Monday 28 February 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Patient by Tim Sullivan

Head of Zeus
Aries Fiction
3 March 2022

DS Cross Mysteries #3

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

DS George Cross can be rude, difficult, and awkward with people. But his unfailing logic and dogged pursuit of the truth means his conviction rate is the best on the force. An outsider himself, having been diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder, DS Cross is especially drawn to cases concerning the voiceless and the dispossessed.

Now, Cross is untangling the truth about a young woman who died three days ago. With no fingerprints, no weapon and no witnesses, the Bristol Crime Unit are ready to close the case. The coroner rules suicide: the woman had a long history of drug abuse. But her mother is convinced it was murder: her daughter has been clean and sober for over two years.

DS Cross is determined to defy his bosses and re-open the case, even if it costs him his career. Soon he is mired in a labyrinth of potential suspects – but can he solve the case before his superiors shut it down for good?

πŸ“– My Review...

The Patient is the third book in the DS Cross series of thrillers and whilst I hadn't read the two previous books in the series I found this current story easy to pick up and soon became immersed in the world where Bristol Detective DS George Cross operates with such good intent. To say that he is something of  a maverick is what makes his character so compelling and in this shady crime world rather more believable.

The story starts with the investigation into the death of a young woman who seems to have taken her own life and yet her mother is convinced that there is more to her daughter's death and is determined to seek the truth. DS Cross is also doggedly determined to uncover the truth and, in his own inimitable style, he leaves no clue unchallenged in his quest for justice.

The story moves along at a quick pace, I enjoyed the short snappy chapters and the way that alongside DS Cross we become caught up in this complex investigation. The author has created a fine detective in DS Cross, I loved George's character from the beginning and whilst his awkwardness is endearing and made me smile, it also brings into focus the sharpness of his intellect and his determined ability to sift through the hidden aspects of this case with a fine eye for even the smallest detail. 

Whilst at the start I mentioned that I enjoyed the book without prior knowledge of the previous two stories, it is now my intention to go back to book one to watch the build up of DS Cross' character and the  fascinating way in which the author brings him to life.

πŸ“– Best read with...cups of tea and sweet cake

Tim Sullivan is an critically acclaimed TV and film screenwriter whose credits include Jack and Sarah, My Little Pony: A New Generation, Letters to Juliet and Cold Feet, masterfully writes his characters’ idiosyncrasies and keeps readers guessing with this addictive new crime thriller. Tim Sullivan is a self-publishing phenomenon whose bestselling titles The Dentist and The Cyclist were downloaded over 200,000 times before moving to Head of Zeus.

Perfect for fans of Ann Cleeves, Colin Dexter and Andrea Camilleri, The Patient is the third instalment in the DS Cross series.

Twitter @TimJRSullivan #ThePatient



Sunday 27 February 2022

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Robert J Lloyd

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

I'm delighted to welcome Robert J Lloyd to Sunday Brunch

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo Robert. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

A cooked breakfast, definitely, so I’ll bring the eggs, bacon, sausages, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, and hash browns in the hope you have a big hob and plenty of pans.

Would you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?

Coffee! Always coffee. So much coffee.

Where shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?

It’s been pretty windy recently, so if this Sunday’s the same that could be very entertaining.

Shall we have music playing in the background, and if so do you have a favourite piece of music?

I get the chance to be very pretentious here, don’t I? But I’m a pop fan, especially 80s stuff, so how about some Gary Numan? His quieter stuff, as it’s a Sunday.

Which of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?

Christopher Fowler, writer of the Bryant & May mysteries, and who has been a huge help towards getting my book published. Between us, we managed to make our planned meeting in London recently a complete debacle, so it would be great to get to talk to him. I have such a lot to thank him for.

Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

In an ever-changing list of favourite books, perhaps Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy. (Am I allowed the trilogy?) It would have to be a long breakfast, though, if we’re going to make much headway. In my own genre, it would be anything by Barry Unsworth. He was the master, in my opinion.

Vintage 2000

When 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’m struggling to read for pleasure at the moment, as I’m on a deadline to complete a final edit of The Bloodless Boy’s sequel before it goes to setting and design. Generally, though, I’m lucky as a historical novelist to find all my research reading a pleasure. I love reading about the 17th century. I do read other stuff, too, though. I’ve just read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and before that Lee Child’s Blue Moon. As far as the second part of your question, I have a magnificent To Be Read pile. In fact, it’s a bookcase.

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

The late 17th century, when my books are set, is such a fascinating time. Also, the literature of the time’s so rich. Restoration plays, too. My novels have a scientific emphasis, so the history of the early Royal Society constantly throws up ideas that make me think: that could become a mystery, or a thriller.

Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I don’t mind where or when, really, but I have a beautiful big iMac, which I’m geekily fond of, and Scrivener. Using both, I find, makes a nice place to be.

When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?

Deadlines are wonderfully focussing!

Give us four essential items that a writer needs?

That’s tricky. An understanding family (especially my wife), a very structured approach to time management, a detailed plan for the novel, and coffee.

What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?

I’m editing book 2, but have also been working hard to complete book 3. Book 2, a sequel to the Bloodless Boy, is called The Poison Machine, and will be out next November. After a body’s found in the Norfolk Fens, Harry Hunt is asked to investigate. He finds himself with another Civil War mystery, involving a dwarf and a diamond. And poison, obviously.

Melville House Publishing
November 2021

The City of London, 1678. New Year's Day. Twelve years have passed since the Great Fire ripped through the City. Eighteen since the fall of Oliver Cromwell's Republic and the restoration of a King. London is gripped by hysteria, where rumors of Catholic plots and sinister foreign assassins abound.

The body of a young boy, drained of his blood and with a sequence of numbers inscribed on his skin, is discovered on the snowy bank of the Fleet River.

Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, the powerful Justice of Peace for Westminster, is certain of Catholic guilt in the crime. He enlists Robert Hooke, the Curator of Experiments of the Royal Society, and his assistant, Harry Hunt, to help his enquiry. Demanding discretion from them, he also entrusts to them to preserve the body, which they store inside Hooke's Air-pump. Sir Edmund confides to Hooke that the bloodless boy is not the first to have been discovered. He also presents Hooke with a cipher that was left on the body.

That same morning Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society, blows his brains out. A disgraced Earl is released from the Tower of London, bent on revenge against the King, Charles II.

Wary of the political hornet's nest they are walking into - and using evidence rather than paranoia in their pursuit of truth - Hooke and Hunt must discover why the boy was murdered, and why his blood was taken. Moreover, what does the cipher mean?

Harry, wanting to prove himself as a natural philosopher and to break free from the shadow of Hooke's brilliance, takes the lead in investigating the death of the boy. He is pulled into the darkest corners of Restoration London, where the Court and the underworld seem to merge.

Harry has to face the terrible consequences of experiments done in the name of Science, but also reckon with a sinister tale with its roots in the traumas of the Civil Wars.

The Bloodless Boy is a beguiling thriller that introduces two new indelible heroes to mystery fiction. It is also a powerfully atmospheric recreation of Restoration London.

Where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter @robjlloyd

Robert, thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.

Many thanks for inviting me, Jo. It’s very, very appreciated! These eggs are nice, aren’t they?

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo

Saturday 26 February 2022

πŸ“–Poetry Review ~ Ten Poems about History from Candlestick Press


Candlestick Press
January 2022

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this pamphlet

This wonderfully varied selection of poems demonstrates the vast scope of the word history. We’re transported on a dizzying journey from the beginnings of time all the way to a cinΓ©-film that brings the past right into the present.

The poems look through both ends of the telescope and take us from the epic to the everyday, via harpsichord players, pitchfork rebellions, shipyards and family china:

“glaze veined
with grains of dirt

archivists of our own lives”

from ‘China, Blue and White’ by Linda France.

The selection carries the fascinating idea that history is what we remember of our own lives as much as the events we read about in books, and that sometimes the two can overlap – as for the speaker in Patrick Kavanagh’s masterly poem, who reflects that he has “lived in important times”.

These are poems that look at history from every angle, finding richness and vividness in each corner of the past.

Poems by Rita Dove, Alistair Elliot, Linda France, Patrick Kavanagh, Hannah Lowe, Sean O’Brien, CaitrΓ­ona O’Reilly, Louis Simpson and Tamar Yoseloff.

Cover illustration by Sam Cannon.

πŸ“– My thoughts..

History is all around us, we feel it everyday in everything we do and see, and yet we also sense time passing, we say as we get older that time seems to pass far too quickly. In this collection of ten poems about history each of the poets have brought their own thoughts on a diverse range of global topics from a medieval interpretation of Adam's temptation in the Garden of Eden in Adam lay ybounden, an anonymous 15th Century poem :

"...Blessed be the time that apple was taken
Therfore we mown singen, Deo Gratias..."

To the emotive subject of slavery in Rita Dove's prose poem Kentucky, 1833

" if the sky were an omen we could not understand, the book that, if we could read, would change our lives..."

To the fading of consumerism in The Last Woolworths in America by Tamar Yoseloff

"...But the doors will close today.
there is nothing we can do.The traffic will stop
on Broad Street, the other shopkeepers will bow their heads,
the slow procession will move forward, and keep moving..."

With its stunning front cover, this diverse anthology is a fascinating snapshot of world history expressed so eloquently by ten poets who share their thoughts and experiences about a whole range of topics. It would make a perfect gift 'instead of a card' for anyone who enjoys thought provoking world history.

About Candlestick Press

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

Friday 25 February 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Life You left Behind by Debbie Howells


Boldwood Books
23 February 2022

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

Two strangers.

One missed flight.

It only takes a moment to change a life.

One year ago Casey Cassidy was happy. She had great friends, a wonderful teaching job and a busy life - until with one missed flight, everything changes.

One year later Casey knows what it means to find that once-in-a-lifetime love people dream of. But when Ben leaves, her heart is shattered.

Left facing a year of firsts without him, piecing her life back together seems impossible. But then a friend offers her a home in rural France.

In the solitude and emptiness, Casey needs to comes to terms with what’s happened and find a way to move forward. She has no idea where that will take her one year later.

πŸ“– My Review...

A chance meeting at an airport introduces Casey Cassidy to the love of her life and a magical year with Ben but then something happens which means that Casey has to take a long look at her life to discover what's really important.

In many ways this is quite a sad story as it covers an emotional subject but it is all handled with sensitivity and compassion. I especially warmed to Casey she is an interesting character who has had her confidence shattered by the circumstances of her life but she is determined to carry on in her own inimitable style. I liked how the story moved between before and after so that we get a rounded picture of Casey's life with Ben, and then what happened later. I enjoyed the part of the story which took us into Casey's time in rural France and her tentative steps towards making new friends and forging a new sort of normal life for herself.

The Life You left Behind covers depression, grief and loss in a sensitive and thought provoking way and shows that life can change in a heartbeat.

Best read with...several glasses of rich, red French wine.

Twitter @debbie_howells  #The LifeYouLeftBehind

@BoldwoodBooks #Boldwoodbloggers #bookandtonic


Thursday 24 February 2022

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian

Bantam Press
24 February 2022

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Erik Amdahl and his spirited daughter, Sofia, have embarked on a long-promised cross-country ski trip deep into Norway's arctic circle. For Erik, it's the chance to bond properly with his remaining daughter following a tragic accident. For Sofia, it's the proof she needs that her father does care.

Then, far from home in this snowbound wilderness, with night falling and the mercury plummeting, an accident sends them in search of help - and shelter. Nearby is the home of a couple - members of Norway's indigenous Sami people - who they've met before, and who welcome them in. Erik is relieved. He believes the worst is over. He thinks that Sofia is now safe. He could not be more wrong. He and Sofia are not the old couple's only visitors that night - and soon he and Sofia will be running for their lives . . .
...and beneath the swirling light show of the Northern Lights, a desperate fight ensues - of man against man, of man against nature - a fight for survival that plays out across the snow and ice.

My Review..

After a devastating family tragedy Erik Amdahl and his teenage daughter Sofia embark on a cross country ski trip which is set against the icy chill of Norway's Arctic circle. This trip of a lifetime is a time for father and daughter to bond together however, when an accident occurs on their first night camping under the stars Erik has little choice but to take Sofia to safety. Over icy terrain they finally reach the home of Lars and Karine Helgeland where they hope to find shelter and that's when their nightmare really begins.

In a chilling cat and mouse chase across the arctic circle, Erik and Sofia must do all they can to survive whoever it is that's chasing them across this frozen wasteland. Encountering danger brings this father and daughter together in the most challenging of ways which is made all the more atmospheric by the ice cold beauty of the landscape. 

This tense modern day thriller is something of a departure for this talented author who has come to prominence with his exceptionally detailed historical novels, so it's been good to see his writing veer off in a different direction. I enjoyed how the landscape became another character in the novel and with the brooding chill infusing every page I quickly became engrossed in the menacing sense of ever present danger. 

Where Blood Runs Cold is a suspenseful thriller, with lots of twists and turns, and where the harsh beauty of this frozen world comes vividly to life.

Best read cold vodka shots and bitter dark chocolate.

Family history (he is half Norwegian) and a passion for the fiction of Bernard Cornwell inspired the author to write. His best selling trilogies 'Raven' and the 'Rise of Sigurd' have been acclaimed by his peers, reviewers and readers alike. The novels The Bleeding Land and Brothers' Fury tell the story of a family torn apart by the English Civil War and he co-wrote Wilbur Smith's No.1 best seller,Golden Lion. With his Sunday Times bestseller Lancelot and Camelot Giles plunged into the rich waters of the Arthurian legend. Giles Kristian lives in Leicestershire.

Twitter @gileskristian #WhereBloodRunsCold

@TransworldBooks #BantamPress


Wednesday 23 February 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Cornish Captive by Nicola Pryce

6 January 2022
#6 Cornish Saga

My thanks to the author, publisher and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of this book
and the invitation to the blog tour

Cornwall, 1800.

Imprisoned on false pretences, Madeleine Pelligrew, former mistress of Pendenning Hall, has spent the last 14 years shuttled between increasingly destitute and decrepit mad houses. When a strange man appears out of the blue to release her, she can't quite believe that her freedom comes without a price. Hiding her identity, Madeleine determines to discover the truth about what happened all those years ago.

Unsure who to trust and alone in the world, Madeleine strikes a tentative friendship with a French prisoner on parole, Captain Pierre de la Croix. But as she learns more about the reasons behind her imprisonment, and about those who schemed to hide her away for so long, she starts to wonder if Pierre is in fact the man he says he is. As Madeleine's past collides with her present, can she find the strength to follow her heart, no matter the personal cost?

πŸ“– My Review..

This is now the sixth book in this Cornish series of historical novels and whilst it is perfectly possible to read each book as a standalone story, it does make more sense to start at the beginning and go back to the early eighteenth century and follow the characters who have made this lovely series their own.

The Cornish Captive takes us into the world of Madeleine Pelligrew who, when we first meet her, has been unnecessarily incarcerated in various madhouses for fourteen long and painful years. When her unexpected release comes she is understandably bewildered at the sudden change in her circumstances and is determined to seek out those who put her way for no reason. Returning to Fosse, where she lived with her husband, Madeleine sets about trying to solve the mystery of what happened fourteen years ago and why she is now totally alone but for her friendship with Rowan, who looked after her in the various mad houses, and Madeleine's growing acquaintance with Captain Pierre de la Croix, a French prisoner currently on parole.

The mood throughout the story is captured perfectly, the clandestine world of espionage operations, learning who is trustworthy and who is harbouring deep and deadly secrets and in the midst of it all is Madeleine who wants to find out the truth of her past. As always time and place come alive, Cornwall with all its intricate nooks and crannies, its association with the sea, and the lure of unease with the hostilities against the French, all combine to make this another beautifully written and suspenseful historical mystery. 

The Cornish Captive is filled with drama, intrigue and a lovely hint of romance, it captured my imagination right from the start.

πŸ“– Best Read with .. fragrant oranges, warm from the Cornish sun

About the Author

Credit : Katia Marsh

Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London. She has always loved literature and completed an Open University degree in Humanities. She is a qualified adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. Together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure.

Twitter @nicolapryce #TheCornishCaptive



Monday 21 February 2022

Blog Tour ~ The Sound at the End by Kirsty Logan


13 January 2022

My thanks to Audible and Midas PR for the opportunity to listen to this audio recording
and for the invitation to the blog tour.

A chilling, immersive audio experience, The Sound at The End follows the eclectic crew of an Arctic research base and the newcomer who may uncover the secrets they’re each desperate to outrun, written by award-winning novelist Kirsty Logan and performed by a full cast.

On a near-abandoned research base in an Arctic ice field, a skeleton crew works to ensure the center doesn’t collapse amid treacherous storms. Officially, Trieste Grayling arrives in order to explore and film a sunken shipwreck for a documentary film; privately, she's working through a complicated grief. Trieste soon realizes she's not the only one who was attracted to this intense isolation in order to escape her ghosts.

Each of the crew members harbor dark secrets: Mal, the ever-competent medic conducting mysterious therapy sessions; Sweetie, the reclusive engineer with scarred hands; Thorsteinn, the aloof diver tender; Avelina, the temperamental base manager whose stories of home don't quite add up; Grace, an underwater welder and recovering addict; and Judd, the erratic former member of a ‘90s boy band. As they begin to reach breaking point, each one's hidden ghosts finally comes into the light.

My Review ..

The Sound at the End is a completely absorbing audio book experience with a chilling and haunting story at its heart. Atmospheric, and ice cold, the brooding nature of the Arctic ice field, the isolation of the near abandoned research station, complete with belligerent polar bears, comes to life in this Audible Original production. 

The mystery at the heart of the story is revealed gradually and once I got used to the different narrators, all of whom do a great job of bringing the characters to life, I found the rather claustrophobic effect of living life confined together in a small space really well done. 

The characters who make this such a compelling listen are all very complex which is certainly conveyed by the individual narrators in the tone of their voices and their unique mannerisms which make the whole experience so immersive. I found Trieste, she's the one we hear the most, to be an interesting mixture of naivety, and foolhardiness, especially in her interaction with the other characters who, it would seem, all have something to hide. 

I don't want to recount any of the specifics of story as I think this audio production is better listened to without any preconceived notion of where the story is heading. However, I will say that I found the story fascinating and the immersive nature of the background sounds add an absorbing dimension to the overall brooding nature of this haunting, and well crafted, thriller.

Narrated by : Lisa Carrucio Came, Alexiane Cazenave, Don Gilet, Laurel Kefkow, Freya Meva, Yasmin Mwanza, Clive Russell

Listening time :10 hrs 35 minutes.

Twitter @kirstylogan



Sunday 20 February 2022

🍴Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Carole Johnstone

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

I'm delighted to welcome, Carole Johnstone to Sunday Brunch

Welcome, Carole. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

I’m a terrible cook and a worse baker, so takeaway is my saviour. And I know this isn’t strictly Sunday brunch-like, but a plate of chicken and veggie pakora with yoghurt or chilli sauce will change your life forever, I promise.

Would you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?

If I’m driving, an Americano. But otherwise, I’d definitely prefer the Bucks Fizz, please!

Where shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?

Well, I live in Scotland, so outside on the patio is but a dream, but that would definitely be my first choice. I also love going to restaurants and dinner parties, with candles, music, ice buckets, the works, so formal dining room would be my second choice (no pressure obv).

Shall we have music playing in the background, and if so do you have a favourite piece of music?

One thing you should know about me is that I’m incapable of picking any favourites of anything. It’s all Sophie’s Choice to me, I can’t do it. Whenever I’m asked these questions, I just go with my most recent favourite because it makes me feel less conflicted about the whole traumatic thing.

I love trance and heavy metal – neither of which are particularly conducive to Sunday Brunch – so my third favourite, classical, is probably best. One of my favourite composers is Max Richter. His music is wonderful. He scores a lot of films, which is how I first came across him, but he’s also released so many fantastic solo albums. My latest discovery is: Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, which is so brilliant, it’s probably in danger of becoming one of those albums I listen to so much I end up having to lock it in a cupboard for ten years.

Which of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?

Again, hard!!

Agatha Christie, because she’s Agatha Christie. Her writing’s probably taught me more about plotting than anyone else’s has come close to doing. I’d also like to know what really happened when she went mysteriously missing for those ten days in December, 1926.

Toni Morrison, because Beloved left such an indelible mark on me as a young twenty-something. It’s Gothic and shocking and frightening and traumatic, and so moving, so, so important. All of her work is often hard to read, but always readable. I think she was one of the most pioneering and important American writers of her time.

And I think Stephen King just has to come. Even though I’d probably be too nervous and tongue-tied to actually eat.

I could go on. And on…

Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

You’re just being mean now. At the moment, I’m rereading (which is ridiculous considering my tbr pile) The Lost Man by Jane Harper. I love her thrillers, particularly those set in the Australian Outback. I love any book where the setting is somewhere new and atmospheric, and above all, gothic!

My favourite books of all time are The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas; And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, and Different Seasons by Stephen King. But as I can’t possibly be expected to pick between any of them, I’ve gone with the present-read cop out above.


When 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!

How long have you got? I’m serious. I have a ton of books still to read. So many. And I keep buying more. I’m really looking forward to reading Sarah Pinborough’s new thriller, Insomnia, which is out next month. But of those in my huge tbr pile, the one I’m probably looking forward to reading the most is Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult.

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

Everywhere is the shortest answer. I take notebooks everywhere I go just in case inspiration strikes. Writers are like magpies. I steal ideas from real life stories and documentaries, newspaper articles, the confessions of friends, overheard conversations on public transport – you name it; I’m pretty shameless. Although I would never, ever betray a confidence, or write something that was obviously about anyone in real life – unless historical!

I also draw on my own experiences quite significantly. The setting for Mirrorland – the big, creepy old house haunted by terrible secrets where twin sisters, Cat and El, grew up, was very heavily based on my grandparents’ Georgian house in Leith, Edinburgh. Even down to the strange space under the house where the sisters created the sinister world of Mirrorland itself!

And my next novel, The Blackhouse, was very much inspired by my time living in the Outer Hebrides a couple of years ago.

I suppose part of it is writing, at least partly, about what you know. But I think most of it is seeing inspiration in certain things or events or places, and being unable to let them go!

Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I have a desk which I work at every day. It helps it feel like ‘right, I’m working, now’. I always need a view or else I feel too hemmed in and stuck. I know some writers find that distracting, but for me, views are good for thinking and plotting, and even inspiration. Luckily, I live on a farm, so I have pretty good ones!

I find it way easier to write in the winter. I can just hunker down and get on with it. The summer is too distracting, I’d rather be doing other things. And working outside doesn’t have the same positive effect on me as views do – too many midges and mad Scottish weather.

When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?

I’m less easily distracted once I’m going, than I am before I start. I’m a terrible procrastinator when it comes to rapidly approaching deadlines. I don’t know if it’s like that thing you sometimes get when you stand too close to the edge of a cliff, that impulse to hurl yourself off, but the closer I get to a deadline, the harder it is to force myself to actually sit down and do the work! But once I get there, I’m pretty good at knuckling down. I’m more of a marathon writer and editor than a sprinter: I can do far more in say, 10 straight hours, than I could in the same spread over two or more days.

Give us four essential items that a writer needs?

Well, speaking only for myself:

Coffee. The stronger the better.

Good hardware. I saved up forever to buy a MacBook because other writers raved about them, and they were right, I love it. And some good quality portable hard drives for back-up; protects you from the heart-stopping horror of losing your work, even if you routinely back up to cloud storage. I back up Everything about half a dozen different ways.

Music. I can’t work in absolute silence. Music is brilliant at transforming my moods, my emotions in seconds, and I exploit that mercilessly when I’m writing. It helps get me in the right zone, the right headspace for whatever scene I’m writing. In fact some pieces of music remain forever associated in my mind with certain stories I’ve written. I only ever listen to classical music, lyrics are too distracting. And I choose movie soundtracks more often than not – they’re composed to create a mood, an emotion, and to describe a story, so they’re a perfect accompaniment to writing.

Silence. Well, apart from the music. I’ve always been very envious of writers who can write on the bus or in a coffee shop. Not me. This is going to sound so wanky, but the way I write is like diving: I kind of have to go down slowly to adjust to the change in pressure, so often the first few hours are pretty unproductive. But once I’m at the right depth, I can work and work and work. I’m literally somewhere else. If someone interrupts me even just to ask me a question, I’m yanked up out of there so fast I’m often good for nothing for hours after. I’ve tried to train myself out of it, but even if I’m wearing headphones, the slightest new external noise will put me off my stride instantly, and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about that.

What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?

My next book – which should be out in the summer from Harper Collins – is called The Blackhouse.

It’s a very unusual murder-mystery, set on a fictional satellite island off the west coast of the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides. In the present day, a young woman called Maggie goes to the island to investigate the supposed murder of a young man called Robert 25 years before. And in 1993, Robert arrives on the island to start a new life, but lives there for just twelve tumultuous months before he meets an untimely and violent death.

The unusual part I can’t tell you about as it would be a huge spoiler, but it’s to do with the very shocking reason why Maggie has come to the island to find out what happened to Robert. There’s a big reveal in chapter two that explains everything!

The Isle of Lewis & Harris is my favourite place in the whole world. I’d live there tomorrow if I could. I was lucky enough to be able to live on the west coast of both Lewis and Harris for a little over nine months while I was writing Mirrorland, and it was while I was there that I got the idea for The Blackhouse.


Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting...

A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom.

More about Carole

Carole Johnstone grew up in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and in her twenties, relocated to Essex to work in oncology. She has been writing as long as she can remember, and is an award-winning short story writer.

She now writes full-time, and lives with her husband in an old farmhouse outside Glasgow, though her heart belongs to the sea and the wild islands of the Outer Hebrides. Mirrorland is her first novel, and The Blackhouse her second.

Carole, where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter: @C_L_Johnstone

Facebook : @CaroleJohnstoneWriter

Instagram: @carole_l_johnstone

Carole, thank you for sharing Sunday Brunch with us today. It's been great fun

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo

Saturday 19 February 2022

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Midwife by Tricia Cresswell


On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ....1848

Pan Macmillan
Mantle Books
17 February 2022

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

1838. After a violent storm, a woman is found alone, naked and near death, on the Northumberland moors. She has no memory of who she is or how she got there. But she can remember how to help a woman in labour and how to expertly dress a wound, and can speak fluent French. With the odds against her, a penniless single woman, she starts to build her life from scratch, using her skills to help other women around her. She finds a happy place in the world. Until tragedy strikes, and she must run for her life...

In London, Dr Borthwick lives a solitary life working as an accoucheur dealing with mothers and babies in the elegant homes of high society together with his midwife, Mrs Bates, and volunteering in the slums of the Devil’s Acre alongside a young widow, Eleanor Johnson. His professional reputation is spotless and he keeps his private life just as clean, isolating himself from any new acquaintances. But he is harbouring a dark secret from his past – one that threatens to spill over everything.

My Review ..

Naked and alone, and with no memory of who she is, our mysterious protagonist is taken in by an unfortunate couple who give her the name 'Joanna' but who then keep her in a life of penury. Eager to flee this miserable existence and without knowing where her expert medical knowledge comes from Joanna starts to build a new life for herself. Meanwhile in London, young Doctor Borthwick is making his name as an accoucheur looking after women in all stages of their pregnancy and delivery. In alternate chapters we get to know both of these characters really well as they live out their lives at opposite ends of the social divide.

There's a wonderful authenticity to The Midwife which I enjoyed especially the medical references which are both realistic  and well explained. Joanna's life in Northumberland is brought into stark contrast alongside Doctor Borthwick's more affluent London lifestyle with his comfortable house and servants. The juxtaposition of the two is well done with enough intrigue to keep the story flowing and with a nice twist in the tale which adds an interesting dimension.

The Midwife is well written historical fiction and a commendable debut novel.

Best Read with...strong coffee and a slice of cake.

About the Author

Tricia Cresswell is a retired public health doctor. She temporarily returned to work in spring 2020 in support of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and volunteered as a vaccinator. She achieved a Distinction in her Creative Writing MA at Newcastle University in 2017. Creative response to the climate emergency has now taken priority in her writing.

The Midwife is a winner of  Mslexia Debut Novel Award.

Twitter #TriciaCresswell #TheMidwife

@panmacmillan @MantleBooks

Friday 18 February 2022

πŸ“– Feature Friday with Jaffareadstoo ~ The Awakenings by Sarah Maine

 Welcome to Feature Friday

It's a warm space to a highlight a book coming soon which is on my radar

and one I am looking forward to reading

Hodder & Stoughton
17 March

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Yorkshire, 1890. Having lost her father and brothers in tragic circumstances, Olwen Malkon is forced to leave her childhood home to live with her uncle's family. In his chill vicarage, however, she fears that she is also losing her mind, as strange dreams take her into the life of Γ†lfwyn, a woman from a distant past whose fate is overshadowed by menace and betrayal.

In the grip of these afflictions, Olwen finds sympathy with the local doctor, John Osbourne, who is intrigued by her case. Suspecting darker undercurrents are at work, John comes into conflict with Olwen's family, who dismiss her as a hysteric and, when he seeks to protect her, with the law.

As the dreams intensify, danger awaits them both. But when they begin to mirror reality, she and John start to suspect that it is these visions of the past which hold the answers.


I have to admit that this one initially drew me in by its cover, is that shallow of me ? I think that the house on the cover reminded me of the Haworth Parsonage which was once the home of the Bronte sisters. The brooding Yorkshire setting and the prospect of a dual time mystery with visions from the past is what really appeals to me. I was especially delighted when the publishers offered me a proof copy, I haven't seen any reviews of this one which is always refreshing.. 

So as they this space..

@jaffareadstoo #FeatureFriday #amreading

The Awakenings is available to pre-order from wherever you buy books.

Sarah Maine was born in England but grew up partly in Canada before returning to England for university. She studied archaeology and for many years worked in the profession but is now a freelance writer and researcher.

Twitter @SarahMaineBooks #TheAwakenings


Thursday 17 February 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ A Cottage Full of Secrets by Jane Lovering


15 February 2022

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

Cottage Two, Bracken Ridge Farm sits at the end of a pitted track, with the glorious Yorkshire moors stretching behind it.

Just a simple two up, two down, the cottage holds the promise of a new start for two very different women, but it is also full of secrets.

Fifty years ago, newly-wed Stella is relishing making the little cottage a happy home. But for all the lovingly handmade curtains, and the hot dinners ready on the table for her husband, Stella’s dreams of married life jar painfully with the truth.

Fifty years later, the cottage is a new beginning for Tamzin. Determined to get away from her previous life, she makes the move to the wild and vast Yorkshire countryside.

When Tamzin finds a sepia photo of a woman, Stella, standing in the cottage’s garden, there’s a sadness in her eyes that Tamzin recognises. As the cottage reveals more of its secrets, Tamzin is desperate to find out whether Stella got her happy ending. And as she gradually makes new friends, and starts to win over her mysterious neighbour Euan, Tamzin dares to dream about her own happy ending too.

πŸ“– My Review...

In A Cottage Full of Secrets we follow in Tamzin's footsteps as she settles into a new life at Cottage Two, Bracken Ridge Farm in the glorious Yorkshire countryside. That she is nursing some secret hurt is obvious but the full extent of her sadness is only revealed as the story progresses. Together with her rescued fox cub, Brack, Tamzin starts to appreciate her surroundings, especially when she gets to know more about her reclusive next door neighbour. Running alongside Tamzin's story is that of Stella who lived at Cottage Two in the nineteen-seventies and whose sad story adds another poignant dimension to this emotional story of love and hurt.

This glorious part of the Yorkshire Dales comes alive with brief glimpses of the wildlife who make the place their home but running alongside descriptions of the glorious landscape is a sensitive and compassionate story about people who have been so hurt by life that they are having to start all over again.  The characters who flit into and out of the story are a delight, especially handy-woman, Jill, whose DIY skill is much admired, but it is rescued fox cub Brack who really stole my heart, along with the enigmatic, Euan McGillan whose artistic skill is absolutely magical. I only wish I could have seen his drawings of Brack for myself.

Beautifully written and lovingly described I started to read A Cottage Full of Secrets on a rainy afternoon and it's such perfect escapism that didn't look up except to make cups of tea until I had finished the story in one sitting.

Best Read with...copious cups of tea and the occasional biscuit

Jane Lovering is the bestselling and award-winning romantic comedy writer who won the RNA Novel of the Year Award in 2012 with Please Don’t Stop the Music. She lives in Yorkshire and has a cat and a bonkers terrier, as well as five children who have now left home. Her first title for Boldwood was published in September 2020.

Twitter @janelovering #ACottageFullOfSecrets

@BoldwoodBooks #Boldwoodbloggers #bookandtonic