Wednesday 31 August 2022

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ Homesick by Jennifer Croft


Charco Press
23 August 2022

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

The coming of age story of an award-winning translator, Homesick is about learning to love language in its many forms, healing through words and the promises and perils of empathy and sisterhood.

Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are home schooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in hospitals as she undergoes surgeries. Meanwhile, Amy flourishes intellectually, showing an innate ability to glean a world beyond the troubles in her home life, exploring that world through languages first. Amy's first love appears in the form of her Russian tutor Sasha, but when she enters university at the age of 15 her life changes drastically and with tragic results.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

Homesick is an unusual book, quietly introspective and cleverly arranged in short, thought provoking chapters, some little more than vignettes, which allow the story of sisters, Amy and Zoe to evolve at entirely its own pace. Powerfully evoking the special relationship between sisters author Jennifer Croft uses this memoir to explore the connection she had with her sister, the consequences of this relationship resonates throughout the book.

Reading like fiction but with its heart very much placed in memories, this coming of age memoir is beautifully and succinctly written and by keeping the dialogue in the third person it allows the author to remove herself emotionally whilst at the same time recounting her difficult growing up in Oklahoma with academic parents and the effect that her sister's diagnosis of a benign brain tumour had on all their lives going forward.

Homesick is easily read over the space of an afternoon but that doesn't mean it is light on content, far from it, as I found much to peruse and ponder over in the course of the book and all credit to the author for presenting this memoir in such a contemplative and rather different sort of way.

Jennifer Croft won a 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship for her novel Amadou, the 2020 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing for her illustrated memoir Homesick and the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her translation from Polish of Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights. She is also the author of Serpientes y escaleras and Notes on Postcards, as well as the translator of Federico Falco’s A Perfect Cemetery, Romina Paula’s August, Pedro Mairal’s The Woman from Uruguay, Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob, Sylvia Molloy’s Dislocations, and Sebastiรกn Martรญnez Daniell’s Two Sherpas. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from Northwestern University.

For Charco Press, she has translated Federico Falco's A Perfect Cemetery (2021), Sylvia Molloy's Dislocations (forthcoming 2022), and Sebastiรกn Martรญnez Daniell’s Two Sherpas (forthcoming 2023).

Twitter @jenniferlcroft #Homesick

@charcopress @midaspr

Tuesday 30 August 2022

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ A Wartime Welcome at Rookery House by Rosie Hendry


Rookery House Press
7 June 2022

My thanks to the author and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book
and the opportunity to take part in this blog tour

Follow the much-loved characters from the award winning MOTHER’S DAY CLUB in a brand-new World War Two saga series.

October 1940

When VAD nurse Evie narrowly avoids being killed in an air raid during the Blitz, it propels her to make a life-changing decision to break free of her troubled and unhappy life. She escapes to the Norfolk countryside to start afresh, with a job at the newly opened Great Plumstead Hall hospital, and a wonderful new home at Rookery House.

The community of Great Plumstead welcomes more evacuees to the village – mothers and children bombed out of their London homes. Sisters Prue and Thea, along with members of The Mother’s Day Club, help the new arrivals settle in, while continuing their work for the war effort by holding knitting bees, socials and doing WVS work.

Evie is happy in her new life – she loves living at Rookery House and enjoys her job at the hospital, despite working for the difficult Matron Reed. But when a patient arrives who knew her in her former life, Evie’s new-found freedom and happiness is in danger. Will the secrets of Evie’s past be revealed, and the problems from her old life return to trouble her once more?

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

Those who have read The Mother's Day Club will be delighted to see the return of old friends who reappear in this new WW2 saga which features characters, both old and new, who call Rookery House in Great Plumstead home. 

A Wartime Welcome at Rookery House highlights this fictional village who welcome people who are in need of respite from the cares and worries of the war, especially for those evacuees who have been living in London, facing the ever present danger of falling bombs. Evie Jones is a nurse with a mysterious past who escapes to Great Plumstead by taking up a VAD nursing position at the newly opened Great Plumstead Hall hospital and finding a billet with Thea, Marianne, Reuben and Hettie at Rookery Hall is a dream come true for her.

As always the villagers are keeping the home fires burning, getting involved in knitting groups and social activities, recycling waste and planting vegetables but it is their warm welcome to troubled strangers where the story finds its heart. Soldiers who have been wounded in the war find comfort and solace in Great Plumstead Hall Hospital and this part of the story, especially Evie's role there makes for interesting reading. Mothers and  their children from London also make their way to the peace of Great Plumstead, but country life is not for everyone and even though some of the mothers have really difficult decisions to make they are always supported by Thea at Rookery House.

A Wartime Welcome at Rookery House is a lovely introduction to this new WW2 series. The characters are beautifully described, quickly becoming as familiar as old friends and there is a genuine wartime authenticity which makes the story such a delightful read. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next for the people who live at Rookery House.

Best Read with...Hettie's freshly made scones and jam

About the Author

Award winning author, Rosie Hendry lives by the sea in North Norfolk with her husband and children. She writes uplifting, heart-warming historical fiction based on true events from our social history. Listening to her father’s tales of life during the Second World War sparked her interest in this period and she loves researching further, seeking out gems of real-life stories which inspire her writing.

Twitter @hendry_rosie #AWartimeWelcomeAtRookeryHouse


Monday 29 August 2022

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ The Last Girl to Die by Helen Fields


1 September 2022

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

In search of a new life, sixteen-year-old Adriana Clark’s American family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.

Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliff side cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.

The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?

I am delighted to be able to share an extract from The Last Girl To Die (p.62-64) 

An emerald mist was blowing off the sea at 5 a.m. It infiltrated the gaps in my ancient window and brought the scents of seaweed and salt. The curtains were damp as I pulled them back, and there was no chance I would fall back to sleep. Knowing that no one else in my corridor wanted to be woken at that time, I left my room and the hotel quietly, made for the hills behind the town and headed south. The drop away from the land to the sea was timeless. Beyond the town, the remoteness hit me. I saw only a handful of houses as I walked. Trees that had stood for generations lined my path and the heather underfoot added a scratchy cushioned layer to the earth. Seagulls eyed me suspiciously from the air, but it was the fishing boats and lobster pots they wanted. The island was a place removed from the world, and although Tobermory was a slice of civilisation, it hadn’t made a dent in the wildness of the scenery. The sea breathed in and out with me as I walked. Finally, back at The Last Bay Hotel, I showered, dressed, put on my best attitude and went to explore what the Mull Historical Emporium had to offer.

The once dark-green sign was weather faded to something less bold and more mossy, which was how the inside felt too. The dust was what I noticed first. Overhead lighting filtered into glass cabinets that should have sparkled, lighting up the debris of ages. Guidebooks and maps alongside history books with transparent plastic covers gave the Emporium the air of a dying library. Bric-a-brac sporting various clan motifs with fading price tags lined the walls and lay unloved on shelves. Portraits, landscapes, a few animal heads that made me queasy. A lock of hair in a pearl inlay box. Many of the displays offered minute handwritten information cards next to them. A ship’s manifest in a language I couldn’t make out. Half the items for sale, the remainder there to encourage tourists through the doors. Not quite a museum; not quite a shop. There were several areas to wander through, each tiny and featuring a different period in Mull’s history. Low oak beams, exposed inner walls and three small but beautiful open fireplaces. ‘Can I h-help?’ The stutter on the ‘h’ told me immediately who was standing behind me. He was close enough that I could feel the heat of his body against my back.

I turned my head to reply, but kept my body facing the fireplace I was admiring. ‘Hi,’ I said. ‘I was looking for a guidebook about the island.’ ‘I know who you are,’ he said. The sentence took time to get through, each word a trial. I waited for him to finish. Damp with sweat, his clothes needed more care, as did his hair and nails. ‘I love this building. How old is it?’ ‘1820,’ he said. I could smell sour fruit acid on his breath and his fingers flexed and twitched as he spoke to me. ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Sadie,’ I replied. ‘Sadie,’ he repeated back to me slowly.

‘They call you Skittles, right?’ He gave a broad grin revealing teeth that confirmed what Rachel had told me about his diet. ‘Did you ever talk to Adriana? Did she ever come in here?’ His smile melted. ‘She’s d-d-dead,’ he said, the stutter worsening as his face reddened. I watched, recognising his limited abilities as we talked. At some point a diagnosis would surely have been made, but I was no psychologist. It seemed to me that Skittles was functioning only at a basic level. He could answer direct questions, repeat facts, ring purchases up on a till, but beyond that I had doubts. ‘Do you know Mackinnon’s Cave where she was found?’ I asked. ‘It’s d-dark there at night,’ was his reply. ‘Don’t l-like it.’ ‘Really?’ I said. ‘I thought I saw you going out late last night. You got in your car and drove somewhere.’ His eyes slid from my gaze. ‘Get you a g-guidebook,’ he muttered, walking off. I followed, disliking the fact that I was leaping to conclusions, but the seeds were planted in my mind and already sprouting. ‘Do you live here too or just work here?’ I asked as he reached up to a shelf behind the counter and took down a book. ‘Live,’ he said. ‘Nine ninety-nine.’ I handed over a ten-pound note and watched as his fingers took their time punching each button on the old-fashioned till. I picked up my purchase and left to check out Adriana’s regular haunts and retrace the steps of her final day.

Photo by kind permission of the author

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

Sadie Levesque is a Canadian private investigator who has been employed by an American family living on the Isle of Mull who are desperate to find their missing teenage daughter. The disappearance of sixteen year-old Adriana Clark has left the small Scottish town of Tobermory bewildered but when Sadie discovers a body in an isolated cave, it would seem that the townsfolk start to close ranks and with a less than helpful local police force, Sadie soon finds that she is battling against prejudice, local indifference and long buried superstition.

Sadie Levesque is an interesting protagonist, she's not afraid to challenge the local police team, ruffling feathers and upsetting male egos in her quest to uncover the dark and deadly secrets of Tobermory and the reasons why young girls in the town are being targeted in such a terrifying way. As always this talented author get right into the heart of the action, weaving complex strands of the story with precision and with interesting dialogue from the island itself which gives an extra insight into its dark and mysterious past. The story moves along quickly as there is much to discover and many twists, turns and red herrings before the final sad denouement, which doesn't disappoint.

Mysterious, addictive and compulsive reading, The Last Girl to Die is an atmospheric standalone thriller which uses local myth, pagan legends and eerie superstition to bring this thrilling story to life.

๐Ÿ“– Best read with..a comforting glass of single malt whisky

About the Author

Photo by kind permission of the author

A former criminal and family law barrister, Helen Fields has the expertise and experience to make the characters and plots scorch with authenticity. With a background as both a prosecutor and defence counsel, Helen Fields has a depth of knowledge about crime that lends a fierceness to her writing. From Court Martials to care proceedings, the Coroner Courts to the Crown Court, Fields draws on her professional years for the extraordinary colour and texture that makes her writing jump off the page.
Twice long-listed for the McIllvanney Scottish Crime Book of the Year, and a multi-bestselling author whose books have been translated across the globe, Fields consistently produces high impact, compelling novels that readers love.

Now translated into 22 languages, and also selling in the USA, Canada & Australasia, Helen's books have won global recognition. In 2020 Helen’s novel, 'Perfect Kill' was longlisted for the Crime Writers Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. In 2020 Perfect Remains was shortlisted for the Bronze Bat, Dutch debut crime novel of the year. Helen also writes as HS Chandler, and has released legal thriller 'Degrees of Guilt'. Her audio book 'Perfect Crime' knocked Michelle Obama off the #1 spot.

Twitter @Helen_Fields #TheLastGirlToDie



Photo by kind permission of the author

Sunday 28 August 2022

☀ Summer Picnic with Jaffareadstoo ~ Leilanie Stewart


 Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome you all to our Summer Picnic 

Summertime is here

I'm delighted to welcome Leilanie Stewart to our Summer Picnic 

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

Tomato and mozzarella salad with olive oil and avocadoes, a summer treat, especially as I’m a low carb fanatic.

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?

Black coffee is my go-to, though I wouldn’t say no to a white wine spritzer.

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

On a beach. The sound of the waves is so soothing, and I could get lost in a daydream looking out across the sand dunes.

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

Wicker hampers are definitely quaint, though I’m a practical kind of person, so I’ve got to go with a supermarket carrier bag – reusable, of course.

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

If Homer was a real person, then I would invite them. If Homer was actually a series of Ancient Greek bards who recited the Iliad on street corners in ancient Athens, rather than one person, then I’d invite all of them all to our picnic. The peplos tunics would add a touch of class to our beach-side gathering too.

Do you have favourite place to have a summer picnic?

This summer I have enjoyed picnics at local beaches in Holywood and Bangor in my home country of Northern Ireland. The nice weather doesn’t last too long here, so it has been great to seize the moment.

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?

Not especially so, though I enjoy listening to Jazz if I’m feeling mellow: Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus are always great. I’m getting sentimental over you by Thelonious Monk is a favourite.

Which summer read are you bringing with you today?

My stack of current reads is always huge, but I’ll narrow it down to River of Destiny by Barbara Erskine. There’s a water theme within the first section that I’ve read so far, so it would be fitting with our beach picnic.

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!

Yes, I’m always reading at least seven or eight books at any one time and I read a little every day. I tend to read in the morning at breakfast time and write later in the day. A book that I haven’t yet read, but is on my to-be-read list, is Revelator by Daryl Gregory. The premise sounds intriguing and I’m a fan of literary horror.

Knopf 2021

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

Real locations tend to stimulate ideas for me, even though I then fictionalise the details in my books. A river walk down by Wandsworth Bridge in London spawned the idea for my debut novel, Gods of Avalon Road, particularly the idea of mudlarking and I chose to set the novel in Hammersmith and Fulham. My second novel, The Buddha’s Bone, is set in a small town in rural Japan called Tottori. My third novel, The Blue Man, is set in my hometown of East Belfast and ties in local urban folklore with real settings – especially the Harland and Wolff shipyard – where Titanic was built.

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

At home I write at a desk where my laptop overlooks the garden. I can watch the birds coming to the feeder and get lost in my thoughts as the honeysuckle bush swaying in the wind slowly hypnotises me – so calming. Out and about, I bring a tablet and wireless keyboard with me to write on the go in parks, or cafes, wherever I get a moment to squeeze in a few words.

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

When I’m focused on a writing task, I tend to prioritise that, so I rarely get distracted during that time. If I need to get a manuscript draft to my editor, proofreader or ARC readers for a certain date, I tend to let people know a rough date estimate and stay within a week of that commitment, just to give myself wiggle room. I would tend to get distracted more during the earlier stages of drafting a novel – the option to watch Netflix and have a cuppa is always present – but I try to get a little writing done every day. Even if it’s only a sentence, or just tweaking and editing something I had previously written, it keeps the story moving forward and so I still consider it progress.

Give us four essential items that a writer needs?

1. Access to a computer or laptop to write: whether you own one, or if you’re on a budget, using one at the local library – typing up your work is essential.

2. A pocket notebook to jot story ideas on the go – lest they be forgotten.

3. A chapter planning and story outlining notebook. I’d be lost without mine.

4. Business cards to help spread the word about your books. You never know when your writing might come up in conversation with someone.

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

My latest novel, The Blue Man, is a ghost story and literary fiction book set in Belfast. It follows teenagers Megan and Sabrina twenty years ago, who destroyed their friendship after unleashing a sinister force into their lives when they shared the terrifying Irish urban legend of The Blue Man. Now in the present, as mothers-to-be, they reunite once more to confront the horror and trauma, in the hopes of burying the past and changing the fate of their families.

 Two best friends. An urban legend. A sinister curse.

Twenty years ago, horror loving Sabrina told her best friend, Megan, the terrifying Irish folk tale of the Blue Man, who sold his soul to the Devil in vengeance against a personal injustice. What should have been the best summer of their schooldays turned into a waking nightmare, as the Blue Man came to haunt Megan. Sabrina, helpless to save Megan from a path of self-destruction and substance abuse as she sought refuge from the terror, left Belfast for a new life in Liverpool.

Twenty years later, the former friends reunited thinking they had escaped the horrors of the past. Both were pregnant for the first time. Both had lived elsewhere and moved back to their hometown, Belfast. Both were wrong about the sinister reality of the Blue Man, as the trauma of their school days caught up to them – and their families.

Why did the Blue Man terrorise Megan? Was there more to the man behind the urban legend? Was their friendship – and mental health – strong enough to overcome a twenty year curse?

More about Leilanie

 Leilanie Stewart is an author and poet from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her writing confronts the nature of self; her novels feature main characters on a dark psychological journey who have a crisis of identity and create a new sense of being. She began writing for publication while working as an English teacher in Japan, a career pathway that has influenced themes in her writing. Her former career as an Archaeologist has also inspired her writing and she has incorporated elements of archaeology and mythology into both her fiction and poetry.

In addition to promoting her own work, Leilanie runs Bindweed Magazine, a creative writing literary journal with her writer husband, Joseph Robert. Aside from publishing pursuits, Leilanie enjoys spending time with her husband and their lively literary lad, a voracious reader of sea monster books.

Leilanie, where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter @leilaniestewart

Leilanie, thank you for sharing your summer picnic with us today

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo  #SummerPicnicwithJaffareadstoo

Saturday 27 August 2022

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ Be Brave For Me by Elaine Johns

26 August 2022

A Cornish Wartime Story #1

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

Cornwall, England, 1941. Gazing at the coiled barbed wire and danger signs on this once-beautiful beach, Maddie suddenly hears a frightened little cry. Her heart pounding, she races down the dunes, but knows she will never reach the child in time...

Maddie Brady is overwhelmed with relief to see a brave soul ahead of her rescue a little boy trapped among the landmines on the beach. But thanking the man, Maddie is shocked to hear a German accent. Why would an escaped German prisoner of war rescue an English boy?

As a driver in the Army, Maddie is duty-bound to report Rudi immediately. But when he speaks of his home in a sheltered valley destroyed by Nazis, and how his father was killed for objecting to the war, Maddie feels a deep connection to this lost soul with sparkling blue eyes.

With Rudi hiding out in a farmer’s barn, Maddie can’t keep herself away, smuggling him bread and water. Their passion brings them comfort in the darkest days. But as their love grows, so does the terrible danger of discovery…

As her colleagues begin to suspect she’s hiding something, Maddie is torn between loyalty to her country, and the man she’s shared everything with. Helping Rudi flee across the desolate countryside would mean being parted forever – and if he’s captured, he may not even survive. But could she bear to betray her soulmate? As the war tears the world apart, will they survive the impossible – or will their secret love only bring them despair?

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

Be Brave For Me is  a love story with a difference as Maddie and Rudi meet in the most unexpected of circumstances. Madeleine Brady is a driver in the army and has been given the task of taking an officer to a camp which house prisoners of war and it is there where she meets Rudi Fischer, a German POW, who has been classified as non-dangerous. However, Rudi is being bullied by another prisoner and taking these threats seriously, Rudi escapes the camp and it is this momentous decision which brings Maddie and Rudi together.

What then follows throughout the story is mainly about Maddie and the effect that the war has on her life. She is a determined young woman and faces everything with a stoicism so often found in this wartime generation who lost so much and who never took life, or love for granted. The author writes well and keeps the reader's interest alive, especially as the time span runs from 1941 when the story begins, to the conclusion of the story in 1957 when secrets and resolutions are shared.

Be Brave For Me is the first in a new series of wartime stories set in Cornwall and this book certainly gets the series off to a good start. I enjoyed the warmth of the storytelling, the attention to historical detail and most of all I enjoyed Maddie and Rudi's love story with a difference.

Best Read with..a bottle of Cornish ale

Elaine Johns inherited her love of fiction from her Irish mother and a passion for writing was the happy result. She was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, came to London to attend the Italia Conti Performing Arts Academy, and made records with her twin brother in their teens that scraped their way into the charts. After an initial career as a jazz singer and flautist in big bands, she was a print and television journalist in Bahrain, editing and presenting the News in English at Bahrain Television. She is now freelance, writing mostly short stories for UK women’s magazines from her home in Cornwall and, before retiring, used to lecture part time at Truro College. She has written several contemporary women’s fiction novels, including Ice Cream for Breakfast and Lemonade and Lies. Her favourite genre is historical women’s fiction, and she particularly enjoys writing in the 1940s and 50s.

She is now well and truly transplanted to Cornwall and enjoys life with her long-time partner (her hero and rock), a jazz musician and artist. Elaine has two grown-up sons, and loves Zumba, music, walking with her friends, and getting the most out of life, whatever it throws at her!

@bookouture #booksontour

Friday 26 August 2022

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Other Parents by Sarah Stovell

18 August 2022

They all have opinions.
They all have secrets.

In a small town like West Burntridge, it should be impossible to keep a secret. But the problem with having your nose in everyone’s business is that you can miss what’s staring you in the face.

Rachel Saunders knows gossip is the price you pay for a rural lifestyle and outstanding schools. The latest town scandal is her divorce – and the fact that her new girlfriend has moved into the family home.

Laura Spence lives in a poky bedsit on the wrong side of town. She and her son Jake don’t really belong, and his violent tantrums are threatening to expose the very thing she’s trying to hide.

When the local school introduces a new LGBTQ+-friendly curriculum, Rachel and Laura find themselves on opposite sides of a fearsome debate. But the problem with having your nose in everyone else’s business is that you often miss what’s happening in your own home.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

Sarah Stovell is fast becoming one of those authors whose work I will read as soon as it is published and, for a change, this time, I decided to listen to the audio version of the book via the BorrowBox library app. I wasn't disappointed as the narrator, Elaine Claxton, did  a really good job of interpreting the story. With over 11 hours of listening time, the story doesn't rush but builds up each layer with accurate precision and as each of the main protagonists come to life so all the quirks of their distinct personalities are captured.

West Burntridge is one of those small town places where everyone knows everyone else's business and when Rachael Saunders leaves her husband to start a new relationship with her girlfriend, Erin, it not only fractures her family but also alienates half the town. Add into the mix, Kate and Laura, a couple of over zealous PTA members at the local primarily school who object to the introduction of a proposed LGBTQ+-friendly curriculum and you have all the elements for riotous dissent.

Other Parents is a great story, it made me laugh out loud in places, especially the cake fight, but it also made me stop to consider small town pettiness and the bigotry which exists and lurks in the shadows and which can cause so much misery. The characterisation is, as always, excellent, as this talented author knows how to get right inside the heads of the people she so skillfully creates, bringing them to life with a perception and insight into just what makes people tick.

I spent several hours in Burntridge as the story unfolded, placing my loyalty with those who needed it, especially Rachael's daughter Maia who was left lost and bewildered by her mother's actions and also with immense sympathy, in the end, for Laura who really had her own demons to chase. 

Beautifully written, immensely entertaining and ultimately enlightening, Other Parents is this talented author writing at her absolute best.

๐Ÿ“– Best read with.. Decorated cupcakes, loaded with icing

About the Author

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.

Twitter @sarahlovescrime #OtherParents


Thursday 25 August 2022

Review ~ Ten Poems about Wildlife from Candlestick Press


Candlestick Press
July 2022

My thanks to the publisher for this poetry pamphlet

Poems that explore the wonders of the animal kingdom

Hedgehogs and hares, dragonflies and deer... This mini anthology is a delightful celebration of the many wild creatures that flutter, slither, swim or stride through the British countryside.

Poet Pascale Petit has selected poems that take us into their unfamiliar worlds. The strange language of bats and the exhilaration of wild ponies running free are brought vividly to life, while the sinuous body of an otter is captured in a poem of slippery word-play.

Again and again we experience the thrill of encountering a wild animal in its habitat:

“When she pauses in the clearing between cedars

slender neck arched like a drawn bow,

I want to kneel, hold her against my thundering heart,”

from ‘Dream of My Daughter as a Fawn’ by Danielle Boodoo-Fortunรฉ

The anthology is a reminder to pay attention to the natural world and its creatures – that although poems may appear to keep them safe, we should never take them for granted.

Poems by Danielle Boodoo-Fortunรฉ, John Clare, Emily Dickinson, Jen Hadfield, Norman MacCaig, Robert Macfarlane, David Morley, Les Murray, Pascale Petit and Robert Williams Parry.

Cover illustration by Sam Cannon.

My Review..

There's something quite magical about taking an early morning stroll and coming across a couple of roe deer quietly munching or seeing the glorious red coat of an urban fox. Wildlife is on our doorstep and if there is anything I have learned from this recent pandemic it is to appreciate the wildlife you may have in your local area.

In this collection of ten poems, the individual poets share their thoughts and feelings about wildlife. Quietly exploring what it means to view the world in a very different way.

What better way to start the collection than with The Fox by Robert Williams Parry ( translated by RS Thomas)


and breathtakingly he was there,

a fox on soft foot, his mind 


Hedgehogs, fawns, otters, bats, dragonflies and mice all find their place in this poetry collection and each animal is beautifully brought to life with words which capture their innocence and their specialness.

I loved Horses, Running by Pascale Petit

"..I watch the horses run downhill,

tails flung out in a slipstream of wind,

they blur and the moor and the grass blurs with them

just as the earth must blur as it spins..."

I have special fondness for hares and this lovely poem by Norman MacCraig really captured my imagination

"...He's gone - but still, so high,

so gently the hill curves over,

two ears like antlers move

Pricked on a pewter sky..."

Ten Poems about Wildlife is a really lovely collection of poems which capture the stunning beauty of our wildlife and reminds us that we should do everything we can to protect and encourage them. The collection is a perfect gift, or instead of card, for anyone who enjoys the natural world.

Candlestick Press is an independent publisher based in Nottingham, UK. We’ve been publishing poetry pamphlets since 2008 not only for people who already love poetry, but also for those who will love it but perhaps don’t know that yet. Our ‘instead of a card’ pamphlets make an ideal alternative to a mainstream greetings card and are a small gift in their own right. They have matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message, and are excellent companions on journeys or for a bedtime read. By supporting us, you help an independent press and our supported charities at the same time as treating yourselves, your friends and family to some wonderful poems.

Twitter @poetrycandle

Wednesday 24 August 2022

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Remember Love by Mary Balogh

12 July 2022

Ravenswood #1

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

The handsome and charismatic Earl of Stratton, Caleb Ware, has been exposed to the ton for his clandestine affairs—by his own son.

As a child, Devlin Ware thought his family stood for all that was right and good in the world. They were kind, gracious, and shared the beauty of Ravenwood, their grand country estate, by hosting lavish parties for the entire countryside. But at twenty-two, he discovered his whole world was an elaborate illusion, and when Devlin publicly called his family to account for it, he was exiled as a traitor.

So be it. He enlisted in the fight against Napoleon and didn’t look back for six years. But now his father is dead, the Ware family is broken, and as the heir he is being called home. It’s only when Gwyneth Rhys—the woman he loved and then lost after his family banished him—holds out her hand to help him that he is able make the difficult journey and try to piece together his fractured family.

It is Gwyneth’s loyalty, patience, and love that he needs. But is Devlin’s war-hardened heart even capable of offering her love in return?

๐Ÿ“– My review..

I love a good Regency romance and Mary Balogh is certainly the expert in bringing this era to life. Remember Love is the first in a new series of historical romance/ family saga which certainly has all the trademarks of this author's fine attention to detail and a lovely regency atmosphere.

Rather gentler in style than some Regency romances Remember Love is no less interesting and once I had all the characters in place, and there are lots to get to know, I felt quite at home learning about life for the family who call Ravenswood home and especially the hero of this first story, Devlin Ware, Viscount Mountford. Devlin is a valiant young man with his future before him however, when scandal strikes at the heart of the family Devlin must make some tough decisions about his life going forward.

Beautifully reminiscent of a distant way of life, Remember Love is filled with an old fashioned charm and is an good introduction to this author's gentle style of writing, especially as this is a new series to enjoy.

Best read with...a nice cup of tea

Mary Balogh grew up in Wales and now lives with her husband in Saskatchewan, Canada. She has written more than 100 historical novels and novellas, more than 30 of which have been New York Times bestsellers. They include the Slightly sestet (the Bewyn Saga), the Simply quartet, the Huxtable quintet, the Westcott series and the Survivors' Club series.


Tuesday 23 August 2022

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ Hidden in the Mists by Christina Courtenay ( and Giveaway)

18 August 2022

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

A love forged in fire lives on through the ages . . .

Skye Logan has been struggling to run her remote farm on Scotland's west coast alone ever since her marriage fell apart. When a handsome stranger turns up looking for work, it seems that her wish for help has been granted.

Rafe Carlisle is searching for peace and somewhere he can forget about the last few years. But echoes of the distant past won't leave Skye and Rafe alone, and they begin to experience vivid dreams which appear to be linked to the Viking jewellery they each wear.

It seems that the ghosts of the past have secrets . . . and they have something that they want Skye and Rafe to know.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

Through the mists of time comes a dual time story which takes us from an isolated croft in Scotland where Skye Logan in struggling to maintain the farm where she and her husband once hoped to build a future together and then further back in time to a ninth century Viking settlement where รsta Thorfinnsdรณttir is left alone following the death of her father.

Both time elements blend seamlessly with no awkward moments which detract from the beauty of the story. Travelling back in time to a Viking settlement is done with fine attention to detail, bringing everything to life in an authentic way. It's difficult for us to imagine what it was like in ninth century Scotland but all credit to this talented writer for giving us a special glimpse into life in a Viking settlement and a sense of what it might have been like to sit at table in the hall surrounded by the sights, sounds and dangerous atmosphere of this ancient world. Equally, I was just as comfortable in present day Auchenbeag as Skye tends her smallholding with enthusiasm and passion, and as someone who loves yarn, I was especially interested in the author's intricate descriptions of dying the yarn from Skye's small flock of sheep, blending natural dyes from plants found in the woodland around Skye's house.

Linked by gold, the secrets of the past are revealed, and as Skye and รsta's lives intertwine so the elements of the past and present come to life as we follow in the footsteps of these two indomitable women, and of the men who fall in love with them.

Best read with...a sip or two of mead

About the Author

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden–hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan(2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the Runes.Hidden inthe Mists (timeslip/dual time romance published by Headline Review 18th August 2022) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety)

Twitter @PiaCCourtenay #HiddenintheMists



Giveaway to Win a signed copy of Hidden in the Mists, Viking tea-towel and Viking carved butter knife (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions– Worldwide 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 giveaway 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.

Sunday 21 August 2022

☀ Summer Picnic with Jaffareadstoo ~ Val Portelli

 Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome you all to our Summer Picnic 

Summertime is here

I'm delighted to welcome Val Portelli to our Summer Picnic 

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

I like nibbles and anything with cheese so I brought along some tapas style, and some strawberries for afters.

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?

A dry white wine spritzer, please and then some coffee later.

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

By the pool next to my private beach. If we get too hot, we can move into the shade under the trees in the garden behind it.

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

We don’t need a tablecloth, but the hamper has cutlery, plates and napkins. The staff will bring the food down to us so we can enjoy a bit of luxury.

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

I don’t think I have any particular literary heroes in the traditional sense as I enjoy books in most genres. Perhaps we could invite some Indie authors who manage to write and publish a book whilst running a home, working full time, raising their family, looking after elderly relatives etc. Their commitment makes them literary heroes in my eyes.

Do you have favourite place to have a summer picnic?

Anywhere it’s not raining.

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?

My musical tastes tend to be rather old fashioned. I love Rock and Roll, 60s and 70s music and ‘pop.’ Happy by Pharrell Williams always makes me smile.

Which summer read are you bringing with you today?

I might bring my own book, ‘Summer Changes’ to remind me of the story before I start work on the sequel, or I might just choose a light, easy to read romance so I can relax.

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 never have as much time to read as I would like, but I try to fit in half an hour most nights before I sleep. There are usually two or three paperbacks plus several on my Kindle waiting their turn, so it’s a constantly changing scenario.

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

Everywhere. ‘Summer Changes’ was based on personal experiences when I first visited Malta, ‘Country Boy’ was an amalgamation of several real-life people, ‘ABC Destiny’ was from the alphabet, and ‘Spirit of Technology’ from when my computer was playing up. Some of my other books are short stories, and I have around a hundred mini files with perhaps a title and an idea waiting to be written.

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

I usually write in my office, which is where I have my desk, laptop and books set up. It looks out through the conservatory to the garden so the best of both worlds. It’s probably slightly easier to write in winter when it’s dark out and there are less distractions, otherwise I get involved watching the birds, foxes and other wildlife.

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

To a certain extent I set my own deadlines so I can be flexible. I keep an online diary which covers everything from writing, a reminder of a programme to watch or even an event in a friend’s life. When I’ve seen the same note too many times, or used cut and paste to carry it forward too often, it forces me get it done so I can look at something new.

Give us four essential items that a writer needs?

Hope, patience, supportive friends and a stubborn streak; by that I mean the determination to never give up. I was going to say strong liquor but that would be five.

That spritzer was rather nice. Would it be greedy to ask for another one?

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

I started writing ‘Alderslay’ many years ago, had it edited, wrote other books in between, revised it, changed it, gave it a new title and finally had it published. It was originally inspired by a report in a local newspaper item about transport links, and somehow turned into a mystery/horror involving a house in need of renovation.

My work in progress was intended as a follow-up to ‘Story of a Country Boy’ from a different generation’s outlook. It was supposed to have been finished by the beginning of the year but hopefully will be nearly completed by the time we have our picnic.

More About Val

Val became an author around the age of nine when she received her first rejection letter from a well-known women’s magazine. Undeterred, she carried on writing for friends and family until a freak accident left her house-bound and going stir-crazy.

To save her sanity she put fingers to laptop resulting in her first novel being traditionally published in 2013. A second book through different publishers increased her knowledge of how things work and she turned Indie, migrating from her original pen name of ‘Voinks’ along the way.

She writes in various genres, although the weekly short stories published on her Facebook author page often include her trademark twist of ‘Quirky.’

Reviews for her books are always appreciated, as they help buy food for the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.


Val, where can we find you on Social media?

Facebook page





Val, thank you for sharing your summer picnic with us today.

Thanks for your company, the food, the drink and the chance to chat. I think I’ve caught a tan while we’ve been enjoying our picnic in the sunshine.

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SummerPicnicwithJaffareadstoo