunningly launched on Valentine’s day,gaining great publicity, and a spot on GMTV and Channel 5 news!

Since then Ruth has written and performed her own one woman show (Just Sayin’); become a celebrant; and subsequently collaborated with writer/performer Cat Weatherill on the British Arts Council funded show ‘Unforgettable’celebrating the lives of those we’ve loved and lost.

And then came the book ‘A Thousand Goodbyes’all about Ruth’s work as a celebrant, the people she meets and the bizarre, touching and hilarious circumstances that constitute the average day, and life, ofa celebrant.



Twitter @CelebrantRuthG

@rararesources








Sunday, 9 May 2021

๐Ÿด Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Hannah Fielding



On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo








๐ŸดI am so pleased to welcome Hannah Fielding to Sunday Brunch๐Ÿด








๐ŸดGood morning, Hannah. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

A selection of mini pastries for a French-style meal – pain au raisins, croissants, brioche and chausson aux pommes. Plus a platter of freshly prepared fruits.


๐ŸดWould you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?

Coffee is the natural accompaniment for brunch in France. The French like it strong, and I prefer a cappuccino with extra foam.


๐ŸดWhere shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?

Oh, outside please! I take any opportunity to dine outside. I’m sure the fresh air heightens the taste of the food, and the flowers, the birdsong, the breeze and the sun always lift my mood.


๐ŸดShall we have music playing in the background? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you happy?

How about some classical music? Debussy makes for wonderfully soothing background music.


๐ŸดWhich of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?

How big is your patio table; how many can we fit around? I read French Literature at university, so of course I would love to meet the greats: Honorรฉ de Balzac, Voltaire, Gustave Flaubert, Victor Hugo. And the wonderful poet Leconte de Lisle. The Brontรซ sisters too. And Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Goodness – we’ll need more pastries to go around!


๐ŸดWhich favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. It was published back in 1978 and has remained a favourite book for me ever since. It’s a romantic epic, a work of historical fiction that takes the reader back to the British Raj rule in India in the nineteenth century.


Penguin
1997


๐ŸดWhen you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!

I can’t imagine not reading; it is my solace and comfort, and a great source of inspiration for me. When I am writing a novel, I tend to read non-fiction books, so that I don’t confuse a story I am reading with the one I am writing. I love books on history, art, architecture, cookery – and language. I have been known to read dictionaries!


๐ŸดWhat’s the oldest book on your book shelf?

A very old, very well-loved copy of The Arabian Nights. My parents and my governess would read these fairy tales to me when I was a child and I was absolutely spellbound. Once I could read the book for myself, I did so over and over again.


๐ŸดWhere do you find the inspiration for your novels?

My travels, mostly. So far my novels have been set in Kenya, Spain, Italy and the Greek Islands – all places I have explored on my travels; and my latest novel is set in Egypt, my homeland.

I love to research a location and learn all about its culture, its history, its mythology, its proverbs, its cuisine. Most of all, I love to visit the place – writing is a wonderful excuse for travelling!


๐ŸดHave you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I have different writing spots in my homes in Kent, Ireland and the South of France, both inside and outside, depending on my mood and the season. In summer, for example, I often write in the gazebo in my French garden, and this winter I’ve been enjoying writing at the kitchen table, cosy in the warmth from the stove.


๐ŸดWhen writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?

Usually, I’m really rather disciplined when I’m writing. With eight novels published and several more in the pipeline, I have developed a routine for getting the words down. That said, I have found it more challenging to focus at times during the pandemic, because there has been so much to worry about. Rest, I’ve found, restores my focus.


๐ŸดGive us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

An idea about which they are passionate. A plan for the book. Sufficient time to devote to writing. The grit to sit on the chair and write and write. (Ideally also, as Virginia Woolf put it, ‘a room of one’s own’ in which to write.)


๐ŸดWhat can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?

Song of the Nile is my latest novel – a story that is very close to my heart, for it is set in my homeland, Egypt.





Luxor, 1946. When young nurse Aida El Masri returns from war-torn London to her family’s estate in Egypt she steels herself against the challenges ahead.

Eight years have passed since her father, Ayoub, was framed for a crime he did not commit, and died as a tragic result. Yet Aida has not forgotten, and now she wants revenge against the man she believes betrayed her father – his best friend, Kamel Pharaony.

Then Aida is reunited with Kamel’s son, the captivating surgeon Phares, who offers her marriage. In spite of herself, the secret passion Aida harboured for him as a young girl reignites. Still, how can she marry the son of the man who destroyed her father and brought shame on her family? Will coming home bring her love, or only danger and heartache?

Set in the exotic and bygone world of Upper Egypt, Song of the Nile follows Aida’s journey of rediscovery – of the homeland she loves, with its white-sailed feluccas on the Nile, old-world charms of Cairo and the ancient secrets of its burning desert sands – and of the man she has never forgotten.

A compelling story of passion and intrigue – a novel that lays open the beating heart of Egypt.

The novel is available to purchase in all ebook formats and in paperback on my website, https://hannahfielding.net/.



Hannah, where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter  @fieldinghannah






Thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.

Thank you so much for having me.


Follow us on Twitter #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo




Saturday, 8 May 2021

๐Ÿ“– His Fic Saturday Blog Tour ~ A Ration Book Daughter by Jean Fullerton #Giveaway

 


๐Ÿ“– On Hist Fic Saturday I am delighted to host one of today's blog tour stops ๐Ÿ“–


Let's go back to.... London, 1942


Corvus
ebook 6 May 2021
Paperback 6 August 2021

East End Ration #5

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for my invitation to the blog tour.



Not even the Blitz can shake a mother's love.

Cathy was a happy, blushing bride when Britain went to war with Germany three years ago. But her youthful dreams were crushed by her violent husband Stanley's involvement with the fascist blackshirts, and even when he's conscripted to fight she knows it's only a brief respite divorce is not a option. Cathy, a true Brogan daughter, stays strong for her beloved little son Peter.

When a telegram arrives declaring that her husband is missing in action, Cathy can finally allow herself to hope she only has to wait 6 months before she is legally a widow and can move on with her life. In the meantime, she has to keep Peter safe and fed. So she advertises for a lodger, and Sergeant Archie McIntosh of the Royal Engineers' Bomb Disposal Squad turns up. He is kind, clever and thoughtful; their mutual attraction is instant. But with Stanley's fate still unclear, and the Blitz raging on over London's East End, will Cathy ever have the love she deserves?

๐Ÿ“– My thoughts..

In this fifth outing to London's East End we meet again with the indomitable Brogan family who have featured so strongly in the previous books. In A Ration Book Daughter we follow the story of Cathy Wheeler who lives with her small son, Peter, and her domineering mother-in-law, whilst her husband, Stanley, is on active duty overseas. When Cathy receives the dreaded telegram informing her that Stanley is missing in action, rather than be sad, Cathy lives in hope of finally being rid of her violent and aggressive husband.

We follow Cathy as she tries to keep both herself and her son safe from the increased threat of the bombs which drop constantly on the East End, and rather than take shelter with her nasty mother in law, Cathy prefers to spend her nights with her Brogan family in the shelters beneath a London tube station. When Cathy comes into contact with Sergeant Archie McIntosh who is part of a bomb disposal unit based in the East End there is a pull of attraction between them and it is this bureoning relationship which features so strongly in the story.

What then follows is a lovely story which bears all the hallmarks of this authors passion for bringing the history of the East End to life. With meticulous research and genuine delight in recreating the lives of this stalwart generation the author gives us a story which is alive with warmth and compassion and filled with characters who, with each successive story, just get stronger and stronger and who find a place in your heart.

A Ration Book Daughter continues the series is grand style. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Cathy's story and desperately wanted her to find her happy ever after ending. Archie McIntosh is a welcome addition to the story and I found his story both poignant and uplifting in equal measure. The Brogan's are, of course, as wonderful as ever, particularly Queenie, the matriarch of the family who continues to rule the roost with her own inimitable brand of stern common sense.

It's worth saying that whilst A Ration Book Daughter may be read as a standalone story, it would be advisable to enjoy this series from the beginning in book #1.


About the Author




Born and bred in East London Jean is a District Nurse by trade and has worked as a NHS manager and as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies.She left her day job to become a full time writer in 2015 and has never looked back.

In 2006 she won the Harry Bowling Prize and now has seventeen sagas published over three series with both Orion and Atlantic all of which are set in East London.

She is an experienced public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt,plus for the past fifteen years she has sailed all over the world as an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships.

Twitter @JeanFullerton_





 **Giveaway**

Giveaway to Win 6 x A Ration Book Daughter Paperbacks (Open to UK Only)


Terms and Conditions

UK entries welcome.

Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.


The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the give away organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.







Friday, 7 May 2021

✩ ✩ Jaffareadstoo Tenth Blogoversary ✩ ✩




 

Ten years ago I took a leap of faith and with time on my hands and a burning desire to pass on my love of reading to a wider audience I took my first tentative steps into the world of book blogging. I had no idea of how to set up a web site and had no presence on social media but with fingers crossed and the help of a few like minded blogger friends I set up Jaffareadstoo.

Ten years later, we continue to survive and thrive in our little corner of the blogging world. Jaffa and I are both older and wiser than when we set out on this great adventure but what has remained constant throughout the years is my passion for sharing the book love to those who read my blog. With several thousand viewers a month stopping by to read my reviews, with over a 1000 following by email, and over 2700 followers on Twitter we can't be doing much wrong.

It's been a real privilege to interact with authors, publishers, publicists and blog tour operators and we have built a solid rapport with them and I like to think that our reputation, so carefully built over the last ten years, is what brings them back time after time. It's lovely to see authors revisiting us with news of their latest book, they are always welcome guests on the blog and being involved in promoting books on publication day or as part of a well organised blog tour is an absolute joy and is still something we never take for granted. However, it is the readers who make my day when they tweet, or message me, to say that due to reading one of my reviews they have gone out to purchase the book, or have discovered a new favourite author.

And as we go into our second decade I am still hugely excited to discover fabulous stories from talented authors and will continue to shout about them with as much enthusiasm as I did back in 2011 when Jaffareadstoo's grand blogging adventure was just beginning.


♡Thank you all for being part of our adventure ♡


Rather than hosting a giveaway I will make a donation to the National Literacy Trust
an independent charity working with schools and communities to give disadvantaged children the literary skills to succeed in life.










Thursday, 6 May 2021

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

  

 ๐Ÿ“– Delighted to host today's stop on this blog tour ๐Ÿ“–


Wildfire Books
29 April 2021

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


As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur - Minos's greatest shame and Ariadne's brother - demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods - drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne's decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover's ambition?

Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. 







๐Ÿ“– My Thoughts..

What a fascinating story this turned out to be ! 

I started reading Ariadne with some trepidation as the ancient myths and legends of Greece are not something that I am overly familiar with and whilst I had a smattering of knowledge about King Minos of Crete and the legendary Minotaur, I had no idea of his creation as the son of Queen Pasiphaรซ, or his fate at the hands of Theseus of Athens.

Ariadne is the daughter of King Minos and is considered to be little more than a pawn in her father's ambition. When Theseus arrives as part of the annual consignment of sacrifice to the Minotaur everything about Ariadne and her world falls gloriously apart. Forced to flee, Ariadne is abandoned on the Greek island of Naxos where she comes into contact with the God Dionysus and the course of her life changes forever.

Making the ancient Greek world accessible in such an enjoyable way is no mean feat, and all credit to the author for making this story of Ariadne, Princess of Crete, into such a fascinating study between good and evil, love and loss, sibling rivalry and ultimately, male dominance in an Alpha male world. I especially enjoyed Ariadne's life on Naxos, her relationship with Dionysus is done in a thoughtful way, which brings the frenzied nature of this charismatic God of the harvest, wine-making and fertility to life in a vibrant and exciting way. It was interesting to discover the association of the Maenads, Dionysus' lady followers, who are often inspired into a state of ecstatic frenzy by Dionysus, hence the term frenzied Maenad.

The story of Ariadne is based on what is known in mythology about this classical princess and it rejuvenates the story for a new audience of readers to enjoy, and even if, like me, your knowledge of the ancient world of Gods and Goddesses is painfully lacking there is still much to enjoy in this fascinating journey into the myths and legends of Ancient Greece. 



About the Author 





Due to a lifelong fascination with Ancient Greek mythology, Jennifer Saint read Classical Studies at King’s College, London. She spent the next thirteen years as an English teacher, sharing a love of literature and creative writing with her students. ARIADNE is her first novel and she is working on another retelling of ancient myth for her second.


Twitter @jennysaint #Ariadne

@Wildfirebks @headlinepg

@RandomTTours




Wednesday, 5 May 2021

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ Journey to Paradise by Paula Greenlees

 

๐Ÿ“– Delighted to be hosting a stop on this blog tour ๐Ÿ“–


Arrow
EBook Release 1 May 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and the invitation to the Blog Tour



Singapore:1948

When Miranda steps onto the pier with her husband Gerry at Singapore she hopes that this will be a fresh start; a chance to run from her darkest secret, and heal the scars from her past.

Gerry's new role at the British foreign office affords a certain kind of lifestyle; a beautiful house, servants, and invites the best parties in town. But life in Singapore feels worlds apart from Miranda's beloved home in England. True friends are hard to find in ex-pat society, and with Gerry spending all his time at work or drinking at the club, she loses hope that Singapore would save their marriage. So when Miranda meets kind-hearted Nick Wythenshaw, when volunteering at the local hospital, she begins to realise the depth of her own unhappiness, and dares to hope for more...

Meanwhile, riots are erupting across the region, and Singapore is becoming an increasingly dangerous place to be British. As the danger draws ever closer to home, Miranda must make the toughest decision she has ever had to face - to choose between duty and happiness, and risk ruin.





๐Ÿ“– My Thoughts..

Post war Singapore in 1948 is a place of contrasts especially for the last of the colonials who travel from England to take up positions of authority in local government. Miranda Lewis, and her husband Gerry, are hoping that their move to Singapore will help to chase away some of the sadness in their marriage but rather than bringing them closer it would seem that the move only accentuates their opposing viewpoints.

Nick Wythenshawe is a young doctor who is currently involved in working at a Catholic mission, in Singapore, for orphan children. When he and Miranda first meet they find that they have much in common especially when Miranda decides to help out at the mission. Their compassionate natures draw them to each other but they must choose their way forward very carefully.

Singapore is beautifully recreated and the sights, sounds and rather volatile atmosphere comes alive in the author's skilful recreation of this beautiful place. This is a dangerous time to be English in Singapore, resentments run deep especially in the juxtaposition between the decadent lifestyles of the colonials against the poverty and insecurity of the local people. The author brings this sense of danger into the story and whilst the English party through the night at their clubs and private dinner parties, there is more going on politically and socially than they could ever have imagined.

Journey to Paradise is a lovely story with an authentic historical background and a wonderful sense of time and place which all help to bring this exotic paradise to life in a meaningful and thoughtful way.



About the Author


Paula Greenlees has an undergraduate degree in English and European Thought and Literature, and a Masters Degree in Creative Writing. She spent three years living in Singapore surrounded by the history and culture that provided the inspiration for her first novel, Journey to Paradise.


Twitter @PGreenlees #JourneytoParadise

Indsagram @paulagreenlees

@arrowpublishing





Tuesday, 4 May 2021

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Don't Turn Around by Jessica Barry

 

Vintage
15 April 2021

My thanks to the publishers and to Graeme Williams Marketing for my ecopy of this book


Two strangers, Cait and Rebecca, are driving across America.

Cait's job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca's secrets put them both in danger? There's a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it's like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move...


 ๐Ÿ“– My Thoughts...

Two women, both of them strangers to each other, set off on a hazardous 322 mile journey across America, from Texas to New Mexico. One of them is in danger whilst the other is part of the Sisters of Service a clandestine organisation which helps to remove women from dangerous situations and take them to a place where they won't be found. 

Cait Monaghan never asks questions, she merely waits, and once she has her passenger safely installed in her beloved old Jeep she drives the long and lonely stretches of highway until the feeling of being followed goes away. However, when she picks up Rebecca McCrae, Cait discovers that this journey is going to be like no other, neither women have much in common, and both of them have their own good reasons for being in each other's company at this time.

The journey is filled with tension and the long creepy drive towards a future destination is filled with both danger and trepidation. This adds an altogether different dimension to the story as both Cait and Rebecca guard their secrets well. Cait more than most knows what its like to be looking over your shoulder, and Rebecca, both wary and distrustful, keeps her story locked away inside.

This cleverly put together psychological thriller takes a little bit of adjustment as the story moves between different time frames, and whilst they help us to understand just what has happened to bring Cait and Rebecca together at this particular moment in time, it can make the narrative seem a little disjointed at times. Having said that, the short and snappy chapters work really well and I particularly enjoyed the countdown to each destination which made me feel like I was a back seat passenger in the Jeep as it went on its long, lonely and decidedly, dangerous journey.

Don't Turn Around is a timely piece of writing which has more than a hint towards #MeToo issues.



About the Author


Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and was raised on a steady diet of library books and PBS.

She attended Boston University, where she majored in English and Art History, before moving to London in 2004 to pursue an MA from University College London.

She lives with her husband, Simon, and their two cats, Roger Livesey and BoJack Horseman


Twitter @jessbarryauthor #DontTurnAround

@VintageBooks



Monday, 3 May 2021

๐Ÿ“– Featured Book of the Month ~ The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine

 

Harper Collins
15 April 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


A nest of vipers, they called us. But that is not how it was.

Mercia, 775 AD. In the grand Saxon halls of Mercia, King Offa rules with ruthless ambition. Aggressive and relentlessly acquisitive, his three daughters are destined to marry advantageously in service of their country. Eadburh, the youngest, is neither the cleverest nor the most beautiful of the three. But, with her father’s ruthless spirit and the secret gifts passed down from her mother, she is determined to carve her own path in the world.

2021. Simon Armstrong has escaped to a secluded cottage on the English-Welsh borders, desperate to finish his book about Anglo-Saxon King Offa. But he soon finds himself disturbed by unsettling noises and visions. Calling in local expert Bea to identify the issue, Simon hopes to get back some peace – but soon Bea is as embroiled as he is, feeling increasingly connected to a ghostly presence that is growing ever-stronger in its desire for revenge. And when Simon’s daughter disappears, centuries of secrets and resentment begin to tumble out…

An epic tale of deceit, revenge and exile from the queen of timeslip historical fiction.Time is running out as the past and present collide.


๐Ÿ“– My thoughts..

There is nothing I like better than to sit for several hours immersed in one of this author's engrossing supernatural tales. Combining a strong sense of history with a plausible time slip element is just what makes these stories so special.

Author, Simon Armitage, has moved into a remote cottage close to what remains of Offa's Dyke on the English/Welsh border in order to finish writing his book about the Anglo Saxon King Offa. This isolated area is a place of secrets and shadows and with no obvious explanation for the distressed voices he starts to hear Simon calls on the help of Bea Dalloway, whose skill in dealing with paranormal activity is a closely guarded secret. 

Unleashing the ancient power that swirls around this remote cottage has a profound effect on Bea and soon she is consumed by the turbulent story of Eadburh, the spirited younger daughter of King Offa, whose shadowy presence dominates, and whose history, it would seem, needs to be heard before she can find the peace she so desperately craves.

The Dream Weavers is beautifully written and so skilfully put together that even as you move seamlessly between past and present, the history, and the characters, which the author so skillfully brings to life, start to come alive in the imagination. And as neither the past nor the present is allowed to outshine the other, and with each time frame so scarily realistic, the ancient world of 775 AD is just as vivid as the paranormal events which start to unfold in 2021. As the shadows bloom and shimmer so the curtain to the past is lifted and time reveals its deadly secrets.

I've long been a fan of this author's exceptionally skilful writing, in fact, I still can't believe that the first book I read, back in 1986, The Lady of Hay, has just celebrated its 35th anniversary. Without doubt Barbra Erskine is the Queen of the time-slip genre and I think that The Dream Weavers is up there amongst her best which is why I have no hesitation in making it my Featured Book for the Month in May.


About the Author





A historian by training, Barbara Erskine is the author of many bestselling novels that demonstrate her interest in both history and the supernatural, plus three collections of short stories. Her books have appeared in at least twenty-six languages. Her first novel, Lady of Hay, has sold over two million copies worldwide. She lives with her family in an ancient manor house near Colchester and in a cottage near Hay-on-Wye,

Twitter @barbaraerskine #TheDreamWeavers

@HarperCollinsUK




Sunday, 2 May 2021

๐Ÿด Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Susan Lanigan

 


On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo






๐ŸดI'm delighted to welcome Susan Lanigan to our Sunday Brunch today๐Ÿด




๐ŸดWelcome, Susan. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

Hello Jo! Thank you for inviting me. Of late I have grown very fond of a bowl of soya yoghurt with granola and blueberries. If we have bananas, I’ll chuck those in too! If we’re at a cafรฉ I like and this accursed lockdown isn’t preventing us, I’ll have huevos rancheros too.
 

๐ŸดWould you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?

It would be a mug of instant coffee or made in a cafetiere. If it’s a slow morning, I’ll grind my own beans! And a good dollop of milk. My sisters gave me a mug for my birthday with a picture of the cover of White Feathers on it and I always drink my coffee out of that.
 

๐ŸดWhere shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?

I think in a set of comfy chairs near a bay window looking out onto a garden, cradling our warm mugs and watching the finches feed on the bird feeder.
 

๐ŸดShall we have music playing in the background? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you happy?

For background music, Billie Holiday, particularly “These Foolish Things”. A song that raises my spirits is Don’t Sacrifice by Mirenda R. I’d had so much nonsense and spite from certain people in the Irish literary world and there had been a health issue in my immediate family so I just said enough of these people, I’m not getting any money for this dog’s abuse they’re giving me, and broke ties. And every time I hear that soaring middle 8, “I know that I am worthy”, a shiver runs up my spine. There’s a passage in Lucia’s War where she looks at her hands and tells herself “These hands have done worthy things” that is eerily similar given I hadn’t heard the song yet when I was writing it.

Wow that ended up being longer than I thought! I obviously have Issues about this topic ๐Ÿ˜Š
 

๐ŸดWhich of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?

I always reckoned DH Lawrence would be a bit of a hoot because he would be wildly entertaining – up till the point where he turns on you and has to be ejected of course. I’d say James Baldwin would have a lot of wisdom to share, and DH Lawrence wouldn’t faze him in the slightest. Maeve Binchy would have the two of them eating out of her hand. If Lucia were a real person and coming to brunch, she would probably bring along a few dead composers so she could argue with them about their long phrasing!
 

๐ŸดWhich favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

Probably Jane Eyre. I’ve been listening to Rowan Coleman’s live Instagram read-along and it’s wonderful. So much richness in the narrative. I think both my novels, White Feathers and Lucia’s War, have been heavily influenced by it. Less so Unfortunate Stars though.

Also, it’s not a book, but definitely the Chick Lit 4 Life podcast – you need to hear it to experience it ๐Ÿ˜Š


๐ŸดWhen you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!

I’d love to read David Olusoga’s book on WWI but I’d say it’s a big one. As for books, I often don’t know in advance what I want to read until I see it in front of me. An exception to that is The Tainted by Cauvery Madhavan, a historical fiction about Irish soldiers in India and the mutiny back home. That had been on my radar for a while before I bought the paperback.


Hope Road
2020


๐ŸดWhat’s the oldest book on your book shelf?

A book of essays by Charles Lamb, I think it’s a first edition or something. Not sure where it is right now though.


๐ŸดWhere do you find the inspiration for your novels?

Regarding World War One, I did my final year essay on the Battle of Verdun, so I’ve always been a bit obsessed. Also with music, which prompts Lucia’s War. I used to play several instruments and sing in a choir. Unfortunate Stars was inspired by a real story I saw in a museum in Cologne, which I talk about in the afterword of the book. The title was taken from a poem by Goethe.


๐ŸดHave you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I can write pretty much anywhere that has a decent chair, a desk the right height and the right light.


๐ŸดWhen writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?

I think when I’m in the zone for a prolonged time like that, I tend to inhabit it nearly constantly. That can be troublesome when day to day commitments impose!


๐ŸดGive us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

Connections. If you don’t have connections, then a day job and sheer brutal determination will do. I have both the latter, which might help me with the former, and then again might not!

A desire to tell the story that overrules everything else. You have to want it badly enough.

Time, whenever you can get it.

Access to a laptop or at the very least a keyboard with Bluetooth to a screen. I’m not writing longhand.


๐ŸดWhat can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?

It’s set in West Cork and concerns the intersection of future worries about climate and past tensions from the Irish Civil War. I’m just starting the second draft now.


Latest Novel



London, 1950. Soprano Lucia Percival has overcome racism and many obstacles to become a renowned opera singer. She is now due to perform her last concert. But she has no intention of going onstage. A terrible secret from her service during the First World War has finally caught up with her.

London, 1917. Lucia, a young Jamaican exile, hopes to make it as a musician. But she is haunted by a tragic separation that is still fresh in her memory - and when she meets Lilian, an old woman damaged by a similar wartime loss, she agrees to a pact that could destroy everything she has fought so hard to achieve.

From the Western Front and the mean streets of Glasgow, to black society in London, Lucia’s story tells a tale of music, motherhood, loss and redemption.


More about Susan


Susan Lanigan graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in English and History in the late 90s, then pursued a Graduate Diploma in I.T. in Dublin City University and a Masters in Writing in NUI Galway.

Her first novel White Feathers, a tale of passion, betrayal and war, was selected as one of the final ten in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair, 2013, and published in 2014 by Brandon Books. The book won critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the UK Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2015.

Her second novel, Lucia’s War, also concerning WWI as well as race, music and motherhood, was published in June 2020 and has been named as the Coffee Pot Book Club Honourable Mention in the Modern Historical Book of the Year Award.


Susan, where can we follow you on social media?


 Twitter: @susanl_author


Thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.


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