Thursday, 24 August 2017

Blog Tour~ The Way Back to Us by Kay Langdale

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop

Kay Langdale’s new novel explores how a marriage can fracture - ‘the conscientious ploughing of furrows and then the lifting of heads to see, with mild surprise, a pathway of completely opposing directions.’

August 2017

What's it all about..

Anna and Tom have two young children, Isaac and Teddy. When Teddy, aged one, is diagnosed with a life limiting illness, Anna devotes herself to caring for him full time while Tom becomes increasingly absorbed in his career.

Motherhood for Anna quickly becomes a state of siege; with Teddy requiring constant vigilance and what seems like an army of health workers scrutinising her every move. Swamped by her responsibilities, and unable to acknowledge the impact that Teddy’s diagnosis has had on her personally, the first casualty of the situation is her marriage. The second is Isaac, who, watchful and sensitive, regards his mother and his brother with an equally solicitous eye.

With Tom increasingly finding himself marginalised and inadequate, he and Anna reach a point when neither of them is able truthfully to say what they think or feel. And, captivated by the sunny vivacity of his work colleague Eliza, Tom begins to question whether having a very ill child makes considering leaving a marriage more morally culpable.

It is only when Anna realises the danger her marriage is in that she is forced to process the impact that Teddy’s diagnosis has had upon her, and Tom has to recognise his share of the blame.

In The Way Back to Us, Anna and Tom are faced with very particular, amplified circumstances in a novel which, at heart, explores the complexities of modern marriage and parenting.

What did I think about it ...

Modern marriage and parenting is the focus for this first person narrative driven novel which explores how living with a child with a profound disability can have a devastating effect on a marriage, especially when that child's life limiting disease completely takes over family life. Meeting with Tom and Anna and their children Isaac and Teddy shines a spotlight on this difficult subject.

Gradually we meet all four characters in the novel, who in their own words explain just what is going on in their lives. I found this way of telling the story particularly interesting and especially looked forward to Teddy's narrative which brought to poignant life the difficulties he experienced, and how he coped with living in his own limited way. I felt really sorry for Tom and Isaac who, so often, seemed to be floundering, no longer the focus of Anna's attention as all her energy went into keeping Teddy safe from harm.

The Way Back to Us highlights in a very readable way the struggles and difficulties families face on a daily basis when all too often they are fighting a system which hinders more than it helps. There is no doubt that Anna is Teddy's champion, battling for him every single step of the way but at what cost to her own well being and that of her marriage. She struggles to cope but feels that she can't back off for a single second because if she does Teddy will suffer. I think for me one of the saddest sentences came towards the end of the novel  when Anna admitted to her husband, Tom, that, "I can no longer see where Teddy stops and I begin..."

The Way back to Us is a powerful and poignant story which tackles a sensitive and difficult subject. It’s a story which will resonate with anyone who has a child with a disability or life limiting disease but, I think that it will also act as a timely reminder to the rest of us to never make assumptions because we never truly know what's going on in other people's lives or indeed of how we would cope in similar circumstances.

©John Cairns
Kay Langdale is the author of five novels: Away From You, Choose Me, Her Giant Octopus Moment, What the Heart Knows (Rowohlt, Germany) and Redemption (Transita; published as If Not Love by Thomas Dunne Books.
She taught twentieth century literature at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford and worked as a copywriter in a brand development consultancy. She is married, has four grown-up children and lives in Oxfordshire

Twitter @kaylangdale #TheWayBackToUs

My thanks to Jasmine at Hodder for her invitation to be part of this blog tour and for my copy of

 The Way Back to Us.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Summer Read 2017 ~ The Girl With the Make Believe Husband by Julia Quinn

Rokesby #2

What's it all about...

With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He's unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier's life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie...

I told everyone I was your wife..

What did I think about it..

Cecilia Harcourt pretends she is married to the handsome officer who she carefully looks after, not because of any romantic feeling she has for him, you understand, but out of necessity in order to help find her brother, Thomas who is missing. What then follows is a light and easy to read romantic adventure which continues in the same style as Julia Quinn's other historical novels.

There were times when I had to suspend belief, especially when the subterfuge on Cecilia's part got a little too far fetched especially when she continued with the charade for far longer than was really necessary, but hey ho, after all, this is romantic fiction. Edward Rokesby makes a fine romantic hero, dashing, chivalrous and with bags of charisma, that he struggles with his overwhelming attraction to Cecilia is in keeping with the way the author portrays his character. All of which makes the inevitable "can't keep his hands off her " scenario all the more enjoyable to read 😉

Overall, I thought that the story was entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the deliciously romantic frisson of excitement in the "will they, won't they" aspect of Cecilia's and Edward's burgeoning romance, which adds a smidgen of passion.  As escapist romantic historical fiction this story ticks all the boxes and I am sure that fans of Julia Quinn's writing will it snap up along with all the other books in her romantic historical series.

This book is the second in the Rokesby series which started with Because of Miss Bridgerton. It can, of course, be read a standalone novel.

You can find out more about the author on her website by clicking here 

My thanks to Clara at Little Brown Books for my review copy of The Make Believe Husband


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Summer Read ~ Summer at Hope Meadows by Lucy Daniels


What's it all about...

Based on the globally bestselling Animal Ark series. 

Newly-qualified vet Mandy Hope is leaving Leeds - and her fiancé Simon - to return to the Yorkshire village she grew up in. There, she will help out in her parents' surgery whilst they're short-staffed. Mandy's life has always revolved around her work with rescued animals, and Welford offers an opportunity to work with creatures of all sizes, from hedgehogs and puppies to farm stock and even wild deer.

But rural Yorkshire is very different to the hustle and bustle of a big city. Mandy must work hard to be accepted by the close-knit village community, and convince them of her abilities as a vet - especially Jimmy Marsh, the gruff owner of the local Outward Bound business, with whom she just can't seem to get along.

When some long-neglected animals are discovered in a critical state on a nearby farm, Mandy is determined to prove herself as a confident and fearless vet. When it comes to protecting animals in need, she's prepared to do whatever it takes..

What did I think about it ...

As a young teenager I was fascinated by the James Herriot series on TV and went on to read some of James Herriot's books which delightfully recall his lively adventures as a young vet in Yorkshire.

Summer at Hope Meadows follows this tradition and gives us a lovely story of what it's like to be working with animals and travelling around the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. I have to admit to not being familiar with the Animal Ark series of children's books, so I come to this new adult series with no preconceptions of what I want the characters to be like.

I think that the author has done a great job of bringing the stories up to date and felt completely at ease with the way the story unfolded. I enjoyed getting to know newly qualified vet, Mandy Hope, as she returns to the small Yorkshire village of her childhood. But leaving behind a progressive city veterinary practice and returning to rural work is both difficult and challenging for Mandy, especially as her boyfriend, Simon, isn't very supportive.

I really enjoyed this lovely romp through the glorious Yorkshire countryside and enjoyed reading of the challenges that Amanda faced as she set about helping her parents, both vets, who are struggling to cope with the demands of their aptly named, Animal Ark veterinary business. I thought that the medical aspects of the story were particularly well done, which reflects on the author's own experiences as a qualified vet herself.

I especially loved the interaction between Mandy and her best friend, James, who is facing heartache of a very different kind and of course, the animals themselves tug away at your heartstrings, especially the gentle shire horse, Bill and the damaged collie, Sky.

Summer at Hope Meadows is a really lovely summer read and the start of a promising new series of books which I am sure will delight readers.

Best Read with...Tea and scones from James' tea shop in York

About the Author

Lucy Daniels is the collective name for the writing team that created the bestselling children's book series Animal Ark. Hope Meadows is a brand new Lucy Daniels series for adult readers, featuring the characters and locations that were so beloved of the original series.

This new title, Summer at Hope Meadows has been written by a new author called Sarah McGurk who has the advantage of being passionate about the animal ark series and also a fully qualified vet.

My thank to Jenni  and the team at Hodder for my review copy of Summer at Hope Meadows


Monday, 21 August 2017

Review ~ The Monster's Daughter by Michelle Pretorius

MPH Books 2017
Mellville House
Paperback now released 27 July 2017

What's it all about..

Somewhere on the South African veldt, 1901: At the height of the Boer War, a doctor at a British concentration camp conducts a series of grim experiments on Boer prisoners. His work ends in chaos, but two children survive: a boy named Benjamin, and a girl named Tessa.

One hundred years later, a disgraced young police constable is reassigned to the sleepy South African town of Unie, where she makes a terrifying discovery: the body of a young woman, burned beyond recognition.

The crime soon leads her into her country's violent past a past that includes her father, a high-ranking police official under the apartheid regime, and the children left behind in that long ago concentration camp.

What did I think about it..

The novel opens in 2010 where we meet one of our protagonists. Alet is a young police officer who has been sent to the small South African town of Unie following a professional misdemeanour. Suspicious of a woman police officer the locals don't take kindly to Alet and she faces small town prejudice which hampers her investigation into the death of a young woman.

Travelling back in time to the early 1900s, we meet Tessa Morgan who senses that she is different but who lives a fairly sheltered existence with her father Andrew Morgan who was once a soldier caught up in the Boer War conflict.

On the surface neither of these stories should have any real connection but gradually as the jigsaw puzzle starts to slot together, we begin to understand the links between a modern day South African police officer and a series of uncomfortable experiments which happened over a hundred years ago during the Boer War.

Initially, I found the novel difficult to get into until I had found some emotional connection to the characters which took a little while to sit easy with me. However, by about a third of the way into the story I found that the finer points of the plot became easier to follow. In many ways this is a slow burner of a story and one which requires concentration and an ability to just go along with the story wherever it leads.

The author writes well and explains the South African history and landscape as only a true South African can. Combining dark historical fiction with a chilling modern day murder mystery is an inspired idea which, in The Monster’s Daughter, comes together in a shattering conclusion.

About the Author

Michelle Pretorius was born and raised in South Africa. She received an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago and is currently a PhD candidate at Ohio University. She has written for a number of publications, including Bookslut, Word Riot, and the Copperfield Review. She is a recipient of the John Schultz and Betty Shiflett prize and lives in Athens, Ohio.

My thanks to Nikki at Melville House books for my review copy of The Monster's Daughter


Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

I enjoy reading books set during WW1 which cover as wide a range as possible. 

In August I will share more of my favourites


Set before and during the Great War, BIRDSONG captures the drama of that era on both a national and personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. His life goes through a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experience of the war itself.

Birdsong is s deeply moving and beautifully written account of Stephen Wraysford's journey from his first arrival, in 1910, to the industrial French town of Amiens, to his meeting with the beautiful wife of his host, Azaire, and to his later involvement in the conflict that would rip Europe apart.

Birdsong forms part of Sebastian Faulk's French trilogy 

1743996 7902726


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Close to Home ~ Thank you

In October 2016, I started my Close to Home feature in order to highlight authors who are based in the north of England, literally close to home. Since then I've been privileged to work with 44 amazing authors who have embraced the idea of sharing what's so special about the north of England and have shown this love in an array of eloquent guest posts and enlightening interviews.

I am immensely grateful to them all for their enthusiasm and for sharing their love of the north and for explaining just how this marvellous northern landscape shapes their writing.

Click on the author to discover what makes the north such a special place for them...

Karl Drinkwater
Liz Bower
Jo Hollywood
Deborah Swift
Marie Laval

A D Garrett and Helen Pepper
John R McKay
Kate Field
Lyn G Farrell

Cath Cole
J Carmen Smith
Ian Skillicorn

Paula Martin 
Martin Edwards
Paula Daly
Cath Staincliffe

Sarah Jasmon
Caroline James
Debbie Johnson
June Taylor

Nicci Rae
Kate Rigby
Pauline Barclay
Claire Brown

Barbara Copperthwaite
Gina Kirkham
Claire Coombes
Carys Bray
Sue Featherstone

Amanda Brooke
Caroline Wallace
Beth Underdown
Kirsty Ferry

Jan Ruth
Helena Fairfax
Melinda Hammond
June Francis

Rebecca Mascull
Sharon Booth
Elizabeth Ashworth
Susan Pape
Susanna Bavin

Helen Steadman
Alyson Rhodes

 A whopping big  to everyone who has taken part in Close to Home 

Jaffareadstoo couldn't have done this without you all.

Close to Home will be back sometime in the future bringing you lots more fabulous Northern Writers


Friday, 18 August 2017

First Remembered Read ~ Historical Novel

Those of us who read, and who are influenced by books, tend to squirrel away our memories of all the stories we have read over the years. 

And yet, there is always that one special book tucked away in the far corner of your mind which reminds you just why you love reading so much…

During July and August I've invited a few friends to share their First Remembered Read..

I'm thrilled to welcome to Jaffareadstoo

The Passionate Brood by Margaret Campbell Barnes

As a young reader, in that difficult transition between child and adult - no YA in those days - I picked up a book in my local library called The Passionate Brood. It was the cover that took my eye: two knight jousting with all the colour of heraldry, of banners and pavilions and ladies watching their knights fight for the glory of victory in the tournament. I doubt it was very accurate but the image appealed. I also remember my mother looking askance at the title - we were far more innocent in those distant days - but the book came home with me.


It is a Plantagenet story of the family of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, particularly of King Richard I, packed with all the romantic elements of high chivalry. It is also unashamedly romantic in bringing Berengaria onto the scene, as well as the character of Robin Hood. And I loved it. The elegant style and marvellous detail brought these characters to life, even though they lived more than six hundred years ago. They were real and engaged my emotions, living with me in all their passion, their loyalties and betrayals, as I devoured the book. Their conversations drew me in to their joys and their sorrows. I wept with Berengaria when King Richard met his death at the end. 

At that time it did not matter to me that there was no evidence for the romance, or for these particular origins of Robin Hood. The world that The Passionate Brood opened for me was simply magical. It has never lost its fascination.


The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

I have no doubt at all that this book ignited my love of hiding away in the past, and I quickly graduated to Goudge’s historical fiction for adults – a full collection of which I was thrilled to find on my mother’s bookshelves. My mother died when I was ten, and having this shared love of a particular novelist means a great deal to me.

I re-read “The Little White Horse” every year, and also at times of stress as I find it reliably calming and reassuring. I made the mistake of recommending it to a book club, and they tore it to shreds, pointing out the clumsy religious imagery which had gone – indeed, still goes – right over my head. I learnt from this and have avoided both the “Moonacre” television series and the film “The Secret of Moonacre”, which are based on the novel, in case things are not as I have always pictured them in my imagination. I once saw a very handsome hardcover edition in a bookshop, but nothing would tempt me away from my much-sellotaped, worm-eaten little paperback.


Huge thanks to Anne and Susan for sharing the memories 

of their First Historical Read with me today.

Next week : My First Horror Novel