Thursday 30 June 2022

Half year round up ~ Six in Six

June 2022

Here's a round up of the books which have made an impact on my first six months of my reading year...

Six authors who were new to me:

  1. Lisa Hobman - Wishing Under a Starlit Sky
  2. Annabel Abs - The Language of Food
  3. Fay Keenan - New Beginnings at Roseford Hall
  4. Julie Shackman - A Scottish Highland Surprise
  5. Jayne Cowie - After Dark
  6. Eliza Knight - The Mayfair Bookshop

πŸ“– Six authors I have read before:

  1. Rachael English - The Letter Home 
  2. Jane Lovering - A Cottage Full of Secrets
  3. Jennifer Bohnet - Villa of Second Chances
  4. Three Cheers for the Shipyard Girls - Nancy Revell
  5. Eva Glyn - An Island of Secrets
  6. Kathryn Freeman - The Italian Job

πŸ“– Six books from authors I know will never let me down:

  1. The Key in the Lock - Beth Underdown
  2. Nicola Pryce - The Cornish Captive
  3. Anna Mazola - The Clockwork Girl
  4. Susanna Kearsley - The Winter Sea
  5. Alison Weir - Elizabeth of York
  6. Louise Beech - Nothing Else

πŸ“– Six books that led me into a life of crime:

  1. I know What You've Done - Dorothy Koomson
  2. Sapphire - Heather Burnside
  3. The Patient - Tim Sullivan
  4. Breakneck Point - T Orr Munro
  5. Dog Leap Stairs - Barbara Scott Emmett
  6. Fiona Barton - Local Gone Missing

πŸ“– Six books that took me by the hand and led me into the past:

  1. The Lost Apothecary - Sarah Penner
  2. The Queen's Lady - Joanna Hickson
  3. Conversos - V E H Masters
  4. Traitor in the Ice - K J Maitland
  5. Treason - Michael E Wills
  6. The Missing Girls of Alardyce House - Heather Atkinson

πŸ“– Six debut authors:

  1. Carole Johnstone - Mirrorland
  2. Susan Stokes- Chapman - Pandora 
  3. Tricia Cresswell - The Midwife
  4. Sally Page - The Keeper of Stories
  5. Mel Giedroyc - The Best Things
  6. Sophie Irwin - A Lady's Guide to Fortune Hunting 

Huge thanks to these fabulous authors for sharing the gift of your imagination with Jaffareadstoo


Monday 27 June 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Nothing Else by Louise Beech


23 June 2022

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

Heather Harris is a piano teacher and professional musician, whose quiet life revolves around music, whose memories centre on a single song that haunts her. A song she longs to perform again. A song she wrote as a child, to drown out the violence in their home. A song she played with her little sister, Harriet. But Harriet is gone ... she disappeared when their parents died, and Heather never saw her again. When Heather is offered an opportunity to play piano on a cruise ship, she leaps at the chance. She’ll read her recently released childhood care records by day – searching for clues to her sister’s disappearance – and play piano by night ... coming to terms with the truth about a past she’s done everything to forget.

πŸ“– My Review...

There a few authors whose work I will read without even looking at the blurb and who I have in my literary armoury of 'books I know I will love'. Louise Beech is one of those authors who takes you by the hand and doesn't let go until the story is told. 

Heather Harris takes a job on board the cruise ship Queen of the Seas where she is booked as the resident pianist for the duration of the voyage. Immersing herself in music has always been of great comfort to Heather especially as her childhood was filled with trauma so deep it has left a lasting scar. Now in her late forties, and at something of a crossroads in her life, Heather needs to face the demons of her troubled past, but as painful memories of Harriet, the little sister she once shared piano lessons with starts to emerge so Heather must begin to peel back the layers of hurt which she has carried within her for so long.

The power of music in all its different genres is very evident and there is a definite soundtrack running throughout the narrative, which is helped enormously by listening to the Spotify soundtrack mentioned at the start of the novel but even without this it is very easy to become immersed in the way Heather uses her connection to music in order to tell us a powerful story. Childhood trauma is never an easy subject and all credit to this talented writer for giving us Heather and Harriet's story in such a sensitive but very powerful way.

Nothing Else is one of those wonderful stories which just absolutely fits the moment. Beautifully written, and sensitively described, I was carried along on every step of Heather's journey, from the quiet times on board the Queen of the Seas when she is lost in her music, to the utter joy when life finally gives her, and the one person she loves most in the world, something to celebrate.

🍷Best Read with...a glass of chilled wine and the Nothing Else playlist gently playing 

I'm delighted to have Nothing Else as my Featured Book of the Month in July

About the Author

All six of Louise Beech’s books have been digital bestsellers. Her novels have been a Guardian Readers’ Choice, shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull.

Twitter @louisewriter #NothingElse

@OrendaBooks #BlogTour #JubiliantJune


Sunday 26 June 2022

☀ Summer Picnic with Jaffareadstoo ~ Helga Jensen

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome you all to our Summer Picnic

Summertime is here

I'm delighted to welcome Helga Jensen to our Summer picnic 

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Helga. Which favourite foods are you bringing to our summer picnic?

There have to be sausage rolls at any picnic, so they are first on my list. I love good old-fashioned British food as you’d have at a birthday party growing up. There would be crisps and fairy cakes, but I may also add a touch of extravagance with some smoked salmon sandwiches.

What would you like to drink? We have white wine spritzers, locally brewed beer, traditional Pimms, sparkling elderflower cordial or a thermos of tea or coffee?

Ooh, this is a hard one. For a summer picnic, Pimms is a must. I often make my own pitcher of Pimms for parties and think of it as my speciality. However, a white-wine spritzer on a hot summer's day is tempting too.

Where shall we sit, by the pool, on a beach, in the garden or in the countryside?

By the pool with the sun shining would be perfect. However, the countryside would be beautiful for a picnic. I’m not such a beach person. I wouldn’t want sand getting into my salmon sandwich!

Do we have a wicker hamper, tablecloth and cutlery, or is everything in a supermarket carrier bag?

Definitely a wicker hamper. A Fortnum and Mason one, if possible.

Which of your literary heroes (alive or dead) are joining us on the picnic today?

It would have to be Enid Blyton. Can you imagine having a picnic in the countryside with your wicker hamper, drinking Pimms and chatting to Enid? Now that would be the perfect picnic.

Do you have a favourite place to have a summer picnic?

Yes, sometimes we cycle to a woodland area and have a picnic there. I have a bicycle with a basket on the front (just like the one in my latest novel, A Scandinavian Summer), and I pop the food in the basket, and we take our bikes down to the woodland area. The problem is that after all those sausage rolls, cycling back is hard work!

Do you have a summer music playlist? And if so, will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?

There is a very old song called Airport by The Motors. It makes me feel happy as it is all about jetting off somewhere.

Which summer read are you bringing with you today?

Anything by Julie Caplin. I absolutely adore every book she has written.

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!

In between my writing, I am doing a Creative Writing PhD. I haven’t long finished my MA, so reading has had to be centred around the books I have been studying recently. I would like a bit more time to read the books I want to, though. I have a few on Net Galley at the moment that I can’t wait to get started on. I have two very different books I am about to start. One is a rom-com called My Big Fat Italian Break-Up, and another is a crime called The Carmarthen Murders by John Nicholl. As you can see, my reading can be rather eclectic!

Boldwood Books
July 2022

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

For my first book, Twice in a Lifetime, something happened to me in New York which made me think up the plot. From a tiny seed I thought, what if? My latest novel, A Scandinavian Summer, is fiction but based on my favourite Danish island.

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

I do wish I could only write in winter as I love being outdoors in the summer. However, I tend to have a new book out every summer, and the deadline is usually around September the year before. So, the summer months are hectic for me. I wish I could sit in the sun with a laptop and write, but I need complete quiet. So, I only work upstairs in my study out of everyone’s way!

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

I tend to be quite good. As a journalist, I work to deadlines all the time. When the pressure is on, I tend to work better as I know there is no time to procrastinate. Ooh, look, Twitter…

Give us four essential items that a writer needs?

Tenacity, don’t ever give up. A writer really needs to keep writing no matter what setbacks occur.

A quiet space or a suitable space. Everyone works differently. However, I believe that you need that familiar space to write, whether a cafΓ© you visit regularly or the garden shed, having a dedicated space for writing is essential.

A thesaurus. Mine really is my best friend, and having written for over 17 years, it is now in bits. However, I refuse to replace it as no other thesaurus would be the same!

Chocolate. After a long day of writing, there is nothing like a treat. Get that target word count done, and then indulge yourself with whatever you enjoy. It can also be wine! Of course, none of this is good for the waistline, though.

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

My latest novel, A Scandinavian Summer, is due out this week, June 30th. It is a summer read set on a stunning Danish island with thatched cottages and cobbled streets. I only write about protagonists over forty as I believe there are enough books out there with twenty to thirty-year-olds. So this is the story of fifty-year-old Martha, who tries to pick up the pieces after the death of her husband and gets some surprises. I recently signed a new two-book publishing contract, so I am now busy working on my current work in progress, which is very exciting and set in Wales and Paris.

It's the right time for love, but is it the wrong place?

After the tragic, premature death of her husband Anthony, Martha has spent all her time focused on her teenage daughter Rosie in their small Welsh village.

But with Rosie leaving the nest, and Martha's own job on the line, it feels that life is passing her by.

Inspired by her love for Scandi-noir dramas, Martha impulsively books a trip to Denmark, determined to push herself out of her comfort zone - even if the thought terrifies her...

Her trip to the tiny island of Fano becomes something much more: in the form of a handsome stranger, Lars. Can Martha find love under the Scandinavian skies... but more importantly, can she find herself?

More about Helga

Helga Jensen is a freelance journalist and award-winning author. In 2020 Helga secured her first two-book publishing contract with Hera books. Her debut, Twice in a Lifetime, was published in June 2021, and A Scandinavian Summer was published the following summer. A further two-book publishing contract was signed with Hera Books in 2022 and Helga is now working on her third novel.

Helga has a BA Hons in English Literature and Creative Writing through the Open University and a Creative Writing MA from Bath Spa University. Helga is currently studying for a Creative Writing PhD.

Helga, where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter @HelgajensenF

Thank you for sharing your summer picnic with us today

Follow u on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SummerPicnicwithJaffareadstoo

Saturday 25 June 2022

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Royal Station Master's Daughters by Ellee Seymour

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to... 1915

Bonnier Books

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

A heartwarming World War I saga of family, secrets and royalty.

It's 1915 and Ada, Jessie and Beatrice Saward live in a small Norfolk village with their parents. Their father, Harry, is the station master at Wolferton, the local stop for the Sandringham Estate. With members of the royal family and their guests passing through the train station on their way to Sandringham, the Saward family have a unique position within their small community.

But despite the privileged position the village and the family is in, and the excitement a visit from the royals always brings, it's World War I and the community is suffering. The men are away fighting, rationing is hard and they all need to work together to get through the tough times.

When the Saward sisters' destitute cousin Maria arrives in Wolferton, everything is turned on its head. Young Maria Saward and her siblings have never enjoyed the comforts of family life. As products of Willie Saward's second marriage to a much younger woman, they were shunned by their extended family, and left in poverty after Willie's death. Will the Saward family be able to help Maria and her siblings and what could this do to the balance of their happy family life?

My Review.. 

In this first book of a proposed historical trilogy we meet the Saward family who live in the Station Master's house at Wolferton railway station. This is no ordinary place to live and the station master's daughters, Ada, Jessie and Beatrice are well used to seeing members of the royal family alight at the tiny station on their way to their country home at Sandringham.

The girls live something of a genteel life, their place in the village is comfortable, and their mother and father are well respected. However, in the summer of 1915, their lives are about to be changed when an unwelcome guest arrives to disturb this settled way of life. Add into the mix the continuation of the First World War and the catastrophic effect this will have on the local community and you have all the right ingredients for an interesting historical saga. I enjoyed getting to know the villagers who make the hamlet of Wolferton their home, some are more likeable than others, which adds an interesting dynamic.

The Royal Station Master's Daughters is a lovely start to the trilogy and brings both time and place alive so that anyone who enjoys this genre of historical fiction will have great pleasure in learning about the way of life in Wolferton in 1915. Parts of the story are based on the real life Saward family who lived in the Station Master's house and although the events in this story are fictional by using the details of those who actually lived during this time in history helps to create a good sense of authenticity.

Best read with...One of Betty Fitch's Rock Buns and a nice cup of Rosie Lee

About the Author

Ellee Seymour is a journalist and PR professional living near Cambridge. The Royal Station Master's Daughters is her debut novel. Ellee was inspired to write it after meeting Brian Heath, the great grandson of Harry Saward, who was the royal station master at Wolferton for forty years from 1884 to 1924 and who the novel is based on.

The second book in the series The Station Master's Daughters at War will be published later in 2022.

Twitter @elleeseymour


Friday 24 June 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh


23 June 2022

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

Emma was quite certain she'd never fall in love again. But then she met an obituary writer, Leo, and within months, they were engaged. Seven years later came Ruby, their daughter, and then John Keats, their rescue dog. Now Emma, a marine biologist, has her perfect little ecosystem. They are happy, crammed into the tiny house her grandmother left her.

Leo was adopted as a baby, and this noisy, joyous little family is the first place he has ever felt he belongs. In fact, everything would be just perfect if Emma was who she said she was. If Emma was even her real name...

Because of Emma's preeminence in her field, Leo is asked to write his own wife's obituary while she is still alive. That's when he finds that the woman he thinks he knows doesn't really exist. As Leo starts to unravel the truth about the stranger in his bed, Emma's old life breaks out of the carefully cultivated shell she created, threatening to wash away everything she has worked so hard to build.

When the very darkest moments of Emma's past finally emerge, she must somehow prove to Leo that she really is the woman he always thought she was.

But first, she must tell him about the love of her other life.

πŸ“– My Review..

Marine biologist, Emma and newspaper obituary writer, Leo have a happy marriage, and a beautiful daughter called Ruby. However, when serious illness affects Emma, Leo, starts to pre-prepare, just in case, her obituary, only to find that there are gaps in Emma's life that he can't fill. With Emma's settled life imploding around her, she knows it's time to tell Leo about her past, something which is easier said than done. 

In many respects this is a well crafted love story, certainly the sensitive issues around Emma and Leo's marriage are handled well but I think it is in the serious issues around mental health and the disintegration of Emma's peace of mind where the story starts to come alive. The characters who flit into and out of the story add depth, with some being slightly more intriguing than others, but collectively everything adds up to a complex story with many possible outcomes. In individual chapters we get to hear both Leo and Emma's voices which, when added together, shines the spotlight on lives which are made up of secrets, lies and heart break.

The Love of my Life is a beautifully written study about the secrets which threaten a marriage and the way in which life events can be manipulated, and stretched, until you don't know where the truth ends and the lies begin. 

🍜 Best Read with.. a bowl of cereal in the garden

About the Author

Rosie Walsh has lived and travelled all over the world,working as a documentary producer and writer, The Love of my Life is her second novel under her own name; The Man Who Didn't Call, which was her first, sold over a million copies worldwide. She lives in Devon with her partner and two children.

Twitter @TheRosieWalsh #TheLoveofMyLife


Thursday 23 June 2022

Author in the Spotlight ~ Susan Grossey


It is my great pleasure to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, author

Susan Grossey 

Susan has recently brought her long running, and very successful, crime series about Constable Sam Plank to an end and is about to embark on a new venture.  Here Susan shares her love for Sam and the excitement and anticipation for the new series.

Serial offender: my love of the book series

Many of the best things in my life have been happy accidents: meeting my husband (he gate-crashed a party so shouldn’t have been there), buying our house (the seller’s girlfriend left him the week after they finished renovating and he couldn’t bear to stay) – and writing the Sam Plank Mysteries, a seven-book series. I did not intend to write a series: as far as I was concerned, “Fatal Forgery” was a standalone novel – and having completely rewritten it to change the narrator, frankly I was glad to see the back of it. But that new narrator, a well-meaning, slightly crusty, deeply honourable magistrates’ constable called Sam Plank… I just couldn’t get him out of my mind. And after only a month or two he popped back into my brain with another story to tell, and quickly let me know that he was in it for the long haul. Over nine years I have written seven Sam Plank books, finishing the series with number seven – “Notes of Change” – in April 2022.

I am secretly glad that I didn’t know from the beginning that there would be seven linked books (albeit with standalone plots) – the prospect would have been petrifying. Although I have always been fascinated by the idea of continuing characters, I knew it would be hard work: do the screenwriters for “Coronation Street” and “Eastenders”, for instance, have the most enormous wall of Post-It notes, showing all the family connections and plot intricacies, to make sure that no-one accidentally sleeps with their sister? And it has certainly been a mental puzzle – but one that I have grown to love. I have fulsome notes on each of the major characters – hair colour, favourite meals, childhood memories – to ensure consistency. I have several maps of London (thank you, Transport for London – your free cycling maps have been a boon!) carefully marked with locations (and notes of any changes of street name since the 1820s – more common than you might imagine). And my own author copies of the novels bristle with sticky page markers, highlighting important revelations that should be echoed or addressed or resolved in later books.

But the benefits of writing a series far outweigh the difficulties. First and foremost, I have been able to spend almost a decade with the characters I love. I have had the luxury of watching them develop and grow and learn and change. I have seen friendships blossom and love grow slowly – and I have watched grief take hold. I have enjoyed seeing my own knowledge deepen. In the beginning, it was a slog, this historical setting lark – I couldn’t write “she poured him a cup of tea” without checking (a) could a man and woman be alone in that setting, (b) would people of their class and wealth have cups, and (c) did people in 1824 drink tea at that time of day? It took forever to write a single chapter, as I was determined to get it right – and I do so love my research. But by book seven I am fairly confident that I know enough about late Regency London to write a convincing and accurate description, which is intellectually extremely satisfying as an author. And then of course there are the readers: they are a small band, but loyal. As soon as a book is published, I get emails asking when the next one will be out – Sam’s wife Martha seems to have a particularly vociferous fan-club. I love the idea that we have created this alternative world of made-up characters that we all share.

As I say, the final Sam Plank book is now out. But writing seven books has not cured me of my obsessions with financial crime, or the 1820s, or early policing, or indeed book series. And so I have now embarked on another series. This will be a five-book series (that’s the plan…) set again in the 1820s, but this time in my hometown of Cambridge and narrated by a university constable called Gregory Hardiman. Knowing from the outset that it will be a series – and with hard-won wisdom from the Sam Plank series behind me – has certainly informed how I am working. I already have separate notes files for each character and each plot, and (six chapters in) I am knowingly “saving” information for later – I don’t feel I have to tell the readers everything about Gregory right up front. It is rather like a new friendship: I am enjoying getting to know him – and Cambridge in the 1820s – slowly and carefully, as I look forward to at least five years in his company.

Susan Grossey has made her living from crime: for twenty-five years she ran her own anti-money laundering consultancy, indulging her fascination with financial crime. And now she feeds her obsession by writing historical crime fiction dealing with such nasties as blackmail, counterfeiting, fraud and art crime. She has spent years haunting the streets of late Regency London, in the company of magistrates’ constable Sam Plank, who operates in the fascinating policing period after the Bow Street Runners and before the Metropolitan Police. The fourth Sam Plank novel – “Portraits of Pretence” – was given the “Book of the Year 2017” award by influential book review website Discovering Diamonds. And the fifth – “Faith, Hope and Trickery” – was shortlisted for the Selfies Award 2019. Susan lives in Cambridge with her gate-crashing husband and cat/critic Maggie.

“Fatal Forgery” – the first Sam Plank novel – is currently available as a free e-book on Amazon (and all other e-book retailers).

If you want to get a monthly update on the research Susan is doing (with a free Regency glossary as a sign-up bonus), you can sign up here 

Twitter @ConstablePlank

Huge thanks to Susan for being our author in the spotlight today
and for sharing her Sam Plank stories with me over the last few years.



Wednesday 22 June 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Forgotten House on the Moor by Jane Lovering


Boldwood Books
26 June 2022

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

When police knock on Alice Donaldson’s door at 4am, she knows the news won’t be good. There’s been an accident involving her ex-husband Grant, and as his existing next of kin, they need her help.

Grant is missing up on the North York moors, but the Grant Alice knew could barely be persuaded out on a walk around the block. What on earth possessed him to go on a hike in the middle of the night?

Alice soon finds herself working with Grant’s girlfriend Jenna and Jenna’s gorgeous ‘Lord of the family Manor’ brother Max, to find out what has happened, and what caused Grant’s accident at The Fortune House – the spooky house out on the moors.

The locals tell all manner of ghoulish stories about The Fortune House, which Alice is not minded to listen to. But before long, things take a turn for the strange and Max and Alice have a new mystery to solve. While all the while Alice can’t help hoping she might meet the requirements to be Max’s ‘Lady of the Manor’ at his country pile, Hatherleigh Hall.

πŸ“– My Review...

Alice receives the unexpected news that Grant, her estranged husband, is missing after a tragic accident at the mysterious Fortune House high on the North Yorkshire moors. However, knowing her ex-husband well, Alice can't believe that he would be walking on the moors in the first place, so she is intrigued to find out more. With some trepidation Alice sets out to visit the place where her husband seemingly disappeared and there she comes into contact with brother and sister, Max and Jenna, who seem to have known a very different Grant and whose connection to the spooky Fortune House can't be ignored.

What then follows is a gently, haunting story about the lure of Fortune House and the mystery and spooky goings on, into which Alice, Max and Jenna get involved. The brooding nature of the moors comes across as do the unexplained sightings of some mysterious happenings at Fortune House. There's a nice amount of seriousness which is offset against the warm-hearted relationship between the main characters which the author has written with a light touch and a nice eye for detail. It took me a little while to warm to Alice, I felt that she was so much more than just worrying about her body image so it was good to see her personality blossom over the course of the story. 

The Forgotten House on the Moor is a light-hearted story, with a nice sense of mystery, and a lovely smattering of romance.

🍡Best Read with... a flask of tea and several of Jenna's scones..

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 #TheForgottenHouseontheMoor

@BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodbloggers @bookandtonic


Tuesday 21 June 2022

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Botanist by M. W. Craven


Little Brown Books
2 June 2022

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has. And he'd still have his thumb left. There's the insanely brilliant, guilelessly innocent civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw of course. He's known his beleaguered boss, Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn for years as he has his nearest neighbour, full-time shepherd/part-time dog sitter, Victoria.

And then there's Estelle Doyle. It's true the caustic pathologist has never walked down the sunny side of the street but this time has she gone too far? Shot twice in the head, her father's murder appears to be an open and shut case. Estelle has firearms discharge residue on her hands, and, in a house surrounded by fresh snow, hers are the only footprints going in. Since her arrest she's only said three words: 'Tell Washington Poe.'

Meanwhile, a poisoner the press have dubbed the Botanist is sending high profile celebrities poems and pressed flowers. The killer seems to be able to walk through walls and, despite the advance notice he gives his victims, and regardless of the security measures the police take, he seems to be able to kill with impunity.

For a man who hates locked room mysteries, this is going to be the longest week of Washington Poe's life.

πŸ“– My Review..

Just as DS Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has, so I can count on one hand the number of authors whose books I will read without a) seeing the blurb or b) seeing the cover - M. W. Craven is one such author and a new Poe and Tilly mystery is the highlight of my year. The Botanist, which has been on my book radar for several months, is now finally published so I can share my thoughts about book number five in the Poe and Tilly series of crime mysteries. 

There are two cleverly constructed threads running through the story, namely that of the eponymous botanist who is seemingly picking off high profile celebrities, a perpetrator who carries out the crimes with such ingenuous methods of disposal that for once Poe is stumped as to how this modus operandi is being carried out. The second thread is rather more personal for Poe as it involves one of his closest friends, of whom we know he doesn't have many, so when pathologist, Estelle Doyle is arrested for murder, Poe is determined to prove her innocence.

The Botanist is one of the most complicated locked room thrillers I've read, darkly, suspenseful with more twists and turns than a Cumbrian country lane and yet thanks to the skillful manipulation of the narrative it's so easy to devour the pages in short, sharp bursts, rather like the chapters themselves which are sometime just a page or two long. The attention to detail is, as always, meticulous, combining science, technology, and the masterpiece that is Tilly Bradshaw, whose serious explanations of the unexplainable, and her joyous faux pas, form such a crucial part of the story. 

Whilst this latest story forms an integral part of the series, it is perfectly possible to read the book as a standalone, but why deprive yourself of a superb crime series, start at the beginning and wallow in the dream team that is Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw and be taken into the minds of some of the darkest, fictional killers. The stories are not for the faint hearted but each are written with such talent  and skillful attention to even the smallest detail that the pages turn themselves.

Each year the latest Poe and Tilly story makes it onto my reads of the year list - The Botanist is no exception. In fact, as I also say every year, this is my favourite, especially as, this year, my home town gets  a little mention 😊

🍴Best read with.. a cup of Tilly's herbal tea and a sneaky, bacon butty, heavy on the sauce πŸ˜‹

M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at sixteen, leaving a decade later to complete a social work degree and spent seventeen years as a probation officer in Cumbria, rising to the rank of assistant chief officer. The first in the Washington Poe series, The Puppet Show, won the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger, has sold in numerous foreign territories and has been optioned for TV by Studio Lambert. M. W. Craven has been shortlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award and an Amazon Reader Award. He is also the author of the Avison Fluke novels, Born in a Burial Ground (shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger) and Body Breaker. 

Twitter @MWCravenUK #TheBotanist  #TeamPoe #TeamTilly


Monday 20 June 2022

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz (Translated by Rachel Ward)

Orenda Books
23 June 2022

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

Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she is to be treated for anorexia. She’s furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left in peace. Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs single handedly. She has little contact with the outside world, and no need for other people. From their first meeting, Sally realises that Liss isn’t like other adults; she expects nothing of Sally and simply accepts who she is, offering her a bed for the night with no questions asked. The first night lengthens into weeks as Sally starts to find pleasure in working with the bees, feeding the chickens, and harvesting potatoes. Eventually an unlikely friendship develops and these two damaged women slowly open up – connecting to each other, reconnecting with themselves, and facing the darkness in their pasts through their shared work on the land.

A gorgeous, much needed story of friendship across generations, of love and acceptance, of the power of nature to heal and transform, and the goodness that surrounds us, if only we take time to see it… Tasting Sunlight is an achingly beautiful, profound and uplifting novel that will slow you down, and draw your view on the essential and most important things about life. 'A triumph' Nurnberger Zeitung

πŸ“– My Review...

On the surface, Sally and Liss are unlikely companions. Teenager, Sally has recently run away from a clinic where she is being treated for anorexia, whilst forty-something Liss lives and works on her farm, quietly going about her days, with no need for any intrusion from the outside world. Liss is entirely comfortable with the beauty, and adaptability of nature, whilst Sally is all spikes and ridges and yet seeking shelter, and with no questions asked by Liss, Sally is given refuge and solace, finding her own rhythms in the daily activities on the farm, learning about nature, the importance of friendship and the comfort of finding your place in the world.

With well crafted skill, we are emotionally drawn into the relationship between Liss and Sally, we start to learn of their individual backgrounds, the sadness they each conceal from other people and the journey they must both make to discover what's truly important. Filled with the scents, sights and sensations of rural life I felt immersed in the natural world, learning how to harvest, and mash, sugar, sweet pears, how to remove sticky mites from bees, and alongside Sally, I gathered potatoes until my back ached. 

Beautifully translated from German by Rachel Ward, Ewald Arenz's unique story-telling skills are revealed in this wonderfully, descriptive story, which warms the heart and brings this rural backdrop to life in all its uncomplicated glory.

🍡Best Read with ...a cup of tea, sweetened with summer honey

About the Author

Ewald Arenz was born in Nurnberg in 1965, where he now teaches. He has won various national and regional awards for literature; among them the Bavarian State Prize for Literature and the great Nuremberg Prize for Literature. One of seven children, he enjoys nature, woodturning, biking, swimming, and drinking tea. He lives with his family in Germany.

Twitter @EwaldArenz #TastingSunlight #JubilantJune 




Sunday 19 June 2022

☀ Summer Picnic with Jaffareadstoo ~ Barbara Scott Emmett

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome you all to our Summer Picnic

Summertime is here

☼ I'm delighted to welcome Barbara Scott Emmett to our Summer Picnic 

Welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, Barbara. Which favourite foods are you bringing to our summer picnic?

I love hummus with crudites – raw carrot sticks, celery, spring onions – oh who am I kidding? – throw in a pork pie and a bag of crisps and I’ll be happy.

What would you like to drink? We have white wine spritzers, locally brewed beer, traditional Pimms, sparkling elderflower cordial or a thermos of tea or coffee?

The elderflower cordial sounds wonderful but if I’m not driving, I may well have a white wine spritzer – possibly without the spritz.

Where shall we sit, by the pool, on a beach, in the garden or in the countryside?

The beach is my absolute favourite place but if we don’t want sand in the sandwiches we could opt for the back garden.

Do we have a wicker hamper, tablecloth and cutlery, or is everything in a supermarket carrier bag?

In my dreams I’d go for the wicker hamper with all the trimmings and I’d be wearing an elegant pastel-coloured linen outfit. In reality it will no doubt be an Aldi bag and I’ll be in jeans.

Which of your literary heroes (alive or dead) are joining us on the picnic today?

My literary heroes are James Joyce and Arthur Rimbaud. Jimmy Joyce might just about behave himself but Rimbaud has been known to do unmentionable things to the milk. Maybe I’ll ask Hilary Mantel instead.

Do you have favourite place to have a summer picnic?

My back garden! Then, if it rains, as it often does, we can all take our wine inside until the sun comes out again.

Do you have a summer music playlist? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?

While I love listening to Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, for a truly upbeat toe-tapping song you can’t beat Paolo Nutini’s 10/10 from the album Sunnyside Up.

Which summer read are you bringing with you today?

I’ll probably bring The Girl in the Paperweight by Karen MacLeod. It’s the second book in the Ardtullan Hotel Series – thoughtful novels set around hotels, with romantic/relationship aspects to them.

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 do read for pleasure even when I am writing – it’s my little treat at the end of the day. When I first started writing I couldn’t do this because I would find myself influenced by whoever I was reading. Fortunately, I have now found my voice so I don’t have to worry about that any more.

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

I wish I knew. It would be great to be able to tap into that source whenever I wanted to. I’m often inspired by a place I’ve visited – all my books are set in particular locations and the environment is very much a part of the story.

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

My current favourite writing place, winter or summer, is in my spare room. It’s south facing so it gets plenty of light. At the beginning of the covid lockdown in 2020, I redecorated using triangular off-cuts of wallpaper – mostly pinks and yellows – so it’s very cheerful, if a little gaudy! I wrote Dog Leap Stairs in there lying on the pink patchwork coverlet.

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

I rarely have deadlines but when I do, I can usually concentrate until I get at least most of it done. I do tend to leave a few last-minute things to be tidied up though, and have to threaten myself with dire consequences if I don’t get on with it.

Give us four essential items that a writer needs?

A pen, paper and the time and space to write are the only real essentials, but a laptop and a good helping of inspiration won’t go amiss. Throw in a cup of tea and a fruit scone and nothing else is needed in my view.

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

Pink Lane (working title) is a follow up to Dog Leap Stairs and is also set in Newcastle. Some of the same characters feature in this crime novel, though it is perhaps not quite so dark as DLS. It’s been slow-going lately so I intend to take July off (editing and proofreading etc) to lie on my pink coverlet and concentrate on writing.


Newcastle 1955

Monica haunts the quayside picking up men of a certain age.

Then one of them is found dead.

Since nobody knows what she does at night, she can't be in the frame for the murder.

Can she?

At her lowest point, she meets Bobby Wilson, an ordinary lad, handsome in his way.

But is this the right time to fall in love?

As the oily Tyne flows past the wharfs and under the iconic bridge, middle-aged men are being targeted by a vicious killer. Monica Brown, damaged, abused, just happens to be in the area - just happens to be excited by the murders.

Dog Leap Stairs is a blend of psychological realism and crime; dark, claustrophobic and atmospheric, it is both a portrait of Tyneside in the 1950s and an account of one woman's struggle against her true nature.

Pick up your copy :

Books2Read Dog Leap Stairs Apple, Kobo, B&N etc

Amazon Paperback £7.99 /$9.99 and eBook reduced to 99p/99c (until Tuesday 21st June)

More about Barbara

Barbara Scott Emmett has lived in London, Edinburgh, Musselburgh and many towns and
settlements in Australia, where her novel The Land Beyond Goodbye is set. Some years ago, she spent time writing in chalets, tents and caravans in France and Germany. Her novels Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion and Don’t Look Down are set in France and Germany respectively. After many years away, she has now returned to her hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne, where her latest crime novel, Dog Leap Stairs is set.

Barbara, where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter @BSE_Writer

Thank you for sharing your Summer Picnic with us today

Thank you so much for having me.

Follow on Twitter #SummerPicnicwithJaffareadstoo