Thursday 30 March 2023

Twentieth Anniversary ~ Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival




20-23 July 2023 | Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate

Harrogate, Tuesday 28 March 2023. Harrogate International Festivals has announced the programme for this year’s 20th anniversary Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the world’s largest celebration of crime fiction and thriller writing, which runs from 20 – 23 July 2023 at Harrogate’s Old Swan Hotel.

The 2023 Festival Chair, award winning crime and thriller author Vaseem Khan, has curated a ground-breaking programme. Alongside the special guests headlining the Festival, including literary legends Lee Child, Andrew Child, Lisa Jewell, Ruth Ware, Ann Cleeves, Jeffery Deaver, Lucy Worsley, S. A. Cosby, Val McDermid, and Chris Hammer, the full programme includes some of the biggest names in crime fiction.

Exploring everything from the perfect murderous opening, police procedurals and dark obsessions to legal thrillers and the golden age of crime, this year’s 20th anniversary programme will see a variety of acclaimed crime and thriller authors discussing the genre and influences on their writing, including Janice Hallett, Shari Lapena, Louise Candlish, Abir Mukherjee, Steve Cavanagh, Elly Griffiths, Ragnar Jรณnasson, Clare Mackintosh, Mick Herron, Will Dean, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Chris Brookmyre, and many more!

The Festival will start with Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award ceremony, where the winner of crime writing’s most prestigious accolade will be revealed alongside the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award.

This year’s Festival also includes two ‘who dunnit?’ themed author dinners, giving a unique opportunity for crime fans to get to know authors in a fun and informal environment. Richard Armitage, Stuart Neville, David Hewson, Emma Christie, Steph Broadribb, Alex Dahl, Greg Mosse, Leigh Russell, S.E. Lynes and many others will partake in a murder mystery with a twist!

The all-star line-up of events includes the return of Val McDermid’s New Blood panel, celebrating four brilliant debut crime writers, and the popular Late-Night Quiz, hosted by McDermid and Mark Billingham, armed with trivia, titles and tricks to test the knowledge of crime fiction fanatics.

Vaseem Khan, award winning author and 2023 Festival Chair, said: “It’s a privilege to chair this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. My late father and I watched Poirot together and we’d never imagined that decades later I would chair a Festival so closely connected to Agatha Christie. It feels special to be the first British Asian crime writer to chair the Festival, and even more special for the monumental 20th anniversary. The Festival team have pulled together an Avengers Assemble line-up of crime writers to celebrate the monumental anniversary. You’d be (criminally) insane to miss it."

Sharon Canavar, Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, added: “This year marks 20 years since the Festival launched in Harrogate, and what wonderful two decades we’ve had celebrating the world of crime fiction. In that time, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival has welcomed some of the biggest names in crime fiction and this year is no exception. In collaboration with our 2023 Festival Chair, Vaseem Khan, we are delighted to announce this year’s full programme for what will be the best Festival yet!”

Simon Theakston, Executive Director of Theakston, commented: “This year’s Festival will be another monumental event for the world of crime fiction. It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Festival over the past 20 years and following the full programme announcement, I am thoroughly looking forward to celebrating once again at the world’s best crime writing Festival over a pint of Old Peculier!”

The full programme for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2023:

Thursday 20th July

09:00 - Creative Thursday: Crime Fiction Writing Workshop

A staple of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival line-up, Creative Thursday offers a unique opportunity for aspiring crime writer to learn from the best in the business. Chaired by crime reviewer Natasha Cooper (NJ Cooper) and Mark Billingham, on the panel are authors Mark Edwards, Rachel Abbott, Claire McGowan, Graham Bartlett, and Dr Chris Merritt will share tips of the trade for budding writers as Workshop Leaders, accompanied by publishing experts Ruth Tross, Ellis Moore, Maddalena Cavaciuti, Juliet Mushens and Finn Cotton.

20:00 - Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award

Crime writing’s most wanted accolade returns to highlight the very crime novels published by British and Irish authors over the last year. The longlist will be on announced Thursday 27 April, followed by the shortlist on Thursday 15 June and the winner announced at the awards ceremony on Thursday 20 July hosted by Mark Lawson.

Friday 21st July

9:00 – Special Guest: Val McDermid

Festival co-founder and doyenne of the crime world Val McDermid will reflect on her illustrious career and 20 years of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival with Mark Billingham.

10:30 - PANEL: Starting With A Scream

Crime novels often begin with a chilling killing. C.J. Tudor, Liz Nugent, Simon Toyne, Will Carver and Fiona Cummins dissect exactly what goes into the perfect murderous opening.

12:00 – PANEL: Law & Disorder

Police procedurals are the cornerstone of the crime fiction canon. But what happens when cops are forced to cross the line? Cara Hunter, Nadine Matheson, Neil Lancaster, Jane Casey and Graham Bartlett, will tell us whether the end justifies the means.

14:00 – PANEL: Literary Crime

Great crime fiction is as good as any highbrow literary offering. Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Abir Mukherjee, Will Dean and Jacob Ross have received acclaim for books that combine prose and plot into a glorious whole that has even diehard littรฉrateurs purring. Expertly chaired by S.J. Parris.

15:30 – PANEL: Obsession Makes The World Go Round

Simmering secrets and murderous impulses make for dark deeds. Hear Alex North, Sarah Hilary, Dorothy Koomson, Mark Edwards discuss how deadly obsession shapes so many of the deliciously dark stories we’ve come to love, chaired by Erin Kelly.

17:00 – IN CONVERSATION: Lisa Jewell & Ruth Ware

Crafting gripping thrillers filled with creepy chills and unforeseen twists takes an expert hand. Lisa Jewell introduces her new nail-biting suspense None of This is True with Ruth Ware, author of the unputdownable The It Girl, as the pair reveal what it takes to master the form.

18:15 – Author Dinner

A unique opportunity for crime fans to get to know authors in a relaxed, but fun, dinner environment. Join A.A. Chaudhuri, Alex Dahl, Amen Alonge, Craig Robertson, D.L. Marshall, Tracey Whitwell, Greg Mosse, Jo Callaghan, Leigh Russell, Jenny Blackhurst, Nicola Williams, Rachel Abbott, Simon Mason, William Shaw and S.E. Lynes for dinner as together you try to figure out ‘who dunnit?’ in this murder mystery with a twist.

18:30 – PANEL: Words! Camera! Action!

From Netflix to Hollywood, crime dramas now rule the roost. Chris Brookmyre will chair the panel of authors, including A.A. Dhand, Imran Mahmood, Louise Doughty, and Mick Herron, as they tell us about their journey from page to screen, and the ins and outs of how literary creations are brought to life.

20:30 – SPECIAL GUEST: Ann Cleeves

Bestselling creator of the Vera Stanhope, Jimmy Perez and Matthew Venn book series Ann Cleeves will be interviewed by Festival Chair Vaseem Khan.

22:00 – Fun Loving Crime Writers

Prepare for some killer tunes as the world’s greatest crime writing superband Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville, Luca Veste and Doug Johnstone keep Harrogate rocking until the early hours.

Saturday 22nd July

9:00 – IN CONVERSATION: S.A. Crosby & Chris Hammer

Mastermind of the “Southern noir” genre S. A. Cosby and Australian crime novelist and creator Chris Hammer will talk about their works and how the varied landscapes of their respective homes influence their works.

10:30 – PANEL: Modern Gumshoes P.I. For Hire

Chaired by Doug Johnstone, Femi Kayode, Holly Watt, Robert Crais, and Tim Weaver will discuss how crime fiction has evolved from the laconic cool of a Philip Marlowe to African lady detectives, with private investigators being historic fan favourite.

12:00 – PANEL: New Blood with Val McDermid

Always a sell-out, the New Blood panel provides a showcase for some of the year’s most outstanding debut novelists. Val McDermid will once again be personally selecting four brilliant first novels to discuss with their authors. This panel is always a highlight of the Festival and gives today’s readers a unique opportunity to discover the stars of tomorrow.

14:00 – PANEL: Presumed Guilty

If recent celebrity trials have shown us anything it’s that our fascination for a good legal brawl has never been greater. Judicial hijinx, miscarriages of justice and courtroom battles are at the heart of the legal thriller. Authors Helen Fields, Kia Abdullah, Sarah Vaughn, and Steve Cavanagh are joining Rob Rinder to explore the world of the legal thriller.

15:30 – PANEL: Murder Most Joyful

From parish murders to kitchen killers, the sheer breadth of ‘cosy’ crime is astonishing. Antti Tuomainen, Elly Griffiths, Mark Billingham and Rev. Richard Coles will examine the success of the genre and its modern resurgence, chaired by S.J. Bennett. Nobody puts cosy in the corner.

17:00 – SPECIAL GUEST: Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver, author of the bestselling Lincoln Rhyme series, will make his return to the Festival in 2023 to talk about Hunting Time, the latest thriller featuring “reward-seeker” Colton Shaw, with Mark Lawson.

18:15 – Author Dinner

Crack the case with Richard Armitage, Alex Marwood, Christie J. Newport, D.V. Bishop, David Hewson, Emma Christie, Holly Seddon, James Oswald, Jude O’Reilly, Katy Watson, Lisa Gray, Olivia Kiernan, Sam Blake, Steph Broadbribb, Sue Watson, Susi Holliday, Tina Baker, and Stuart Neville in the second Author Dinner.

20:30 – SPECIAL GUEST: Lee Child & Andrew Child

Lee Child and Andrew Child will share their experiences of collaborating on the iconic Jack Reacher and what the process has taught them, with TV presenter Steph McGovern.

22:00 – Late Quiz Night

Val McDermid and Mark Billingham return as the ultimate Quizmasters for the crime fiction Late Night Quiz.

Sunday 23rd July

9:00 - PANEL: The Never Ending Golden Age

Agatha Christie continues to inspire crime writers the world over. Inventive puzzles, strong characters, and a Golden Age sensibility. Stig Abel will chair the discussion about why fascination with the Golden Age endures between Janice Hallett, Ragnar Jรณnasson, Clare Mackintosh, and Vaseem Khan.

10:30 – PANEL: When Sally Killed Harry

Domestic noir is now one of the biggest selling genres in publishing. C.L. Taylor, Claire Douglas, Louise Candlish, Shari Lapena and T.M. Logan, experts in writing about the darker side of love and friendship, will discuss dodgy husbands, scheming wives, murderous siblings.

12:00 – SPECIAL GUEST: Lucy Worsley

Historian and TV presenter Lucy Worsley will be revealing more about the life of the Queen of Crime and former resident of the Old Swan Hotel, Agatha Christie, in conversation with Natasha Knight.

About Harrogate International Festivals

‘Harrogate International Festivals’ is a charitable organisation with a mission to present a diverse year-long programme of live events that bring immersive and moving cultural experiences to as many people as possible. Delivering artistic work of national importance, the Festival curates and produces over 300 unique and surprising performances each year, celebrating world-renowned artists and championing new and up-coming talent across music, literature, science, philosophy and psychology. The HIF+ ongoing education outreach programme engages schools, young people and the local community with workshops, talks, projects and inspiring activities, ensuring everyone can experience the Festival’s world class programme and the transformative power of the arts. Established in 1966, Harrogate International Festivals are an artistic force to be reckoned with and a key cultural provider for the North of England.

Find out more at:

- Twitter @HarrogateFest

- Instagram: @harrogatefestivals

About The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is Europe’s largest event dedicated to the celebration of crime fiction. Taking place annually over four days each July (20-23 July 2023) at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, the Festival programmes over 100 best-selling UK and international crime authors and over 30 events. It is delivered by the north of England’s leading arts festival organisation, Harrogate International Festivals.

The event features the prestigious Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.

About T & R Theakston Ltd

Title sponsor of the Festival since 2005, Theakston Old Peculier ale is produced by T & R Theakston Ltd. It is one of the country’s most famous and highly regarded traditional ale brewers. Theakston was established in Masham, North Yorkshire in 1827 by Robert Theakston. After a brief period in the 1980s when the company was acquired by Scottish & Newcastle plc, the company has been back under family ownership since Autumn 2003. It now operates as an independent brewer producing five permanent brands in the Theakston range including the iconic Old Peculier – its best-known beer with a rich, dark flavour, celebrated by ale enthusiasts all over Britain and around the world.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

๐Ÿ“– Featured Book ~ Tenth Anniversary Edition INCEPTIO by Alison Morton


Ten years ago when Jaffareadstoo was in its infancy I was approached by Alison Morton to read the first book in her proposed series of historical thrillers set in the alternate world of Roma Nova. Six full length novels, four audio books and a set of short stories later, the first book in the series, INCEPTIO is now celebrating a special anniversary. 

To help celebrate INCEPTIO's 10th birthday today, the author, Alison Morton has published a special edition hardback.

“It's about Roman blood, survival and money. Mostly yours."

In an alternative New York, Karen Brown is running for her life. She makes a snap decision to flee to Roma Nova - her dead mother's homeland, the last remnant of the Roman Empire in the 21st century. But can Karen tough it out in such an alien culture? And with a crazy killer determined to terminate her for a very personal reason?

Stifled by the protective cocoon of her Roma Novan family, deceived by her new lover, she propels herself into a dangerous mission. But then the killer sets a trap - she must sacrifice herself for another - and she sees no escape.

A thriller laced with romance and coming of age, this first in series is Roman fiction brought into the 21st century through the lens of alternative history and driven by a female protagonist with heart and courage.

This 10th Anniversary hardback edition includes bonus content: Three character ‘conversations’, two short stories and the story behind INCEPTIO.

You can read Alison's thoughts about this special anniversary here 

Here's my review of INCEPTIO from back in 2013...

In present day New York, Karen Brown’s daily life is starting to unravel. When inexplicable events shake the very foundations of her world, she at first disbelieves what is happening around her. However, after a failed kidnap attempt, Karen is advised to flee to her dead mother’s homeland, but even as the mysterious Roma Nova offers a sanctuary, it also opens more questions than answers. The action is fast and furious, and soon Karen finds that she is drawn into a dangerous set of circumstances, which will test her endurance to limit and which will force her to question the structure of her belief.

What then follows is a well written and decidedly competent alternate history novel which draws you in from the very beginning and which offers an intriguing look at Roma Nova, a world which has been ruled by women for the past sixteen centuries, and whose secret anonymity comes alive on the page. Alternate history is a fascinating concept, and yet can so easily become a minefield of improbability, where the world within a world being created can become a mere parody of what is real. However, I had no such issues with Inceptio, which thanks to the author’s skill, Roma Nova and its role in the world, soon became a real and very authentic place.

I think that this is one of those books you could so easily miss, particularly if alternate history is not your genre, but you would be missing out on a real treat. It is ideal escapism, with the ingredients of history, mystery and romance expertly combined to form a well balanced and perfectly presented start to a promising series.

About the Author

Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her ten-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21st century and is ruled by women who face conspiracy, revolution and heartache but with a sharp line in dialogue. INCEPTIO starts the adventure...

She blends her fascination for Ancient Rome with six years’ military service and a life of reading historical, crime and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history.

Six full-length Roma Nova novels, including INCEPTIO, have won the BRAG Medallion, the prestigious award for indie fiction. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices. AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The Bookseller selected SUCCESSIO as Editor’s Choice in its inaugural indie review. The Historical Novel Society recently selected JULIA PRIMA, the first Foundation story set in the 4th century, the accolade of Editors’ Choice.

Alison lives in Poitou in France, the home of Mรฉlisende, the heroine of her two contemporary thrillers, Double Identity and Double Pursuit. Oh, and she’s writing the next Roma Nova story.

Twitter @alison_morton #10YearsINCEPTIO

Friday 24 March 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ His Fatal Legacy by Heather Atkinson

Boldwood Books
20 March 2023

Alardyce Trilogy #3

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

Edinburgh 1896

Amy Alardyce's once-perfect life is in tatters. Her eldest son, Robert, has come of age, become the master of his own home, and married his childhood love Jane. But with maturity has come a terrible legacy, and the dark desires Robert inherited from his evil father Matthew, are fighting to get loose.

Whilst Jane is working hard to get her and Robert accepted into fashionable society, poor women are being hunted on the streets of Edinburgh, and Amy fears her son is to blame. And once the infamous Inspector Murphy takes up the case, Amy has to face a stark choice - denounce her son as a monster or risk her own safety to protect him from the consequences of his lethal actions.

๐Ÿ“– My Review...

I have read each of the books in this Alardyce series of gothic novels and each one gets progressively darker as we delve further into the twisted mind of Robert Alardyce who we have seen grow into a very troubled young man. This third book in the series follows on directly from where book two left off and we meet again with seventeen year old Robert as he is newly established in his own household with his lovely wife. However, all is not well in Robert's life and he must fight the demons which threaten to engulf him, and place in danger all those who care about him.

The author has captured the very essence of the tragic gothic novel and has given us a desperately troubled individual whose antics on the page are deeply compelling and more than a little shocking and yet there are also moments of empathy and compassion especially when we see Robert interacting with his young siblings. The squalor of Victorian life is captured in some detail as is the social mobility of the upper classes who seem to flit around on quite a superficial level and Robert straddles both of these lives with a troubled uneasiness.

His Fatal Legacy can be enjoyed as a standalone as the author gives enough detail to pick up the back story, however, if you enjoy dark and dangerous Victorian gothic then my advice would be to start at the beginning and get to know Robert Alardyce for yourself and ponder over the disturbing dilemma of  nature over nurture which this author brings to life so convincingly. I'm not sure if there is to be any further stories in this series however, the ending of His Fatal Legacy certainly lends itself to a continuation which would make for interesting reading.

About the Author

Heather Atkinson is the author of over fifty books – predominantly in the crime fiction genre. Although Lancashire born and bred she now lives with her family, including twin teenage daughters, on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. Her gangland series for Boldwood, set on the fictional Gallowburn estate in Glasgow begins with the title Blood Brothers.

Twitter @HeatherAtkinso1 #HisFatalLegacy

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers Instagram @bookandtonic



Thursday 23 March 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ The Department of Conspiracy by Cal Georgeson


19 January 2023

My thanks to Cameron Publicity for my copy of this book

Sam Juniper isn’t a hero… and with good reason.

If you’re the kind of person who makes all the wrong decisions, but for all the right reasons, then you’re going to fall in love with Sam. His life is already a mess, but after leaving college, our Sam stumbles from one calamity to another in his quest to find his place in the world. Until one day he realises he’s being watched, and his life changes. Forever.

Hidden in plain sight, The Department of Conspiracy is an ultra-secret intelligence organisation. From dark experiments to kidnapping and cannibalism, they are on the case to sniff out the truth. No conspiracy is too big, no lie too small.

As Sam is dropped headfirst into this underground world of espionage and secrecy, his life spirals amidst the chaos and the fake news around him. Can he be trusted not to balls everything up? Can anybody be trusted? Will he even survive to tell anyone about it?

A funny and fast-paced story of friendship, betrayal and redemption awaits. Filled with bittersweet humour and curious characters, this new world of conspiracy will have you searching for clues from the very start.

๐Ÿ“– My review ..

Sam Juniper is effectively made homeless when his mother tells him that she is leaving the family home and that Sam must take a room in a house belonging to someone he neither likes nor wishes to live with. Forced to take stock of his life and seek gainful employment Sam's first foray into the world of work has unexpected consequences especially when he meets the mysterious Mr Milquetoast and gets inadvertently drawn into the ultra-secret world of the Department of Conspiracies.

This shadowy world of conspiracies is really well described and there were several times when I was reminded of the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter novels and yet this department has a foothold in a decidedly modern Britain where fake news and conspiracies abound. In the center of the action is Sam, a hapless and rather lovable individual, who has no real idea of why, or of how, he has been selected for this particular career and yet his natural  curiosity and his naive ability to look on the bright side makes him into a worthy protagonist.

I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Sam and his stalwart companions and as there is still much to learn about The Department of Conspiracies I could easily see this being developed into a delightful series. 

About the Author

Cal Georgeson left college without a plan. He eventually joined the Royal Navy as a gunner and served on HMS Edinburgh and HMS Gloucester. After 5 years in the Navy he left to become a firefighter and then a fire consultant. These days he is a construction risk specialist working in London and living in Essex.

The Department of Conspiracy began as a concept from Cal Georgeson’s father, who’d gotten as far as getting a literary agent before dying of cancer. Cal took part of what his father wrote, as well as other stories his father used to tell him, and over twenty years later finally set about turning that into his own book.

THE DEPARTMENT OF CONSPIRACY is available in paperback (£7.99) and ebook (£3.99) at all good bookshops and online booksellers.

For more information visit: and

Twitter @CameronTweets

Wednesday 22 March 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ The Woolworths Girl's Promise by Elaine Everest


Pan Macmillan
16 March 2023

Woolworth Series #8

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

After losing her beloved fiancรฉ at Ypres in 1917, seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Billington faces a lonely future estranged from her upper-class parents due to her association with Charlie Sayers and his working-class family. No longer able to live under her parent’s roof she is taken in by Charlie’s father, escaping the suffocating demands of her parents. Betty soon learns all too well about the realities of life after an accident at the Woolwich Arsenal munitions works. Spotting an advertisement for a nearby job at Woolworths, Betty starts on a new and thrilling journey starting at the bottom of the employment ladder in the well-known store. Her work journey leads her to Ramsgate in Kent to work in a newly built store and with it the chance of marriage, but can she ever forget Charlie and the promise she made to him…?

๐Ÿ“– My review...

After losing her fiancรฉ Charlie at the Battle of Ypres Elizabeth Billington is disowned by her middle class parents so she takes refuge with Charlie’s working class family and for the first time in her life, Elizabeth must find the means of supporting herself. After a brief time working in an ammunitions factory Betty, as she is now known, takes up a lowly position at the nearby F W Woolworths store. Over time Betty starts grow in confidence making new friends in the process however, she must also learn how to cope with the challenges which lie ahead.

The Woolworth Girl’s Promise is a heartwarming story about love and loss and also about the continuing grief and sadness which was felt by so many women who had lost their loved ones during the First World War.  The historical spect of the story feels beautifully authentic and I especially loved the detailed description of how the Woolworth store operated and of the opportunities which were available for women to become part of the general workforce.

Whilst this is the eighth book in the popular Woolworth Girls series of historical sagas it is perfectly possible to enjoy the story as a standalone and yet for those who are familiar with the series it’s lovely to have the backstory of one of the popular characters. The author has made this series into something rather special bringing to life both the history and the camaraderie which existed amongst the working classes during the first half of the twentieth century and of course shining a spotlight on Woolworths which is so much part of our shared history.

Elaine Everest, author of bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls, Christmas at Woolworths and The Teashop Girls, was born and brought up in north-west Kent, where many of her books are set. She has been a freelance writer for twenty-seven years and has written widely for women’s magazines and national newspapers, both short stories and features. Her non-fiction books for dog owners have been very popular and led to her broadcasting on radio about our four-legged friends. Elaine has been heard discussing many topics on radio, from canine subjects to living with a husband under her feet when redundancy looms.

Twitter @elaineeverest #TheWoolworthGirlsPromise #WoolworthGirls


Saturday 18 March 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Ten Poems about Rubbish from Candlestick Press

March 2023

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

A load of rubbish? These poems are very far from being that! Published in time for Global Recycling Day on 18th March (and supplied with our new brown eco-envelopes), this selection finds that rubbish is far more than merely stuff we don’t want any more.

There’s a poem in which a swing-bin – complete with peelings and old tea-bags – becomes a vivid still life and a moving elegy when a family home is being cleared after a death. Elsewhere, mud-larking explores how what’s been discarded can still give us pause for thought:

“The stones, nails, shoes, this one old mitten;
they all could have some meaning if I listen.”
from ‘Learning to Listen on the Thames Beach’ by Anna Robinson

‘Rubbish’ might once have been a throwaway word, but these days it reminds us how we have cluttered the planet with our leavings – something that is powerfully explored in Carolyn Forchรฉ’s poem of protest.

Poems by Jo Bell, Laurence Binyon, David Constantine, Carolyn Forchรฉ, Lorna Goodison, John Greening, Anna Robinson, David Wagoner, John Wedgwood Clark and Susan Wicks.

ISBN 978 1 913627 09 6

Cover illustration by Hugh Ribbans.

Donation to Surfers Against Sewage

๐Ÿ“– My Review

On Global Recycling Day I am delighted to have had the opportunity to share my thoughts on this lovely collection of Ten Poems about Rubbish. From its ecologically friendly green cover, the brown eco-envelope and the stunning book marker with its picture of a industrious refuse collector there is something to make you stop and consider the subject of rubbish. We all know of the need to do our bit to recycle more and of course, one person's rubbish is another person's treasure and this lively collection of poems brings this very much to mind.

The collection begins with a poignant poem Small Finds by Jo Bell which reflects on the minutiae we leave behind..

"What's left of anyone is the unchosen.
If I could choose, it would be these:
a Belgian bottle opener, a demob trunk
a ruby necklace and  a wooden-handled paring knife."

From the still life of the rubbish bin in Swing Bin by Susan Wicks, 

"Furled white plastic,
last limp flag on a roll,
this bin liner (swing, not pedal)
was painfully separated 
along the perforations provided."

The one that made me smile  was The Apotheosis of the Garbagemen by David Wagner (1926-2921)

..."In luminous coveralls
They follow the easy directions on boxes and apple cores.
Old candy wrappers folded round sweet nothings,
And sacks with their stains on fire
They are coming through hedges, dragging geometry
In a dark clutch of rainbows.."

The final word of the collection goes to one of my favourite poems, Laurence Binyon's The Burning of the Leaves...

"Now is the time for the burning of the leaves
They go to the fire; the nostril pricks with smoke
Wandering slowly into a weeping mist..."

I have been enchanted by these ten poems about rubbish, each one quite special in its own style and format and all equally delightful in content. A perfect gift, instead of a card, for the eco conscious person in your life or as a timely reminder to be more green.

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

Thursday 16 March 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Dark Queen Wary by Paul Doherty


Severn House
7 March 2023

Margaret Beaufort Mystery #4

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

1472. Edward IV reigns triumphant over England and his rivals, the Lancastrians. But he is uneasy, for one true claimant remains: the young Henry Tudor, son of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. Henry's continued existence worries Edward, so he hatches a plan to bring a cuckoo into the nest – an imposter prince is presented to Margaret Beaufort as her son.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

For those who know the history of this time they will be aware of the importance of Margaret Beaufort and of the animosity between her and Edward IV. In this darkly violent story this conflict seems set to engulf all of them especially when Edward tries to bring in an impostor in place of Margaret's son, Henry Tudor.

I chose to read Dark Queen Wary because I liked the intrigue of the front cover not realising that it was book four in a series but that didn't matter as once I started to read I was able to pick up the story easily. I enjoyed going back in time to the middle part of the fifteenth century with this interesting look at the conflict taking place between the ruling House of York and the defeated House of Lancaster during the momentous years of the War of the Roses. 

I have enjoyed reading this detailed historical mystery about the difficult days of Edward IV's reign and the plot is maintained with a fine eye for detail and an obvious well researched historical knowledge. Some of the descriptions are a bit bloodthirsty but such were the times in which the story is set and so lend an air of authenticity to a detailed historical adventure.


Wednesday 8 March 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Nobody Puts Romcoms in the Corner by Kathryn Freeman


One More Chapter
February 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Sally is a classic romantic and Harry is a classic cynic, but when a drunken bet leads the new flatmates to (badly) recreate ‘the lift’ from Dirty Dancing, and the video goes viral (#EpicRomcomReenactmentFailure), they both realise there’s potential financial benefit in blundering their way through the romcom lexicon for their suddenly vast social media following.

Now, as Harry and Sally bring major romcom moments to new life – including recreating that classic diner scene – their faking it turns to making…out and suddenly they’re living a real life romcom of their own! But like all the greatest love stories, the road to happily ever after is paved with unexpected challenges for this hero and heroine.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

Anyone who loves romcom movies will be delighted with this latest book from Kathryn Freeman as not only does it do a sterling job of reminding us about all those iconic classic scenes from romantic movies we have known and loved in the past but it also introduces us to two lovely characters. Sally and Harry first meet as flat mates when their drunken attempt to recreate the classic lift scene from Dirty Dancing becomes a TikTok sensation. With an eye for earning a bit of extra money various other classic scenes are attempted with unexpected consequences.

As always the story sparkles with wit and undeniable charm and whilst it's not all plain sailing for our romantic heroes there is something rather whimsical about the story which really appealed to me. I loved getting to know both Sally and Harry, they are both delightful characters. Sally with her head firmly in the clouds waiting for her Mr Right to appear whilst Harry, more pragmatic and down to earth, isn't really sure what love is all about however, over the course of this lovely story we see both characters really start to blossom.

Delightful from start to finish Nobody Puts Romcoms in the Corner was the right book at the right time for me and I devoured it in one romcom infused sitting.

About the Author

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write a book. It may have had something to do with my obsession with reading romance. Real life interfered and I headed off in a different direction – into the world of science, becoming a pharmacist before joining the pharmaceutical industry. I did end up writing, but it was about disease and medicines. Decades later, I’m finally doing what I always wanted to do.

With a husband who asks every Valentine's Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), all the romance in my life is in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers - and heroes come in many disguises.

Twitter @kathrynfreeman1 #NobodyPutsRomcomsInTheCorner


Monday 6 March 2023

Book review ~ Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent


2 March 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Sally Diamond cannot understand why what she did was so strange. She was only doing what her father told her to do, to put him out with the rubbish when he died.

Now Sally is the centre of attention, not only from the hungry media and worried police, but also a sinister voice from a past she has no memory of. As she begins to discover the horrors of her childhood, recluse Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends, finding independence, and learning that people don't always mean what they say.

But when messages start arriving from a stranger who knows far more about her past than she knows herself, Sally's life will be thrown into chaos once again.

๐Ÿ“–My Review..

It's been awhile since I read a Liz Nugent novel and I'm left wondering why it took me so long. Strange Sally Diamond is one of those totally immersive novels which, right from the start, captures your imagination and I think Sally is certainly one of the most memorable literary characters I've met this year.

The story gets off to a harrowing start with Sally following her father's instructions by putting him out with the rubbish when he died. That Sally takes everything that people say quite literally is obvious from the start and although the small Irish community where she lives are both fascinated and repelled by her, there is also an element of acceptance as Sally has, despite her adoptive parent's protection, always been considered to be a bit odd. Now in her forties and, after her father's death, quite alone in the world, Sally has to learn to find her way but when sinister messages start to arrive from someone Sally doesn't know it opens up a whole set of secrets about her difficult past which have been hidden for far too long. These secrets are not an easy read and once exposed can never be forgotten, or forgiven.

Beautifully written, with no word wasted, and no emotion left unexplored, Strange Sally Diamond is a complex, and utterly addictive, story which shocks you to the core and which doesn't let go of your emotions until the very last page is turned.

About the Author

Before becoming a full-time writer, Liz Nugent worked in film, theatre and television. Her four novels - Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait, Skin Deep and Our Little Cruelties have each been Number One bestsellers and she has won four Irish Book Awards, as well as the James Joyce Medal for Literature. She lives in Dublin.

Strange Sally Diamond is a BBC Between the Covers Book Club Pick 2023

Twitter @lizzienugent #StrangeSallyDiamond



Sunday 5 March 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ Maid of Steel by Kate Baker


28 February 2023

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

It’s 1911 and, against her mother’s wishes, quiet New Yorker Emma dreams of winning the right to vote. She is sent away by her parents in the hope distance will curb her desire to be involved with the growing suffrage movement and told to spend time learning about where her grandparents came from.

Across the Atlantic – Queenstown, southern Ireland – hotelier Thomas dreams of being loved, even noticed, by his actress wife, Alice. On their wedding day, Alice’s father had assured him that adoration comes with time. It’s been eight years. But Alice has plans of her own and they certainly don’t include the fight for equality or her dull husband.

Emma’s arrival in Ireland leads her to discover family secrets and become involved in the Irish Women’s Suffrage Society in Cork. However, Emma’s path to suffrage was never meant to lead to a forbidden love affair…

๐Ÿ“– My Review...

The early part of the twentieth century was a difficult time for women especially for those who felt that women deserved the same rights as men and who were prepared to support the Women's Suffrage Movement. After a tragic accident in her workplace Emma leaves her native New York and heads to Queenstown in southern Ireland where her parents hope that she will forget all about her desire to be involved with the suffragettes. However, Emma finds that Ireland too is undergoing a time of great social change and her growing involvement with the Women’s Suffrage Society in Cork makes her realise just how much is at stake.

The historical aspects of the story, both real and imaginary, are obviously well researched and this shows in the strength of the writing which brings places and people alive. I especially enjoyed Emma's quest to discover more about her own family history and there are enough elements of surprise to keep the story moving along nicely. Combining a sense of history with a forbidden love affair certainly gives the novel a nice romantic edge and I followed this aspect of the story with interest and hoped that everything would work out well in the end. I'm not going to spoil the story by giving much away as this is one of those lovely stories which should be allowed to unfold with all of its surprises intact.

About the Author

Kate Baker wrote terrible holiday diaries as a child, which her husband regularly asks her to read out loud for their entertainment. She has since improved and has written with intent since 2018. Maid of Steel is her second novel; the first is lining drawers in the vegetable rack at their farmhouse.

Twitter @katefbaker #MaidofSteel


Thursday 2 March 2023

๐Ÿ“– Featured Book of the Month ~ The Hidden Letters by Lorna Cook


2 March 2023

My thanks to the publishers for the invitation to read this book

On the eve of a world war, a forbidden love will blossom in the garden of a stately home and one young woman will make a choice that will change her life forever…

As the storm clouds of war gather, Cordelia seeks refuge in the grounds of her family estate.

Isaac has recently arrived to tend to the gardens, and the connection between him and Cordelia is as immediate as it is forbidden.

Isaac begins to secretly teach her how to cultivate the gardens, so when he and all the young men are called away to war, Cordelia takes over.

From the battlefields of Europe, Isaac sends her letters, that give her hope for a future in peacetime.

But when these messages abruptly cease, Cordelia must face up to the worst and take her future – and the fate of the garden they both loved – into her own hands...

๐Ÿ“– My Review...

Isaac Leigh has been employed to make improvements to the garden at Pencallick House and under normal circumstances would never come into contact with Cordelia Carr-Lyon who, as the daughter of the big house, has limitations placed upon her, and a burgeoning friendship with a handsome gardener is strictly out of bounds. However, the country is on the brink of war and social restrictions whilst still in place seem to melt into insignificance as Isaac and Cordelia gradually get to know each other. It is this secret friendship and clandestine bond which must sustain their relationship through some deeply troubling times especially as the storm clouds of WW1 gather their inevitable momentum over Europe. 

Lorna Cook writes the most wonderfully detailed historical dramas which are filled with an abundance of emotions, from love and passion, through to sadness and despair and, believe me, there were many times during this beautiful novel when I had to reach for the tissue box. The story moves from the wild and windswept Cornish coast, to war ravaged Europe and from stately manor house to humble cottages and all the while keeping at its heart a love story which beguiles, entertains and tugs away at the heartstrings.

The Hidden Letters is every bit as good as I hoped it would be from this talented author and I have no hesitation in making it my Featured Book of the Month for March.

About the Author

Lorna Cook is the author of the Kindle bestseller The Forgotten Village. It was her debut novel and the recipient of the Romantic Novelists' Association Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers as well as winner of the Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Lorna lives in coastal South East England with her husband and two daughters.

Twitter @lornacookauthor


The Hidden Letters is published today by Avon Books

 and is available from wherever you buy your books.