Tuesday 30 January 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Extracting Humanity and Other Stories by Stephen Oram


Orchid's Lantern Press

My thanks to Isabelle Kenyon for the invitation to the blog tour

In this remarkably perceptive collection, Stephen Oram blends cutting-edge science and tech with everyday emotions and values to create 20 thought experiments with heart.

Extracting Humanity is a skilful exploration of smart currencies, memorials, medical care, treatment of refugees, social networks, data monitoring, and justice systems. Always without prescription or reprimand, these stories are simply the beginning of the conversation.

From an eerie haptic suit that Tommy must call Father, to a protective, nutritious bubble that allows Feng Mian to survive on a colonised Moon; from tattoos that will earn their wearers a mini-break in a sensory chamber, to Harrie anxiously awaiting AI feedback on her unborn child… These startling, diverse narratives map all-too-real possibilities for our future and the things that might ultimately divide or unite us.

I'm delighted to be able to share this short story today from Extracting Humanity 


“I don’t want to beg, but we are best mates ‘n all that.”

“You have to be kidding. They’ll trace it so easily, and then where will we be?”

I shrugged and carried on tinkering with the code of the car that had been brought in to have its latest patches installed. I wasn’t paying proper attention to what I was doing, but then if they couldn’t pay me a decent wage, why should I?

I tried again, speaking loudly but not directly to him. “I have to buy food and heat the house and it’s the wife’s birthday. All I want is for you to do some shopping for me. I’ll pay you back straight away. I don’t see how they’ll know it’s for me and not you.”

“You’ve heard the rumours. Anything that smacks of reparation avoidance is swiftly dealt with. Shame laundering, isn’t that what they call it?”

I kept my eyes firmly fixed on the screen in front of me, trying not to make a big deal out of it.

“It’s only one weekly food shop.”

“Apart from the illegal bit, your lineage owes my lineage and until that’s done…”

He had a point, but he was wrong. It wasn’t my forefathers who stole stuff from other countries and locked it away in the British Museum.

I stared at him. “That genetic profiling is crap. Completely ignores the fact those elite fuckers were stealing from my sort at the same time as robbing the heritage of yours.”

He mumbled something I couldn’t make out.

“It’s too generic. It should be a class thing, not a country thing. No way does it trace those who were really responsible.”

Another mumble.

I looked away. “Still, we are where we are as my mother used to say. For better or worse we have programmable money, and it has rules.”

He came and stood next to me. “You’re my friend. I get that. And that’s why I know we’ll rise above this whole reparation thing. It only lasts until it’s all paid back.”

I nodded, unable to reply. He just didn’t get it.

“Not the sins of my fathers,” I muttered under my breath. I was innocent. My whole family line was innocent, and yet my Heritage Pound was worth less than his because the cost of re-balancing the abuses of other people’s ancestors fell to me and mine.

I continued talking while working. “I wasn’t asked about the British Museum being privatised. I wasn’t consulted about the contents becoming the asset behind the most widely used private currency. It wasn’t my decision to give it favourable interest rates and lower tax rates than the other currencies. It’s those bastards in charge of the Bank of England’s digital currency.”

I rubbed my temples and sighed. “I agree with the government offsetting the reparation obligations of its colonial past, but there’s a world of difference between agreeing with the what and agreeing with the how.”

He tutted and went back to his bench.

We ignored each other for the rest of the day, but as he left he called across. “I’ll see if the kids have any ideas.”

My teenage daughter met me outside, determined that I should buy her mother a birthday present.

“Just a small one,” she said.

I told her we couldn’t afford it and that her mother understood, but she insisted.

“Why don’t we use a different currency? One that works for us, not against us. Then we could afford it,” she said.

I explained as best I could how difficult it was to be accepted by any other currency. Their rules of interaction with the CBDC were predicated on how risky their customer base was, and we were in one of the highest risk brackets.

She pushed hard. “Why not do what Sasha’s dad does? He owns shares in art that’s worth more every day. Non. Fungible. Tokens. Get it?”

“Fine for him”, I explained, “but we don’t have any capital to begin with.” She huffed and puffed, throwing one superficially thought-through solution after another at me. It was as if she considered me to be stupid. As if she thought I’d not explored all these options.

She made that disgusting sound with her tongue.

“It’s crap.”

“I know,” I said. “You’re right. It’s the very people whose ancestors were responsible for the appalling past of our country who use the other currencies. They escape any consequences of the national reparation.”

She was fuming, and with the familiar cry of every teenager, she pointed out that it wasn’t fair. All I could do was agree with her. Replying with the age-old parental response that life just isn’t fair.

I told my mate about it the next day, and despite the seriousness of the situation, I found myself laughing along with him about the idealism of youth. We reminisced about our own teenage years and how we’d been certain that we knew how the world worked and how it could be a lot better. It was good to be back on jovial terms, and he was trying to tell me something his daughter had said, but talking about our kids behind their backs made me feel uncomfortable.

I ignored him until he stood by me, looking pleased with himself. “Here, give me your phone,” he said, grabbing it from my bench.

I frowned, but with curiosity. He swiped the screen and then held his own close to it.

“There,” he said. “You’ll never guess what. My daughter’s been using her Heritage Pound advantage to invest in that new youth currency. Know the one? She’s made a mint out of limited-edition skins in those games she’s fixated with. And… wait for it… she wants to gift your family some shares.” With a thumbs up he added, “It’s allowed.”

I was speechless. What a brilliant mate, and what a great father.

X/Twitter @OramStephen


Thursday 25 January 2024

πŸ“– Author in the Spotlight ~ Claire Dyer


Hi Claire and welcome back to Jaffareadstoo. Congratulations on your new novel and Happy Publication Day!

Thank you! It’s great to be back!

Without giving too much away what can you tell us about What We Thought We Knew?

The novel is about the three families at numbers two, four and six Penwood Heights. These families are connected by work, friendship and a terrible tragedy. Also, whilst each character thinks they know all there is to know about the others, they don’t. Whilst told via ten points of view, it is the central character, Faith, whose story is narrated in the first person and allows the reader to know that not only is she keeping her own secret, but unknown to everyone else, she’s also keeping another’s. It is when this other person’s secret is discovered that what the families thought they knew about one another is blown to pieces.

When planning a novel what usually comes first the plot or the people?

It varies. Sometimes inspiration can strike via an object or place, and sometimes a central idea or a situation. With this novel, it was after I’d hosted a dinner party with friends that I got to wondering what secrets we might be keeping from one another, and the story grew from there. I visited the town where I wanted to set the novel and drove around Penwood Heights (which is a real place) so I could visualise for myself where the families might live. I must add that a lot of artistic licence was used in my portrayal of the road, houses and town! And, once I’d got the setting nailed, I set about peopling it. Telling the story from ten points of view was a mad decision but one I don’t regret now it's done! I felt it important that each person should have their own voice and story arc.

Whilst researching the novel did you discover anything which surprised you?

I actually first researched and wrote the novel about twelve years ago, rewriting it during lockdown and my parents’ last illnesses, so I guess the thing that surprised me most was how ‘real’ everything still seemed to me: both the people and the places of the novel came back in full technicolour. However, I think the thing I enjoyed researching most was Faith and Lizzie’s coffee shop. The very lovely people in my local Costa spent time talking to me about their process and especially how their Lisa 3 Coffee Machine worked! It was huge fun and really interesting!

Your style of writing is very much ‘from the heart’. Does this take its toll on you emotionally and if so how do you overcome it?

You’re right, I do feel very connected to my characters and the ups and downs of their lives can take their toll on me, but I guess the thing that helps is remembering that I’m working towards an ending where (hopefully) there will be a resolution of sorts for each of them – even if it’s not a fairytale ending, it’s an ending and that’s what keeps me going!

When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?

When I’m writing I try to schedule specific times in my diary around my teaching and editing commitments, and have found that I write best in the morning at my desk at home, in silence, with a cat or two by my side. However, my absolute favourite place and time to write is when I’m on holiday in my beloved Kalkan in Turkey. Getting up early, making coffee and sitting looking out at the bay as the sun rises over the mountain behind the villa as I write, is a real treat!

What do you hope readers will take away from reading What We Thought We Knew?

I hope they will take two things away from reading the novel. Firstly, I hope they will be able to forgive my characters for what they do wrong and, secondly, understand that sometimes we can all do the wrong things for the right reasons.

Thank you, Claire for being our Author in the Spotlight today.

Thank you for having me!

25 January 2024

The families at numbers two, four and six Penwood Heights are connected by work, friendship, the loss of a child and a secret truth which has sat in the bedrock of their lives for years. In the centre of this tight-knit group is Faith, who believes her job is to act as a paperweight, keeping them all safe. And she does this until someone from her past reappears and threatens to sabotage everything. And, as the pieces fall, these families, these friends, realise that what they thought they knew about one another was nothing more than make-believe. They also discover that trust is illusory and for Faith, at least, that keeping other people’s secrets can be more dangerous than keeping her own.

More about Claire

Claire Dyer’s poetry collections are published by Two Rivers Press, her novels by Quercus, The Dome Press, Matador and Pegasus. Her latest novel is ‘What We Thought We Knew’, and a further collection, ‘The Adjustments’, is forthcoming with Two Rivers Press in April 2024. She teaches creative writing and runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service. She is Poetry Consultant to the Council of the SWWJ, has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and is represented by Broo Doherty at DHH Literary Agency.

X/Twitter @clairedyer1

Website Facebook Instagram

Amazon UK

Wednesday 24 January 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Secrets of Crestwell Hall by Alexandra Walsh


Boldwood Books
24 January 2024

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

A king adorns the throne… He has no subtlety, no grace but he does not deserve to die in the way that has been planned and this is why we shall stop them, our men, our kin and save us all.’


Bess Throckmorton is well used to cunning plots and intrigues. With her husband Sir Walter Raleigh imprisoned in the Tower of London, and she and her family in a constant battle to outwit Robert Cecil, the most powerful man in the country who is determined to ruin her, Bess decides to retreat to her beloved home, Crestwell Hall. But there she is shocked to hear talk of a new plot to murder the king. So, unbeknownst to their menfolk, the wives of the plotters begin to work together to try to stop the impending disaster.

Present Day

Isabella Lacey and her daughter, Emily, are excited to be starting a new life at her aunt’s home, Crestwell Hall in Wiltshire. During renovations, Isabella discovers an ancient bible that once belonged to Bess Throckmorton, and to her astonishment finds that it doubled as a diary. As Isabella reads Bess’s story, a new version of the Gunpowder Plot begins to emerge - told by the women.

When Emily’s life is suddenly in terrible danger, Isabella understands the relentless fear felt by Bess, hundreds of years ago. And as the fateful date of 5th November draws ever closer, Bess and the plotters’ wives beg their husbands to stop before a chain of events is set into action that can only end one way…

πŸ“– My Review..

The shadows of the past are inextricably linked with the future and by cleverly combining two dual timeframes we learn The Secrets of Crestwell Hall and the part it played in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot.

Isabella Lacey and her daughter Emily arrive at Crestwell Hall in order to make a new start. A failed marriage has left Isabella wary and suspicious but she is determined that with Crestwell’s owner, her aunt Thalia, she will help to bring the house and its history alive once more. However, finding Crestwell’s secrets is no easy task and whilst the echoes of the past intrude so we start to build up a picture of the previous owner of Crestwell Hall. Elizabeth Throckmorton was the wife of Sir Walter Raleigh but with Raleigh languishing in the Tower of London and with plots and counter plots swirling around her Elizabeth must look to protect herself and those under her care from being implicated in the plot to rid England of its unpopular King.

The history of the time is well explored and this retelling of the Gunpowder Plots adds an altogether different dimension, it was particularly interesting to read of the family, and friendship, connections between those who were plotting and those who wished to see it fail. The dual time aspect is done really well and I found that as one time frame finished we were whisked away either into the past with Bess and her troubles or forward into the future as Isabella and her aunt set about bring Crestwell Hall back to life.

An easy page turner, with much to enjoy, this dual time story has everything I wanted, well researched history, a lively plot and enough intrigue in both time frames to make for a satisfying read.

About the Author

Alexandra Walsh is the bestselling author of dual timeline historical mysteries, previously published by Sapere. Her books range from the fifteenth century to the Victorian era and are inspired by the hidden voices of women that have been lost over the centuries. Formerly a journalist, writing for national newspapers, magazines and TV.

Twitter /X @purplemermaid25 #TheSecretsofCrestwellHall

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers


Monday 22 January 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Shadows in the Ashes by Christina Courtenay


Headline Review
18 January 2024

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

Present Day

Finally escaping an abusive marriage, Caterina Rossi takes her three-year-old daughter and flees to Italy. There she’s drawn to research scientist Connor, who needs her translation help for his work on volcanology. Together they visit the ruins of Pompeii and, standing where Mount Vesuvius unleashed its fire on the city centuries before, Cat begins to see startling visions. Visions that appear to come from the antique bracelet handed down through her family’s generations…
AD 79

Sold by his half-brother and enslaved as a gladiator in Roman Pompeii, Raedwald dreams only of surviving each fight, making the coin needed to return to his homeland and taking his revenge. That is, until he is hired to guard beautiful Aemilia. As their forbidden love grows, Raedwald’s dreams shift like the ever more violent tremors of the earth beneath his feet.

The present starts eerily to mirror the past as Cat must fight to protect her safety, and to forge a new path from the ashes of her old life…

πŸ“– My Review…

Living in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, the residents of Pompeii are, in AD79, unaware of the disaster which is about to befall them. Raedwald is a gladiator who has been taken against his will to fight in the arenas. When he is assigned to look after the wife on a prominent Roman, Raedwald can't help but be attracted to the beautiful young woman however, a clandestine relationship between the wife of such a prominent Roman and a captive gladiator is strictly forbidden.  

In the present day, Caterina Rossi has escaped an abusive relationship and has settled in her native Italy where she meets Connor, a scientist, who is visiting the area to write a report about volcanoes and hires Caterina to do some translation for him. Hurt by the events of the past, Caterina is reluctant to trust a man again and yet she is strangely drawn towards Connor.

As the story starts to overlap and coalesce we soon get to know much more about what is happening with Raedwald and Aemilia in AD79 whilst at the same time appreciate the burgeoning relationship between Caterina and Conor in the bustling city of Sorrento.

There are very few authors around who can really bring a dual time narrative to life but this author is up there with the best of them as she can, with a magic flick of words, take you from past to present and back again in an imaginative story which is as seamless as it is compelling. I found the setting of the story in Italy, and Pompeii in particular, to be really descriptive and could very easily imagine life in the ancient world as Raedwald and Aemilia cross paths in the city they call home and yet I also followed Caterina's drama filled life with equal anticipation of a peaceful conclusion,

Beautifully written, and authentically researched there is much to enjoy in escaping into the past whilst following a strong connections with the future and with a particular talisman to link the two time-frames the echoes of the past are allowed to sing strong and true. There is anguish in both time frames, harsh events which overshadow happiness but with romance, love and hope at its core Shadows in the Ashes is a definitely story which resonates long after the last page is turned. 

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, now a Vice President, 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. SHADOWS IN THE ASHES (dual time/timeslip romance published by Headline Review 18th January 2024) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Twitter @PiaCCourtenay #ShadowsInTheAshes

@headlinepg @rararesources

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~A Breath of Fresh Air by Jessica Redland


Boldwood Books
10 January 2024

Escape to the Lakes series #2

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

Rosie feels like there's something missing in her life.

She loves her job as the manager of Willowdale Hall Riding Stables, caring for the horses and teaching children to ride, and she loves the home she shares with her mother in the beautiful Lake District. But she can't help wondering how her life might look if things had been different. What if her father had been around to help care for her mother? And what if she'd found someone special herself?

When Hubert Cranleigh - the owner of Willowdale Hall - is taken ill, his son Oliver steps into the breach. Brooding and distant, Rosie is furious when he claims not to know who she is. Especially when they have a history.

Rosie's life is about to be turned upside down, but with the New Year comes new opportunities. What Rosie feels is missing from her life might be closer than she thinks, and with more significant consequences than she could ever have imagined...

πŸ“– My Review..

It’s been a real treat to return to this lovely series set in the English Lake District to catch up with what is happening in the pretty village of Willowdale which nestles on the banks of the picturesque Derwent Water. In this second book in the series we meet again with Rosie who runs the Willowdale Riding Stables and who regularly runs the wrath of the irascible riding stable owner, Hugh Cranleigh. Hugh is an awkward and bad tempered man, however, when he has an accident it gives Rosie the opportunity to become reacquainted with Hugh’s son, Oliver Cranleigh, who she grew up on the Willowdale estate. There is complicated history between Rosie and Oliver and this book explores, in detail, just what caused them to become estranged.

This is a lovely warm-hearted story but with a darker edge especially as we get to know more about Rosie’s ‘mam’, Alice, and the secrets in her past which have threatened her peace of mind for far too many years. The Lake District setting adds the perfect environment especially as we get to explore the area on walks with Rosie and her friend Autumn, a character we met in the first book in the series. There is much to enjoy in any of this author’s creative works and A Breath of Fresh Air certainly lived up to my expectations in a story which kept my attention from start to finish.

About the Author

Jessica Redland writes emotional but uplifting stories of love, friendship, family and community. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast where she lives with her husband, daughter and sprocker spaniel. Her Hedgehog Hollow series, set in a hedgehog rescue centre, takes readers into the beautiful rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds.

Twitter @JessicaRedland

Purchase Link

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers


Friday 19 January 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ A Scandalous Match by Jane Dunn


Boldwood Books
17 January 2024

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

Nightly at the Covent Garden Theatre in London, an enchanting actress is wowing the crowds with her affecting portrayal of Ophelia. Preyed on by rakes and opportunistic young bucks, feted by dukes and earls, even the Prince Regent himself, Angelica Leigh is a sensation.

But in Regency England, beauty and talent are not enough to be considered marriage material, so when the eminently eligible Lord Charles Latimer sets his heart on Angelica, his uncle is sent to intervene.

As a highly respected, hard-working and wealthy lawmaker, The Honourable Ivor Asprey, is himself seen as desirable husband material, but widowed with an eleven-year-old daughter Elinor, he has forsaken all thoughts of romance. Lord Latimer’s mother, the Duchess of Arlington, despairs of her son, despite being reassured by Ivor that his infatuation with the actress will pass. But there is something about Angelica Leigh that demands attention, and even the austere and upstanding Mr Asprey isn’t immune to her charms.

πŸ“– My review..

Once again this talented author has taken me by the hand and led me into Georgian London, sharing the life of actress Angelica Leigh as she mesmerises audiences with her portrayal of Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet. To be an actress during the early years of the nineteenth century was viewed as little more than prostitution, however, Angelica's sweet nature and exceptional beauty has attracted the attention of the eligible Charles Latimer, a young member of the haut ton who, much to the chagrin of his formidable mama, is hell bent on marriage with the delightful Angelica. The Honourable Ivor Asprey is persuaded by Charles's mother to try to dissuade Angelica from accepting his nephew as a suitor and in doing so widowed Asprey changes his own life forever.

A Scandalous Match is a delightful historical romance which looks at the vagaries of society in Georgian England and how a woman, so often seen merely as a decorative appendage, could be feisty, funny and determined, like Angelica, to go her own way. I loved Angelica from the start, her acting skill brings a different dynamic and I enjoyed observing the raucousness of the theatre audiences, from cat calls, to throwing bread buns around the auditorium, there was never a dull moment. The romantic element is nicely done and there's a smattering of politics concerning the reform of child labour however, what really shines through is the emotional involvement with all of the characters, which is done with such a fine eye for detail, so that it becomes an absolute pleasure to sit down and escape for a few hours into this Regency world which Jane Dunn recreates so beautifully.

About the Author

Jane Dunn is an historian and biographer and the author of seven acclaimed biographies, including Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters and the Sunday Times and NYT bestseller, Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens. She comes to Boldwood with her first fiction outing – a trilogy of novels set in the Regency period, the first of which, The Marriage Season, is to be published in January 2023. She lives in Berkshire with her husband, the linguist Nicholas Ostler.

Twitter/X @JaneDunnAuthor #AScandalousMatch

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers


Wednesday 17 January 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Daughters of Mersey Square by Pam Howes

17 January 2024

Mersey Square #3

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

Mersey Square, Stockport, 1984. Can she find the courage to overcome a devastating tragedy?

Sammy and Roy Cantello have been inseparable since they were teenage sweethearts. Married for twenty years, their eldest son is the apple of Sammy’s eye. When the police arrive, telling her there’s been a devastating crash, it is the worst night of her life. Her boy had always been such a safe driver, what could possibly have gone wrong?

As her firstborn fights for his life and Sammy searches for answers, she realises there’s only one thing that could have been distracting her child: his father Roy’s recent affair with another woman, Olivia Grant. Sammy thought their relationship was over for good, but is there something Roy hasn’t told her?

Desperate for answers about her son’s accident, she goes to see Olivia. But as Sammy enters Olivia’s small flat, she is shocked to her very core: Olivia’s rounded belly tells her this woman is carrying her husband’s child.

As her own son slips away, Sammy is consumed by grief, but she realises that the other woman is struggling too. When Olivia decides she is not the best person to raise her child and begs for support, Sammy knows that her son would want her to help. Can Sammy find the courage to raise her husband’s child as her own?

πŸ“– My review..

I have followed this series from the beginning and thoroughly enjoy returning to Mersey Square to catch up with the characters as they live their challenging lives in this part of Stockport.

Sammy and Roy Cantello have been sweethearts since they were children, however, their long marriage hasn't been straightforward and as we meet them in 1984 it is about to get even more complicated when their son is involved in a tragic accident and Sammy discovers something about Roy which puts their whole life together in jeopardy. Not only are Sammy and Roy facing challenges but also their close friends Jane and Eddie Mellor must also face the events of their past when secrets threaten to expose what they have kept hidden for so long.

As always the story flows beautifully and the author does a great job of including the past whilst at the same time bringing the individual characters forwards in time. The introduction of new people into the story-line is done with a fine eye for authentic detail and I especially enjoy the musical references which are reminiscent of the time and evoke memories of the 1980s. This is the third book in this series and whilst it can be read as a standalone story I rather think that these complex family dramas are best read in order so as to enjoy the emotional connection with each of the characters. I look forward to catching up with the Cantellos and the Mellors as they move forward into their next family drama.

Just to add that this book was previously published as 'Til I Kissed You

About the Author

Pam Howes is a retired interior designer, mum to three daughters, grandma to seven assorted grandchildren and roadie to her musician partner. The inspiration for Pam’s first novel came from her teenage years, working in a record store, and hanging around with musicians who frequented the business. The first novel evolved into a series about a fictional band, The Raiders. She is a fan of sixties music and it’s this love that compelled her to begin writing.

Twitter @PamHowes1 #TheDaughtersOfMerseySquare #BooksOnTour


Tuesday 16 January 2024

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Ten Poems about Hats from Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
January 2024

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of this pamphlet

Coco Chanel declared a hat to be essential when lunching with people one didn’t know very well. These days such pretensions may seem old hat but we still set store by this quintessentially personal item of clothing.

In these pages we encounter hats of all shapes and sizes. There’s a grandfather’s beloved trilby and an imagined bathing cap belonging to Napoleon. There’s also a “hopeful hat” waiting for coins on a city pavement.

Best of all, perhaps, we experience the old-fashioned glamour of a milliner’s shop:

“There are multi-coloured reels, ends of rickrack, bias bindings,
tiny satin flowers, and hats with floppy brims
on blank-faced, long-necked Nefertiti heads,”

from ‘Cloche’ by John Foggin

These varied poems will delight and entertain in equal measure.

Poems by Rita Dove, John Foggin, John Freeman, Clarinda Harriss, Robert Hedin, Linda Pastan, Carole Satyamurti, James Tate, Andrew Taylor and ASJ Tessimond.

Cover illustration by Jane Burn.

πŸ“– My Review..

I've always liked hats on other people. I simply don't have the head for a hat but I enjoy seeing fancy creations and on the rare occasions I have worn a hat, there's something about wearing one which feels quite special. This lovely collection of ten poems about hats is perfect for me as I can enjoy the beauty of hats without the pressure of wearing one.

'Cloche' by John Foggin starts the collection with a wander down memory lane for me as I have  a lovely photograph of one of my aunts wearing a beautiful cloche hat in the 1930s. She was an extraordinary dressmaker and could well have made the hat she was wearing so beautifully...

" I think she's wearing black,
a cameo brooch and  a touch of rouge."

There's something about a hat which just makes you want to try it on and I can remember when clearing an elderly relatives house we came across a rather pristine black bowler hat, of course, on our heads it went and we remembered, with a smile, the man who once wore it.

'The Man in the Bowler Hat' by ASJ Tessimond

"I am the unnoticed,the unnoticeable man:
The man who sat on your right in the morning train:
The man you looked through like a window pane:
The man who was the colour of the carriage, the colour of the mounting
Morning pipe smoke..."

Wonderfully evocative and beautifully designed, with a colourful cover and pretty inside papers Ten Poems about Hats is a charming collection to make you smile and is simply perfect instead of card to brighten up a cold winters day.

About the Publisher

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/X @poetrycandle

Thursday 11 January 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Glass Woman by Alice McIlroy


2 January 2024

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book
and to Ruth Killick for the invitation to the blog tour

Pioneering scientist Iris Henderson awakes in a hospital bed with no memories. She is told that she is the first test-subject for an experimental therapy, placing a piece of AI technology into her brain. She is also told that she volunteered for it. But without her memories, Iris doesn't know what the therapy is or why she would ever choose it. Everyone warns her to leave it alone, but Iris doesn't know who to trust. As she scratches beneath the surface of her seemingly happy marriage and successful career, a catastrophic chain of events is set in motion, and secrets will be revealed that have the capacity to destroy her whole life.

πŸ“– My Review...

The Glass Woman gets off to a dramatic start when we meet thirty-five year old Iris Henderson who wakes in a clinical research facility with no idea of who she is or why she is there. Surrounded by strangers, including the man who tells Iris that he is her husband, Iris must try to make sense of an alien world over which she has no control. 

There are definite sinister undertones in this cleverly put together psychological thriller with more than a hint of the futuristic involvement of artificial intelligence so that we are never quite sure where the truth is hidden or indeed if, like Iris, we are also being drip fed only the information we think we need to know. That's what made the story all the more compelling as even when I thought I had the measure of the plot it veered off into a direction I didn't see coming.

Iris is an interesting character, completely flawed and quite often unreliable in her narration but that lends a certain frisson of excitement to this sophisticated and intelligent thriller. I enjoyed the fast pace of the story, it certainly doesn't drag its feet and the intricacy of the plot is perfectly maintained in short and concise chapters which help to keep up the claustrophobic and daunting atmosphere of Iris and her newly emerging life. Very believable, and with a futuristic edginess I found fascinating The Glass Woman is a commendable debut novel which makes us question the truth about morals, memory and how, maybe in the future, all this will be manipulated and controlled by Artificial Intelligence.

About the Author

Alice McIlroy was born in London. She graduated in English and has a post-graduate in Law. She completed Faber Academy’s novel-writing programme. She has taught English in state schools in London and Milan, and volunteers with a post-natal depression charity. Her writing has been longlisted for the Stylist Prize for Feminist Fiction and Grindstone International Novel Prize. The Glass Woman is her debut novel. 

Twitter/X @alice_mcilroy



Wednesday 10 January 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Widow’s Choice by Nancy Revell


4 January 2024

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
and to publicist, Sarah Harwood for the invitation to the blog tour

1949, County Durham

When Angie marries her sweetheart Quentin and moves into Cuthford Manor to begin their new life together, she feels like the luckiest woman in the world.But Quentin falls victim to a tragic accident and Angie's life is left devastated. Now, along with the prospect of rebuilding her life, she is faced with an impossible choice that will have far-reaching consequences for herself and those she loves most.Angie will need to draw on the help of her family, the community of Cuthford Manor and her old friends from the shipyards if she's to find happiness again.

πŸ“– My Review..

I've been a huge fan of this author's work and thoroughly enjoyed reading the best selling series about the The Shipyard Girls so I was excited to be given the opportunity to dive into a new story also set in the North East of England and which follows the fortunes of the Shipyard Girls after the war is over.

In The Widow's Choice we meet with Angie Foxton-Clarke who, as a recent young widow, finds that life is even more complicated especially with an awkward mother-in-law who feels that Angie isn't up to the challenge of running the family home at Cuthford Manor. Angie needs to draw on all the strength of will that she needed during her time in the shipyards and with the help of old friends she starts to build a new life for herself, her family and her friends. As always the author draws on her knowledge of the North East and brings such a warmth and empathy to her characters that you can't help but invest emotionally both in terms of the way the story unfolds and in also in the depth of characterisation, so that the place and people live in your imagination.

I don't want to give away any spoilers except to say that life is definitely complicated for Angie and the occupants of Cuthford Manor and whilst it has been delightful to meet up again with old friends from the Shipyard series, I did thoroughly enjoy The Widow’s Choice entirely on its own merits. Authentically researched and with a warmth I found completely entertaining, this is a lovely follow on story which can be read as part of the series or as a standalone novel.

About the Author

Nancy Revell is the author of 12 titles in the bestselling Shipyard Girls series, which tells the story of a group of women who work in a Sunderland shipyard during WWII. Her books have sold more than half a million copies across all editions.before that, she was a journalist who worked for all the national newspapers, providing them with hard hitting features, She also wrote inspirational true-life stories for just about every woman;s magazine in the country. Nancy was born and brought up in the North East of England and now lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, Paul.

Twitter @arevellwalton #TheWidowsChoice




Monday 8 January 2024

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Harbour Lights Mystery by Emylia Hall


Thomas and Mercer
October 2023

My thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of this book

As The Shell House Detectives try to solve a family mystery, their investigation runs dangerously close to a murder case. Are the two linked?

It’s December in Cornwall, and Mousehole harbour is illuminated with its famous Christmas lights. Ally Bright is among the crowd listening to the carol singers—and then to the piercing screams that rip through the darkness. A body has been found, brutally murdered and dumped in a fisherman’s boat.

The victim is chef JP Sharpe and there is no shortage of people who might have wanted him dead. Eager for a new case for The Shell House Detectives, Ally calls ex-cop Jayden, but he’s keen to leave it to the police—until a letter in Sharpe’s pocket draws them into a seemingly unconnected family mystery. As they take on this highly charged mission, the duo can’t help scrutinising the murder suspects. Who among the close-knit community has reason to kill, and how far will they go to protect themselves?

As fear spreads, Ally and Jayden need answers—fast. Could the letter offer a clue to the murder case or will it reveal a terrible truth? And when a new witness comes to light, Jayden closes in on a desperate killer…but can he warn Ally in time?

πŸ“– My Review..

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this cosy crimes series so it has been a real pleasure to return to Cornwall to see what The Shell House Detectives get up to in this latest offering from this talented writer.

The discovery of a murder victim in the festively decorated Mousehole harbour upsets the local community during their annual carol singing in December and when the identity of the victim is known there are people in the community who have no reason to mourn JP Sharpe's tragic demise. With the local police doing what they can to find the murderer, private detectives, Ally Bright and her Shell House detective partner, Jayden Weston are tasked with finding the identity of someone who hasn't wanted to be found for over thirty years and in doing so they become inextricably linked to the murder case. With more questions than answers this complicated plot veers off in several different directions and I had enjoyed trying to put together all the jigsaw puzzle pieces in this complex murder mystery. The Harbour Lights Mystery flows well, the many twists and turns of the plot certainly keep up the momentum and the characters who flit into and out of the story bring their own special brand of Cornish warmth, wit and charm.

As always, Cornwall forms an integral part of the story, we learn of the challenges facing local fishermen, the anguish of not having enough money and the constant worry of businesses who need to thrive during the tourist season so that they may survive the leaner months of winter. I've thoroughly enjoyed my visit back to Cornwall and love spending time with The Shell House Detectives and look forward to the next book in the series, which I hope is coming soon.

About the Author


Twitter @emyliahall #TheHarbourLightsMystery