Friday 30 June 2023

πŸ“– Six in Six ~ Here is my half year round up πŸ“–


Here's a round up of the books which have made an impact 

on my first six months of my reading year


πŸ“– Six authors who are new to me:

  1. Lee Geum-yi -The Picture Bride
  2. Georgina Moore - The Garnett Girls
  3. Disha Bose - Dirty Laundry
  4. Katie Bishop - The Girls of Summer 
  5. Bonnie Garmus - Letters in Chemistry
  6. Kate Griffin - Fyneshade 

πŸ“– Six authors I have read before:

  1. John Marrs - The Marriage Act
  2. Elaine Everest - The Woolworth Girl's Promise
  3. Liz Nugent - Strange Sally Diamond
  4. Sebastian Barry - Old God's Time
  5. Sharon Gosling - The Forgotten Garden
  6. Sue Moorcroft  - An Italian Island Summer 

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

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

  1. The Alperton Angels - Janice Hallett
  2. 1989 - Val McDermid 
  3. The Only Suspect - Louise Candlish
  4. Exiles - Jane Harper
  5. The Last Dance - Mark Billingham
  6.  The Vanishing of Class 3B - Jackie Kabler

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

  1. Mrs Van Gogh - Caroline Cauchi
  2. Weyward - Emilia Hart
  3. The Marriage Season - Jane Dunn
  4. Go As a River -  Shelley Read
  5. Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown - Alison Weir
  6. The Fascination - Essie Fox

πŸ“– Six books on my tbr pile that I am looking forward to reading:

  1. Murder in the Family - Cara Hunter ( July 2023)
  2. Zero days - Ruth Ware ( August 2023)
  3. From Now Until Forever - Rowan Coleman ( August 2023)
  4. Life and Otter Miracles - Hazel Prior ( September 2023)
  5. The Stargazers - Harriet Evans ( September 2023)
  6. The Hidden Years - Rachel Hore ( December 2023)

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

πŸ“šWe couldn't do this without you πŸ“š


Thursday 29 June 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Shell House Detectives by Emylia Hall

Delighted to open the blog tour today

Thomas and Mercer
1 July 2023

Shell House Detectives #1

My thanks to the publishers, author and FMcM Associates for my copy of the book
and the invitation to take part in the blog tour

Welcome to the coastal paradise of Porthpella, where murder lurks among the dunes…

Late one night, a distraught young man knocks on the door of Ally Bright’s remote home on the Cornish coast. But before she can make sense of his confused words, he’s gone—not to be seen again until he’s found the next morning at the foot of the nearby cliffs.

In an instant, the peace of Ally’s beachcombing life is shattered. Feeling responsible for the young man’s fate, she wants to help find answers¬—as does ex-cop Jayden Weston, whom Ally meets at the scene. He shares her certainty that there’s more to the story than attempted suicide. When it emerges that the man is newly released ex-convict Lewis Pascoe, and that Helena, the wealthy new owner of his grandmother’s home, has subsequently disappeared, the tight-knit community of Porthpella is thrown into turmoil.

Driven by their need to know more, the duo decide to investigate the mystery together. Is there a connection between the Pascoe family’s tragic history and Helena’s disappearance? And if there is a killer stalking Porthpella, do Ally and Jayden have what it takes to catch them?

 πŸ“– My Review..

The Shell House Detectives is this author's first foray into the world of cosy crime and I have rather enjoyed getting to know the quirky characters who call this imaginary corner of Cornwall home. 

Ally Bright lives a solitary life in her coastal cottage, aptly named The Shell House. She enjoys her time beach-combing and creating pieces of artwork but since her husband's untimely death Ally's life has lacked purpose. Late one night her peace is shattered by the arrival of an agitated young man asking to see her husband however, wary of strangers, Ally sends him on his way only to discover that, the following morning, the young man has been found at the foot of the nearby cliffs. Drawn into the mystery surrounding this young man, Ally and ex-police officer Jayden Weston start to try to put together several layers of an intricate puzzle which opens up the pretty Cornish town of Porthpella to intense scrutiny.

As with any new series there is a certain amount of scene setting and certainly Porthpella and its inhabitants come to life quite beautifully, so that it quickly becomes a real pleasure to get to know just what makes them call this picturesque place home. The mystery at the heart of the story is cleverly controlled and there were lots of red herrings, and interesting twists and turns, which kept me guessing. The series has the potential to run and run as the partnership between Ally Bright and Jayden Weston has only just begun but I can already imagine them becoming embroiled in further cosy mysteries as the series progresses.

Not only is The Shell House Detectives a cleverly controlled mystery drama, it is also a really lovely depiction of Cornwall and everything that makes this stunning area such a magnet for tourists, artists, and writers. The slightly slow pace of Cornish life is beautifully detailed and both Ally and Jayden fit so seamlessly into the story it feels as though I had been reading of their investigations forever.  I look forward to reading more from this talented author as The Shell House Detectives series continues.

Twitter @emyliahall #TheShellHouseDetectives



Wednesday 28 June 2023

πŸ“– 🎧 Blog Tour ~ The Only Truly Dead by Rob Parker

Audible Original
18 May 2023

My thanks to the Audible UK and Midas for my copy of this book
and the invitation to the blog tour.

The Only Truly Dead marks the thrilling conclusion to the Thirty Miles Trilogy as worlds collide.

The Only Truly Dead is the ultimate fight against corruption from one of the greatest Northern crime authors. The criminal underworld’s power has been gathering, with gangs from two cities that threaten to compromise everything Foley and Madison have fought for. Can these two detective masterminds take on the best of the best? Facing a highly illegal transport plan called The Twilight Express, our partners-in-arms must perform as never before.

The stakes become higher when Foley’s son is kidnapped, and he realises that his corrupt brother is involved. Along with their old colleague, Salix, and an IT whizz kid, they set out to crack this final case against the world’s most vulnerable. Everyone’s careers and families are on the line, after all. But it’s more than that – this is an ultimate fight for justice, played out between Manchester and Liverpool, that will have unpredictable and tragic consequences.

πŸ“– 🎧My Review

I was a little worried before starting to listen to The Only Truly Dead as it's the final book in the Thirty Miles Trilogy and as I hadn't listened to the previous two stories I wondered if I would be able to pick up from where books one and two left off. I needn't have worried as thanks to the author's gift for story telling I was soon immersed in this gritty northern crime drama. Placing the story slap bang in the middle of the north west of England has been an absolute treat for me as I know the area well and can picture the locations with an ease which more than does justice to the author's imaginative recreation of Warrington and surrounding districts.

Primarily this is a story of  family corruption at the highest level and those law enforcers who are hell bent on bringing to justice the perpetrators of some truly heinous crimes. The plot never falters or fails to bring to life characters who are on the edge of desperation and for whom there is no moral compass or limit to the depths they will go to to satisfy their thirst for greed, revenge and ultimately retribution. The plot moves along at a cracking pace and the introduction into the story of well loved characters gives the book an emotional edginess as they all know just what's at stake in the quest to rid the north of those who seek to profit from illegal means.

I've really enjoyed listening to The Only Truly Dead and the 7 hours and 3 minutes passed by really quickly, mainly down to the lure of the story but also to the narration which is beautifully brought to life by Warren Brown, whose northern accent sits very comfortably with the story.  The pace is fast and furious, there is much to take in both in terms of plot and malice, and there are some really good baddies who you hope will get their comeuppance. I am sure those who have followed this trilogy from the start will be delighted with this conclusion as there is a definite sense of the tying up of loose ends. The story is believable and I can well imagine the subterranean criminal underworld which is described in such detail that it really brought the places and people to vibrant life.

The Only Truly Dead is fast, furious, gritty and thought provoking, I loved it 😊

Rob Parker is a married father of three, who lives in Warrington, UK. The author of the Ben Bracken thrillers, Crook’s Hollow and the Audible bestseller Far From The Tree, he enjoys a rural life, writing horrible things between school runs. Rob writes full time, attends various author events across the UK, and boxes regularly for charity.

He spends a lot of time in schools across the North, encouraging literacy, story-telling and creative-writing, and somehow squeezes in time to co-host the For Your Reconsideration film podcast, appear regularly on The Blood Brothers Crime Podcast, and is a member of the Northern Crime Syndicate.

Twitter @robparkerauthor #TheOnlyTrulyDead




Thursday 22 June 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Mr Stoker and the Vampires of the Museum by Matthew Gibson


Book Guild

Thanks to Cameron Marketing and Publicity for my copy of the book

London, September 1888. Jack the Ripper roams the streets. A scream rings out from beneath the stage of the Lyceum Theatre…

A young ‘actress’ has been attacked, suffering peculiar bite wounds to her neck; an event that announces a series of strange, vampiric happenings, and thrusts an unwitting Bram Stoker – acting manager of the Lyceum and aspiring author – into the limelight, and the action.

Increasingly perplexed by the unsettling behaviour of his 'Guv’nor’, the brilliant but mercurial actor, Henry Irving, and Irving’s acclaimed leading lady, Ellen Terry, Stoker soon starts suspecting the worst. And then, another attack reveals a vicious Prussian baron, returned to London as a vampire seeking revenge...

πŸ“– My Review..

There's nothing more gothic than the myths and legends which surround Jack the Ripper and Vampires and the author combines both in this imaginative story of Mr Stoker and the Vampires of the Lyceum. When a young actress is found in mysterious circumstances and with bite marks on her neck it heralds the start of some unusual happenings at the Lyceum Theatre, in London, where Bram Stoker is the acting manager.

Moving between locations and with a skilful eye for details Mr Stoker and the Vampires of the Lyceum is an interesting character driven novel which brings to life the theatrical aspects of the story along with a deepening mystery which surrounds Jack the Ripper and the gothic nature of the Victorian era's  fascination for all things macabre.

Mr Stoker and the Vampires of the Lyceum is an intricately written and atmospheric story and whilst it is undoubtedly fiction, the author has used his considerable knowledge of Bram Stoker to bring this fascinating era to life along with the intrigue of a complex historical mystery in an entertaining story filled with intrigue and danger.

About the Author

Matthew Gibson is one of the world's leading scholars on Bram Stoker- the author of Dracula- and the Gothic. Born and educated in the UK, he is now Professor of English Literature at the University of Macau. Prior to this he worked in a number of universities in the UK, including the Universities of Surrey and Hull, as well as the university of LΓ³dΕΊ in Poland and the American University in Bulgaria, Matthew is a former visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge. Currently responsible for curating and annotating material on Stoker for cutting-edge online research resource, Oxford Bibliographies, Matthew is the author of Dracula and the Eastern Question, co-editor of Bram Stoker and the Late Victorian World, and a contributor to The Cambridge Companion to Dracula. Mr Stoker is his first work of fiction. 

Twitter @mattgibsonyeats


Wednesday 21 June 2023

πŸ“– Author in the Spotlight ~ Rachel Brimble


Today on the blog I am delighted to welcome author

Rachel Brimble

 Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Rachel. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author.

Hi Jo! Thanks so much for having me here today 😊

I got started as an author after years of having a passion to be published one day but doing very little about it! Once my youngest daughter started school full-time, I had a ‘now or never’ moment and started writing short stories before finishing my first novel a year or so later. That novel was published by The Wild Rose Press in 2007 and since then I have had at least one novel published each year. The trick to success in my view is tenacity and sticking to a daily word count – 500 words a day will soon add up to an 80,000 word novel!

When I’m not writing (which isn’t often!), I love to read, knit, watch far too much TV and go on long dog walks with family or friends – hopefully stopping off at a country pub for lunch ...

Tell us three tantalising things about your latest novel.

My latest novel is Victoria & Violet – an historical romance set in the court of a young Queen Victoria. Three tantalising things about the book are:

1) A romance between a servant and a member of the aristocracy

2) Set in beautiful Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace

3) Filled with high drama, intrigue and intense romance

Where do you get your inspiration for your novels, and, as one book ends, do you already have the idea in place for a new story?

A lot of my inspiration for my historical novels comes from buildings/places I’ve visited and fell in love with – setting tends to come first, followed by a nugget of a plot idea and then the characters tell me the rest!

Yes, as soon as I finish one book, I am onto the next – I have a whole file full of ideas as well as the ones in my head that keep pushing and prodding to be told.

Do you write the type of books you like to read and which authors influence you?

I read across the genres (except for sci-fi and horror), but romance is definitely my favourite, closely followed by crime. For contemporary romance, I love Nora Roberts whose writing and work ethic are a huge inspiration for me. For historical romance, I love Julia London and Julia Quinn – I am in awe of their work.

Tell us about your writing day - are you disciplined, strictly 9 till 5, or are you more of a have a cup of coffee and think about it sort of writer?

I am ultra-disciplined! I feel so blessed that I am lucky enough to be able to write full-time that I honour that by working 8.30am-5.30pm during the week (with a lunch break in between) as well as a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday.

Are you your worst critic and why?

I’m actually not too hard on myself, because writing is a compulsion for me now and as I know I will never stop, there is no point in beating myself up over a piece of work. I finish it to the best of my ability and then send it out into the world with the hope it gives lots of people hours of happy escapism.

Have you another novel planned and if so what can you tell us about it?

I am working on two books at the moment, which is very unusual for me, but it is the way things have worked out with publishers this year – one is a contemporary romance, the other an historical, but both books I hope will be the firsts in ongoing series. Watch this space!

And finally for fun! 😊

At which event in history would you like to be a fly on the wall and why?

I would love to have seen the early courtship between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII play out…

If you could invite three people from history to your dinner table, who would you choose and why?

Anne Boleyn (see above!)

Emmeline Pankhurst

Anyone who survived the Titanic sinking

Rachel, where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter  @RachelBrimble

More about Rachel

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of 29 novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin). Her latest novel, Victoria & Violet was released 17th October 2022.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Society of Authors and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click here

Huge thanks to Rachel Brimble for being my guest today

Tuesday 20 June 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Redemption of Isobel Farrar by Alan Robert Clark


Kindle 1 June 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

England, 1926. Lady Isobel Farrar, an ageing widow with a colourful past, has returned home after years of living abroad. As she moves back into Halcyon Hill, her beloved country house, she finds herself dwelling on a long-buried secret. In the wake of a terrible tragedy when she was young, Isobel gave up a child for adoption, and now she can’t help but wonder what became of him.

Life has not been kind to Frank Brodie. Cruelly mistreated by his adoptive parents, he spent his young adulthood struggling to survive on the harsh streets of London, before the Great War took him away to the trenches. Now he has found safety with Arthur, an older man who loves and protects him. But something is still missing from Frank’s life.

When mother and son are finally reunited, will they be able to lay the past to rest?

πŸ“– My Review...

For nearly forty years, Lady Isobel Farrar has suffered the loss of the child she had to give away when she was a young woman. Newly returned to England after several years abroad, Isobel, now in her sixties, feels that the time is right to find the child she lost but who has never been forgotten. Frank Brodie has always known he was adopted but never knew the name of his birth mother and with a childhood spent in miserable surroundings Frank has much to feel bitter about. 

Bringing these two rather lost people together is done in such a beautiful way that you can't help but feel an emotional attachment to both Isabel and Frank and watch carefully as they take their first tentative steps towards each other. There are some heartbreaking moments which really tug away at the heartstrings as both Isobel and Frank have their own demons to chase away but the real heart of the story lies in the thoughtful way in which the bonds of family are highlighted, and not just those which are formed by blood relatives but also by the close friendships we make along the way. 

The Redemption of Isobel Farrar is a really lovely character driven novel, which is beautifully, and sensitively, written by an author who has a real flair for storytelling.

Alan Robert Clark was born and educated in Scotland. He briefly attended King’s College in London, before opting instead for a career as a copywriter and creative director with a number of leading London advertising agencies. He has worked as a freelance journalist and, most recently, has ghost-written and coauthored a number of biographies. His novel The Prince of Mirrors (Fairlight Books, 2018) was included in the Walter Scott Prize Academy Recommends List.

Twitter @AlanRobClark #TheRedemptionofIsobelFarrar


Monday 19 June 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Fyneshade by Kate Griffin

18 May 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Many would find much to fear in Fyneshade's dark and crumbling corridors, its unseen master and silent servants. But not I. For they have far more to fear from me...

On the day of her grandmother's funeral, Marta discovers that she is to be sent to be governess at Fyneshade, her charge the young daughter of the owner, Sir William Pritchard.

All is not well at Fyneshade. Sir William is mysteriously absent, and his son and heir Vaughan is forbidden to enter the house. Marta finds herself drawn to him, despite the warnings of the housekeeper that Vaughan is a danger to all around him. But Marta is no innocent to be preyed upon. Guided by the dark gift taught to her by her grandmother, she has made her own plans. It will take more than a family riven by murderous secrets to stop her...

πŸ“– My Review

After her beloved grandmother's death Marta is sent to be governess to the daughter of Sir William Pritchard at Fyneshade, a large house which nestles in the remote Derbyshire countryside. In this house of plain women, Marta shines like a beacon, quietly looking after Grace, whilst at the same time watching everything that goes on in this brooding house of secrets. For Marta has secrets of her own and she is definitely not what is expected of a god fearing governess. Of the mysterious Sir William we know very little but as this sinister story continues, Fyneshade, such a perfect central character is about to, reluctantly, give up its creepy secrets.

I enjoyed getting to know Marta, she's wonderfully manipulative, not at all likeable, but gloriously addictive so that every page she is on comes alive with hidden meaning and certainly when, son and heir, Vaughan Pritchard makes his appearance in the novel the sparks between these two flawed characters literally fly off the page. 

The author writes well and builds up the tension with beautifully imagined scenes which bring a creepy edginess to what is quite a darkly detailed story. There a few unexpected twists and a final reveal to the story that I didn't see coming, which all helps to make Fyneshade into a wonderfully gothic story of revenge, and retribution, with a smattering of sinister suspense thrown in for good measure.

About the Author

Kate Griffin was born within the sound of Bow bells, making her a true-born cockney. She has worked as an assistant to an antiques dealer, a journalist for local newspapers and now works for The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders, Kate's first book, won the Stylist/Faber crime writing competition. Kate lives in St Albans.

Twitter @KateAGriffin



Friday 16 June 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Fascination by Essie Fox


Orenda Books
22 June 2023

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

Twin sisters Keziah and Tilly Lovell are identical in every way, except that Tilly hasn't grown a single inch since she was five. Coerced into promoting their father's quack elixir as they tour the country fairgrounds, at the age of fifteen the girls are sold to a mysterious Italian known as ‘Captain’. 

Theo is an orphan, raised by his grandfather, Lord Seabrook, a man who has a dark interest in anatomical freaks and other curiosities … particularly the human kind. Resenting his grandson for his mother’s death in childbirth, when Seabrook remarries and a new heir is produced, Theo is forced to leave home without a penny to his name. 

Theo finds employment in Dr Summerwell’s Museum of Anatomy in London, and here he meets Captain and his theatrical ‘family’ of performers, freaks and outcasts. But it is Theo’s fascination with Tilly and Keziah that will lead all of them into a dark web of deceits, exposing unthinkable secrets and threatening everything they know...

πŸ“– My Review..

The Fascination takes us into the dark underbelly of Victorian England to places which creep into your imagination with sinister intent and yet the story is so imaginatively written that you can’t help but be inextricably drawn into a fascinating world of obsession and deeply troubled secrets.

Twins, Tilly and Keziah Lovell tour the country fairs with their father selling a noxious cure-all which provides a living of sorts however, life isn’t easy for the Lovell’s and there is exploitation along with cruelty. On the surface the twins shouldn’t have anything in common with Theo Seabrook whose sad and lonely childhood marks him out as another misfit and yet their lives entwine in a suspenseful story which captures the imagination right from the very first page.

The sinister and morally corrupt world of Victorian England is brought vividly to life, from the simple pleasure of a country fair, to the macabre exhibits in Dr Summerwell’s Museum of Anatomy in London, there is never a moment when the story-telling falters or fails to plunge you deep into a Victorian world of freaks, misfits and the downright macabre. The rich assortment of shady characters who are such an integral part of the story give us a fascinating glimpse into the shadowy world of Victorian obsession.

Beautifully written, and meticulously researched, The Fascination is Essie Fox writing at her Gothic best, it's definitely one for my Best Books of the Year list.

About the Author

Essie Fox was born and raised in rural Herefordshire, which inspires much of her writing. After studying English Literature at Sheffield University, she moved to London where she worked for the Telegraph Sunday Magazine, and then book publishers George Allen & Unwin, before becoming self-employed in the world of art and design. Essie now spends her time writing historical gothic novels. Her debut, The Somnambulist, was shortlisted for the National Book Awards, and featured on Channel 4’s TV Book Club. The Last Days of Leda Grey, set in the early years of silent film, was selected as The Times Historical Book of the Month. Essie is also the creator of the popular blog: The Virtual Victorian. She has lectured on this era at the V&A, and the National Gallery in London.

Twitter @essiefox #TheFascination



Wednesday 14 June 2023

πŸ“– Ten Poems for a Wedding from Candlestick Press


Candlestick Press
June 2023

My thanks to the publisher for this poetry pamphlet

A wedding isn’t a wedding without a poem. The enduring quality of great poetry seems to promise that all will be well for a couple on the threshold of marriage.

You’ll be dazzled by the brilliance and beauty of this selection, which offers everything from heartfelt blessings to reflections on the rich rewards of married life. And of course there are also declarations of love:

“But for now,
we make our promises gently.
This extraordinary day we have made.
Listen –
the birds in their ordinary heaven.”

from ‘Vow’ by Clare Shaw

Whether you’re seeking a poem to read at a marriage ceremony or a gift for a soon-to-be-married friend, this anthology sparkles like a jewel, with something for every imaginable kind of wedding.

Poems by Kathryn Bevis, John Donne, Michael Donaghy, Sasha Dugdale, Kahlil Gibran, Jane Hirshfield, Li-Young Lee, William Meredith, Alice Oswald and Clare Shaw.

Cover illustration by Hilke MacIntyre.

πŸ“– My Review..

There's always something special about a wedding and it's not just the thrill of dressing up and a good old knees up afterwards, it's also about joy, anticipation and the poignant reminder of sharing in a commitment to love. This lovely collection of Ten Poems for a Wedding reminds us of the hopes and dreams we all take to a marriage ceremony.

I was delighted to see my favourite poem in the collection, which I am sure has been read at so many weddings..

On Marriage by Kahil Gibran

"..Love one another, but make not a bond of love
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.."

And the rather beautiful I Loved You Before I was Born by Li-Young Lee

"...I give you my blank heart
Please write on it 
what you wish.."

It's often rather difficult to find the perfect reading for a wedding as so many of the popular ones have been shared many times so it is really quite important to be able to source new material for a marriage ceremony. The heartfelt sentiment and poignant observations included in each of the ten poems in this lovely collection would be a perfect addition to any wedding ceremony.

Ten Poems for a Wedding is published just in time for the wedding season, it would be a perfect gift for those planning a wedding or instead of a card as a special reminder of the big day.

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 Mountains, Clouds, Walking, Birds, Wine and Happiness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @poetrycandle

Tuesday 13 June 2023

πŸ“– Author in the Spotlight ~ Philippa Hawley


Today on the blog I am delighted to welcome author

Philippa Hawley

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Philippa. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author.

My name is Philippa Hawley and I am an NHS doctor who retired from General Practice in 2011 (perhaps a little earlier than planned, due to circumstances). I am now a writer as well as being a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a gardener.

My husband retired the year before me and enjoyed exercising his brain with various Natural Science modules with the Open Universary. As my retirement approached, he spotted a module called Start Writing Fiction and recommended it to me. This proved to be a wonderful transition project to wean me away from medicine and into a new and more creative world. It gave me the confidence to join a local writing course at the wonderful Wivenhoe Bookshop and join two active local writing groups.

How To Be Frank Is your latest novel, without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the story?

To Be Frank is my fourth novel and although it is a stand-alone, contemporary story, some of the characters (but not Frank) have already appeared in novel number three, Lawn House Blues, published in 2018. Both these books are set not far from home in Suffolk.

Frank is a 62 year old recovering alcoholic who enjoys working at Felixstowe docks. Despite having a roof over his head and food in his belly, he knows something is missing in his life – friends and a family he can call his own.  A solicitor’s letter and an unexpected inheritance bring about change, giving him increased confidence and an improved social life. He finds love but also people who can help him solve the mystery of his parentage. He becomes reconciled with his birth mother but finding his father might prove to be more of a challenge.

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they who you expected them to be?

When I am writing my characters become very real to me and I generally grow to love them. I keep the central characters with me for a long time after the writing is finished but probably let go of the nasty or annoying ones. I often think about where my main protagonists might go next and if a reader asks if I’m going to write a follow up story, I do get tempted.

Where do you get your inspiration for your novels, and, as one book ends, do you already have the idea in place for a new story?

My writing is often inspired by my travels and places I have visited, as well as the people I have met along the way. I avoid using ex-patients as templates however. My first novel, There’s No Sea in Salford (2013) was based in Sri Lanka and refers to the 2004 tsunami. How They Met Themselves (2014) was based in California where I took a road trip with some girlfriends just after retirement. Lawn House Blues (2018) and To Be Frank (2022) are both set in Suffolk, not far from my home in NE Essex, in places we often visit.

Do you write the type of novels you like to read and which authors have influenced you?

 I tend to write quite domestic, contemporary stories about families, relationships and friendship. I often sneek a bit of illness in but try to avoid writing too much in the way of medical topics.

I like to read about realistic people and their relationships. I love Marion Keyes, Maggie O’Farrell, Sally Rooney and Graham Norton; these Irish writers do such great story telling.

I have a broad list of books I have read. I’ll try anything from humour to psychological mystery, crime and feminism. Recently I’ve read a number of American novels addressing both feminism and heritage eg Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche as well as books by Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou.

Tell us about your writing day - are you disciplined, strictly 9 till 5, or are you more of a have a cup of coffee and think about it sort of writer?

My writing day rarely starts before the afternoon. In the morning I do my chores, run errands, check emails and attend to some volunteering I’m signed up for. I often do my thinking when pottering in the garden, then settle down to a couple of hours writing after lunch. I write on the desk top computer in my study, with a lovely view over our garden and the woods behind. I usually have a notebook in my bag if I’m travelling or sometimes jot notes and ideas in the back of my diary if I’m just out and about.

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

Since the publication of To Be Frank in April 2022, I have been concentrating on short stories with my writing group and having a rest from novel writing. I have played with a couple of new ideas but am unsure whether to proceed and which to focus on. Should it be a novel set in the 1900s in Yorkshire where my parents grew up or a more experimental novel set in 2031, ten years after the Covid pandemic?

Finally for fun 😊

Tell us four essential things every writer needs!

Four things a writer needs: Ideas, a computer, resilience and an editor P.S. an agent would also be nice!

If your life was a book, what would be its title?

Title of my life in a book; ‘Healing hands’ subtitled, ‘once an doctor always a doctor’.

What books are on your bedside table

Bedside table books at present:

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

A Pocketful of Happiness by Richard E Grant

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver.

Philippa, where can we follow you on social media?

Philippa Hawley is on Twitter @philippa_hawley, also Instagram and Facebook.

More information can be found on her website 

More about Philippa

Philippa Hawley is a writer, living in NE Essex with her husband and several tortoises. The couple have two grown-up children and a busy young grandchild. Having worked in the NHS for over 30 years, mostly as a family doctor, Philippa has been privileged to observe human behaviour and relationships in close proximity and this comes across in her writing. When not writing or helping look after the grandchild, Philippa likes watching films and reading. She spends time in her garden maintaining a wildlife area which backs onto the local woods, attracting wonderful birds, butterflies and dragonflies.

 Huge thanks to Philippa Hawley for being my Author in the Spotlight today.




Monday 12 June 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Chancer by Fiona Graham

Sonny & Skye Productions
May 2023

Thanks to Cameron Marketing and Publicity for my copy of the book

In 1989, in the west of Ireland, Donnie McNamara, tired of being a family disappointment buys a one-way ticket to Tinseltown to pursue his ridiculed dreams of acting.

Abe Nelson, a fallen Hollywood legend, now wallows in LA dive bars.

Their worlds collide. Abe becomes a mentor for Donnie and is catapulted into his fantastical endeavour.

But will the journey to stardom end in red carpets or red faces?

πŸ“– My Review..

Right from the start of the story there is something charmingly different about Donnie McNamara and this eccentricity continues throughout the whole of this quirky story which follows Donnie from his provincial life in the west of Ireland, to his departure, in 1989, with a one-way ticket for America. There Donnie hopes to pursue his dream of becoming an actor and his meeting with Abe Nelson, a Hollywood legend now on the downhill slope, opens up a world of change for both of these rather odd characters.

There is much to enjoy in the story and the author has used her screen writing skills to the best advantage as time, place and people come alive quite strongly in the imagination.  Of course there are stumbling blocks along the way and there's a definite someone who doesn't want to see Donnie succeed however, all these add an extra dimension as we watch as Donnie blithely negotiates this very different world to the one he has left behind in rural Ireland.

Nicely written and filled with humour, Donnie's quest for stardom is never without its funny moments however, there is also a deeper message about the importance of taking a chance and always following your dreams

About the Author

Fiona Graham  lives in County Galway, in the west of Ireland with her husband and daughter and their two dogs. Fiona grew up in Scotland but has lived in Ireland for most of her adult life. Fiona wrote and produced the award winning feature film Songs for Amy. The Chancer is Fiona's debut novel.


Friday 9 June 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The World Outside My Window by Clare Swatman


Boldwood Books
5 June 2023

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

Laura is watching the world go by without her.

Unable to leave her house since suffering a trauma, Laura is stuck gazing out of her window at Willow Crescent, relying on husband Jim and best friend Debbie for help.

Then one day, Jim doesn’t come home.

A day becomes two, days become a week, and still no sign of Jim. And with the police half-hearted in their efforts to look for him, Laura is forced into a decision. She’s going to have to face the world outside and find her husband herself.

But what Laura hasn’t realised is that Willow Crescent is a community, eager to help. From Arthur and Carol next door ready to rally the neighbours, to Marjorie and her daughter Faye at number nine looking for their own reasons to engage with the world. From Sonja at number seven who thinks she may have seen Jim in London, to widower Ben at number four who understands all about being lonely. Laura has a world ready to embrace her if she can just find the nerve.

And when it slowly dawns on them all, that the Jim they thought they knew, may have been hiding some unfathomable secrets, Laura has a choice – retreat back behind her window, or start living the life that was waiting for her all along.

This is Clare Swatman's tour de force. At the same time emotional, uplifting, page-turning and breath-taking, Laura is a character you will never forget.

 πŸ“– My Review..

When Laura's husband fails to return home after working away she is devastated as Jim is her absolute lifeline because, you see,  Laura  is desperately afraid of the outside world and she relies on Jim for absolutely everything. Laura's only close friend is Debbie who has a family of her own and yet she does all she can to help Laura through this traumatic time. With Debbie's help Laura tentatively starts to emerge from the shackles she has placed around herself and as the story progresses we start to see a very different Laura emerge. There's a lovely community feel to the story and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the neighbours in Willow Close who rally round to help Laura and Debbie solve the mystery of Jim's disappearance.

I'm not going to spoil the story by saying much more except to say that I was engrossed in Laura's story and enjoyed the forwards and backwards in time element as we got to learn more about Laura, and Jim, and of the events which have caused her to be so afraid of the outside world. The author explores the nuances around unresolved trauma and also looks at the nature of coercion and control which brings Laura to life in a believable way so that our sympathy very much side with her. 

The World Outside My Window is not so much of a mystery, as pretty early on in the story I had my own view about what had happened to Jim. It is, however, very much Laura's story, her indecision, her mental health struggles and her absolute fear of almost everything is written about with a sensitivity which resonated throughout the whole of this lovely, immersive story.

About the Author

Clare Swatman is the author of three women’s fiction novels, published by Macmillan, which have been translated into over 20 languages. She has been a journalist for over twenty years, writing for Bella and Woman & Home amongst many other magazines. She lives in Hertfordshire. Before We Grow Old, was published in January 2022.

Twitter @clareswatman #TheWorldOutsideMyWindow

@Boldwood|Books #Boldwoodbloggers