Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Untying the Knot...

UNTYING THE KNOT - a bitter-sweet love story from the award-winning author of Kindle bestseller, HOUSE OF SILENCE.

A wife is meant to stand by her man. Especially an army wife. But Fay didn't. She walked away - from Magnus, her traumatised war hero husband and from the home he was restoring: Tullibardine Tower, a ruined 16th century tower house on a Perthshire hillside. Now their daughter, Emily is marrying someone she shouldn't. And so is Magnus...

"Everyone makes mistakes, but I sometimes think I’ve made more than most. Marrying Magnus was one of them. But the biggest mistake I ever made was divorcing him."

jaffa and I are dancing with joy as Linda Gillard's latest e-book UNTYING THE KNOT has now been released as an ebook and I downloaded it to kindle yesterday.

Started it last night and really enjoyed the first few chapters ....I could very well have sat up and read through the night - it's THAT good !!

Go....Team Magnus !!

Will review when I've finished !!!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011



Jaffa and I are delighted to announce that we have had ONE THOUSAND views since we started our little book blog - so a whopping THANK YOU to everyone who has taken a little peek at our mumblings -

We really appreciate it.....


Please come back and see us some more ....xxxx

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Interview with author Linda Gillard...

Winner of Woman's Weekly's poll for Favourite Romantic Novel 1960-2010
Shortlisted for the Robin Jenkins Literary Award
and Romantic Novel of the Year 2009

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the author LINDA GILLARD, who has kindly taken time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.....

Linda is the successful author of several novels - her most recent titles are now available as e-books :

HOUSE OF SILENCE a Kindle best seller on Amazon

Her latest eagerly awaited e-book UNTYING THE KNOT is due out at the beginning of September.

What inspired you to become an author?

It wasn’t something I ever planned. I’d had careers as an actress, a journalist and then a teacher, but I had a very unhappy time as a teacher and had a nervous breakdown. While convalescing, I did a lot of reading and I started writing fiction because I couldn’t find the sort of book I wanted to read. So I decided to write one for myself.
That became my first novel, EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY which was published in 2005. I had no intention of trying to get it published. It was a love story and the heroine was 47, so I never thought there was the slightest chance of it being published. But I really enjoyed writing it and got the writing bug. I had a sense that this was something that I could be good at, that it was what I should actually be doing with my life. So I joined an online writers group and they encouraged me to try and get an agent because they thought the book was good enough to publish.
So that’s what I did. And I’m now about to publish my fifth novel, UNTYING THE KNOT and finish writing my sixth.

What comes first – the plot, or the people?

People, always. I don’t even need a plot. I can start writing if I’ve got a few interesting characters and a situation I think sound promising. Character is plot as far as I’m concerned.
The book doesn’t really take off until the hero has come to life. I sometimes find my heroines come together much later. It takes me longer to get to know them for some reason – perhaps because I find male characters much easier and more interesting to write.
I think every novel has started with a central character – often the hero – who has a dilemma or a big issue in their life. Because I tend to write about women in their 40s, they have a colourful history. They’ve been around the block a few times!

Do your characters arrived fully formed, or do you base them on people you know?

They don’t come fully formed but I don’t base them on people I know. Obviously you lift aspects of your characters from people you know and I do that for some of my subsidiary characters. Over the years I’ve met a lot of middle-aged romantic novelists, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to write Louisa, the paranormal romance author in STAR GAZING. I’ve known a few climbers, so it was easy to write Gavin in EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY. But most of my main characters – blind Marianne in STAR GAZING; Hugh, the troubled priest and Rory the concert pianist in A LIFETIME BURNING; Magnus the bomb disposal expert in UNTYING THE KNOT – are unlike anyone I’ve actually known. They’re partly the product of research, but mostly imagination.

Having said all that, I do base my characters physically on real people, but not people I know. I start with an idea – a vague one – of what my characters look like and then I look for pictures that will help me visualize them more clearly.
I use photos of people I find in magazines or on the web. I used to cut them out and make a sort of scrapbook for the novel, but now I save photos I find online and have a slide-show on my desktop. I use actors, musicians, writers – it can be anyone. They just have to look right! I’m currently writing a supernatural romance and my ghost hero is based physically on a dancer who’s extremely pale and has bright red hair.

What was the inspiration behind your new book Untying the Knot?

I’d written about all kinds of love over the years but realised I’d never written much about marriage. I’d also never written about divorce. So I decided my hero and heroine would be a divorced couple. The twist would be, they never should have divorced, because five years on, they’re still in love with each other and can’t move on. That seemed a promising scenario, but I still had to find an interesting hero and heroine (and my readers have very high expectations of my heroes!)
Sometimes these things just fall into your lap. Driving through the Glasgow suburbs one day, I saw a white van parked on the drive of an ordinary house. The lettering on the side of the van said “Bomb Disposal Unit”. My ever-curious brain immediately started asking questions. Was this where a bomb disposal technician lived?... What sort of a man does that kind of job… Then my novelist’s brain kicked in with more questions. What sort of boy grows up to become a man who will dedicate his life to the most dangerous job in the world? And what sort of woman would marry a man like that? And what would their marriage be like?... Answering those questions was a novel. I hadn’t done much research into bomb disposal before learning that the extraordinary men (and some women) who do this job don’t use the layman’s term “bomb squad”. They refer to working in “Explosive Ordnance Disposal” or EOD. In the trade, this also stands for “Everyone’s divorced” because of the toll the job takes on marriage.
None of my novels has ever come together as a concept more quickly or easily than UNTYING THE KNOT. But strangely, none has taken longer or been more difficult to write!

Do you find that writing comes easily to you?

Yes, I do, in as much as writer’s block is almost unknown to me and I’m never stuck for ideas. (My problem is rather having too many ideas and having to decide how many of them can be crammed into a single novel!) Drafting comes more easily now I’ve learned to accept that many pages of rubbish are generated in the production of a novel. (Margaret Atwood said something helpful on this subject and every author should have it pinned up over their desk: (Margaret Atwood said something helpful on this subject and every author should have it pinned up over their desk: “A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The waste-basket has evolved for a reason.”)
The hard graft for me is in the editing. I spend much longer editing my work than writing the first draft. I work very hard at dialogue, trying to make it sound authentic, giving every character his/her own voice. Readers often say they like my characters because they’re “believable”. One of the reasons readers believe in them is they don’t all sound the same.

Do you write books for yourself, or other people?

Definitely for myself, even though I now have a considerable following. I think it just so happens that my fans like the kind of books I like to write! I started writing fiction to entertain myself. I was dissatisfied with the heroes and heroines I found in women’s commercial fiction. I was 47 at the time, married with teenage children and I couldn’t really relate to all those nice-but-dippy young women obsessing about shoes, chocolate and finding a man. Grumpy, arrogant alpha males didn’t ring my bell either. (Good looks aren’t enough for me. I like heroes to be funny, kind, heroic-but-flawed. To judge from the devoted following my heroes now have, a lot of women share my taste in fictional men!)
I thought it had to be possible to write something more realistic, yet still maintain the romance. I think that’s what I’ve done in my novels. They aren’t “romances”, they’re love stories, grounded in a reality – sometimes a very tough reality – that belongs more to literary fiction than the Romance genre.

Who are your favourite authors?

In alphabetical order: Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Dickens, Daphne du Maurier, Dorothy Dunnett, Penelope Fitzgerald, Margaret Forster, Georgette Heyer, Patrick O’ Brian, Gillian Philip, Shakespeare, Mary Stewart, P G Wodehouse.

What is your favourite classic novel?

Ooh, that’s a tough one... Not sure I could choose just one. If I did, it would be MANSFIELD PARK, WUTHERING HEIGHTS or VILLETTE. Those 3 books have had a huge influence on m. I think you can see traces of them in my novels – respectively, HOUSE OF SILENCE, A LIFETIME BURNING and STAR GAZING.

What are you reading at the moment, and where do you read?

I sit in a very comfy armchair in my study, which has a wonderful view of Brodick Bay, the mountain Goat Fell and on a good day, the Scottish mainland. (I live on the Isle of Arran.)
I usually have several books on the go – some for research, some for pleasure. At the moment I’m reading (for pleasure and research) a book on geology: THE HIDDEN LANDSCAPE by Richard Fortey. He writes wonderfully. I’m also reading a novel, THE SEASON OF SECOND CHANCES by Diane Meier.
If you could give one piece of advice to a budding author what would it be, and why?
Write for writing’s sake. Don’t expect publication or financial reward – you are very unlikely to get either. Writing is its own reward anyway. (When you feel angry about your unsolicited manuscript being rejected, remember: nobody asked you to submit it!

Thank you so much Linda for giving such insightful answers - jaffa and I delighted that you could visit our blog, and we wish you every success with the launch of your forthcoming e-book UNTYING THE KNOT - can't wait to read and review it.

Quirky Questions....

Little Sunday book mutterings...

Hardback or Paperback?

There are some books that I like to collect in hardback - I have some beautiful classic hardbacks which I keep fairly pristine, and there are selected authors whose work I collect in hardback - Philippa Gregory and Karen Maitland are the two most eagerly awaited - their books have beautiful covers.

And I would kill to get my hands on the complete Diana Gabaldon back list in hardback - I have the first three books in paperback, and they are literally falling apart - although thanks to Santa USA - I did get a copy of Outlander in large format paperback last year.

BUT - generally I'm a paperback sort of girl.....they're easy to carry around, easy to read -so long as the print's not too tiny - and easy to bundle up in the post to give to friends !

Treebook or ebook?

This is a difficult one because I have shelves fit to burst with paper books, and yet I also really love my Kindle - it was the best Christmas gift ever - I think that there's room in the world for both and would hate to see the demise of paper books and traditional book sellers - that's why I support both options. There's nothing better than the sights, sounds and smell of a really good book shop.....but then one click ordering on Amazon is just so easy !!

Buy or Swap?

I have a foot in both camps here - I love buying books for myself, and as gifts for my book minded friends - I also pick up books in charity shops whenever I can, but my main love is swapping books and I have been an active member of readitswapit since 2006, and have swapped over 450 books - I've also made some good friends in the process and have had the pleasure of giving my books away to people who will love them as much as I did.

Since 2009 I am been a bookmoocher - using BookMooch I have continued to send my books to fellow bibliophiles -using this site enables my books to travel all around the world, they have been sent far and wide-as far the Philippines...

or more recently - a mooch conducted on my own doorstep with a fellow moocher who lived 2 miles away.

I also act as a bookmooch angel and send hard to get books overseas.....

It's amazing to think that books have the power to unite so many people.,



Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Girl in the Mirror by Sarah Gristwood...

I've had this book sitting on my book shelf for a couple of months since its publication in June 2011 - so in between review books I thought that I would give myself a treat, and read Sarah Gristwood's first novel.

I've been a fan of her historical biographies, and have two of her books which I dip into from time to time....
  • Arbella: England's Lost Queen
  • Elizabeth & Leicester: Power,Passion, Politics

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 5paws

It's so refreshing to have a book about Elizabethan England that doesn't focus entirely upon Elizabeth the Queen.

This book follows the fortunes of Jeanne Musset. Orphaned, and forced to flee the Low Countries as a small child, Jeanne lives her early life in London, disguised as a boy. As an adult, her exceptional talent for drawing botanical specimens will take her into the circle of the charismatic Earl of Essex, whose own meteoritic rise to glory is about to come to an end.

Beautifully written, this book evokes all the sights and sensations of the last few years of Elizabeth's reign - when to be young, talented and female was sometimes a price to much too pay.

Sarah Gristwood has used her knowledge of the Tudor period to create a strong story, with believable characters, and a real sense of time and place.

I look forward to her next novel.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Caligula:The Tryanny of Rome by Douglas Jackson

I was delighted to be given the chance to read this as part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge

I’m part of the Transworld Book Group!’

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating : 0 paws - he passed on this one.

Set against the magnificent backdrop of ancient Rome, this story focuses mainly on Rufus, a young slave, who, as the keeper of Caligula’s Imperial elephant, becomes embroiled in the machinations of the Emperor’s court. Bringing together the sights, sounds and smells of ancient Rome, the decadence and depravity of Caligula’s rule is expertly described, and whilst the underlying brutality is never far from the surface, the book is never just gratuitously violent. However, Caligula is at times a very dark story; the spectacle of violent death is never far away, with scenes of animal and human cruelty which some readers may find distressing, yet, all are perfectly placed within the historical perspective, and the context of the story.

It’s not easy to portray Caligula as a person with feelings and sensitivities, but the author has done meticulous research, and it shows in the quality of the writing and in the fine attention to detail. The complexity of Caligula’s deviant personality permeates throughout the story, and yet, with some of the other characters, there are genuine moments of tenderness, a sense of friendship pervades, and despite the violence, love and life carry on.

On a personal level, I found the story to be a gripping and exciting read, without being overly complicated with too much historical detail. Teeming with intrigue, the pace is fast and furious, with an underlying sense of menace that continues until its powerful conclusion.

Caligula is the first book in a proposed trilogy; I hope the next two books will be equally as compelling.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


Sometimes Jaffa just likes to curl up on my reading chair - he always manages to get the best seat in the house..... but when he looks so comfy, it's hard to disturb him....

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

I recently re-discovered this author - having read one of her earlier books many years ago - I am now pleased that she is continuing to produce really good stories.
Can't wait for the next one ....

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating: 5paws - he loves a good smuggler story- all that swash and buckle !

When Eva's sister Katrina dies, Eva returns to Trelowarth in Cornwall to her childhood friends, Mark and Susan. Whilst staying in this safe haven, Eva becomes immersed in the past, and finds that she can slip through time, and go back to the 18c. She soon becomes involved in the story of Jack and Daniel Butler, and to a time when Trelowarth was home to a bunch of Jacobite smugglers, and when danger lurked on every corner.

This is a very cleverly constructed dual time story , with each section perfectly believable and blending perfectly within the narrative. The author, Susanna Kearsley has this genre very much conquered - each book is a joy to read.

Highly recommended.

Here are her books so far :

The Shadowy Horses
The Splendour Falls
Named of the Dragon
Season of Storms
Every Secret Thing
The Winter Sea/ Sophia's Secret
The Rose Garden

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Keeping it local...

I had a lovely morning at a local farmer's market, and was able to stock up on good quality local produce, including my favourite toiletries which are hand made by Tiger Muffin Soaps. I've given so many gifts of these little soaps - they have travelled all over the UK. My favourites are the lovely soothing Lavender, and the Rose Geranium.

Looking at the crafts on offer at the market, I was inspired to try my hand at Felting - I love to design and knit bags -so to add another dimension would be a really useful skill, and something to concentrate on over Winter.....and it's a great excuse to go and look for a local pure wool stockist.

Jaffa loves wool and never harms my knitting, however, his friend Timmy who visits regularly tends to treat wool with suspicion, and would attack it given half a chance -

Happy Sunday everyone..

Friday, 19 August 2011

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows

Sheer indulgence but well worth a read if you are a Diana Gabaldon fan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 5paws - closing his eyes.... and saying - "not another Outlander book -"

I only acquired a copy of the tales of Star Crossed Love because I wanted to read the novella A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon.

If you are familiar with the Outlander series - you will understand the need to find out just a little bit more about some of the minor characters.

This is Jerry McKenzie's story - he's Roger's father - and was lost during WW2 when his spitfire crashed and burned.

It's a beautifully evocative story, perfectly capturing the essence of London in the blitz, and the sheer horror of finding yourself in the wrong time and place.

For those who have read Echo in the Bone - it provides a few more clues....

It could have happened.....

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Reviewed for newbooks magazine

I was delighted to be given a copy of this book to review for newbooksmag

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 5 paws

When Non Davies's husband, Davey,returns from the Great War, she is relieved to have him home in one piece, and yet Davey bears the unseen scars of war, and still lives with the horror of the trenches. Non must use all her skills, and do what must be done in order to keep her family together.

This quietly understated book is a delight to read, the story gripped me from its opening chapter, and kept me enthralled until its emotional conclusion. There is an underlying strength which comes from fine writing, great attention to detail, and the author’s natural ability to tell a good story.

Read it if you can.

Great reading with my Alphabet Authors....

I'm always keen to vary my reading with simple challenges - this is my 2011 Alphabet challenge - it's an attempt to cover every letter of the alphabet with a different author.

Anything goes - all have been great reads !!

A = Started early, took my dog by Kate Atkinson
B = Too Close to Home by Linwood Barclay
C = The Stonehenge Legacy by Sam Christer
D = The Secrets Between Us by Louise Douglas
E =
F = Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
G = Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon
H = The Hummingbird and the Baer by Nicholas Hogg
I =
J = A Hidden Affair by Pam Jenoff
K = The Forgotten Legion by Ben Kane
L = Catching the Tide by Judith Lennox
M =The Gallow's Curse by Karen Maitland
N = The Summer House by Mary Nichold
O =The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
P = Private Lives by Tasmina Perry
Q= Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn
R = Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
S = Blow on a Dead Man's Embers by Mari Strachan
T =Crimson China by Betsy Tobin
U =
V =
W = The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
X =
Y =We all Ran into the Sunlight by Natalie Young
Z =

As you can see there are still a few letters still to cover - I'm working on it

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

I was delighted to be given the chance to read this book as part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge -

I’m part of the Transworld Book Group!’

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 5paws - he loved Spike !

Like a jewel in India’s crown, this beautifully written historical novel layers together a multifaceted story of love, loss, hope and redemption. The first part of the book opens in 1947, and we follow the story of Evie and Martin Mitchell, who, together with their five year old son Billy, settle into the Indian village of Masoorla. Martin, traumatised by an event he witnessed in WW2, is hoping to find resolution by researching Indian life for a thesis on the politics of modern India. Meanwhile, Evie is left to tend to Billy, and to their small rented bungalow, which she is determined to manage with the minimum of servants. Whilst cleaning out the old kitchen, Evie discovers a bundle of letters written by two emancipated Victorian ladies, who corresponded during the 1850’s. With little else to occupy her time, Evie soon becomes immersed in the story of Adela Winfield, and Felicity Chadwick. The Victorian element to the story focuses on the relationship between Adela and Felicity, and takes us from their shared childhood in England, through to the time they spent together sharing the bungalow in Masoorla. Victorian social traditions are expertly captured, revealing bigotry, racism, and devastating hardship, and yet there is an overwhelming sense of continuity, as piece by piece, Evie is able to uncover a story which reveals the power of love against adversity.

From the beginning of this book I was enchanted with the sights, sounds and smells of India; all are beautifully described, and perfectly represent time and place. The switch between the dual time elements is seamless and absorbing, as both stories capture the imagination perfectly. The history of India is explained with great precision and empathy, and whilst the politics are complicated and shocking, nothing is allowed to detract from the stark beauty of this troubled landscape.

Elle Newmark has produced a warm and satisfying novel which captivates and enthrals from the opening page. It kept me reading long into the night, and is definitely one of those books I will recommend to my friends.

I was saddened to learn that Elle Newmark died in July this year, her exceptional writing talent will be sadly missed.
I am sure that her lasting legacy will live on in her books.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

So excited...

Jaffa and I are so excited to be taking part in the 2011 Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge

Here's what we have chosen to read and review over the next few months - can't wait !!

A huge thank you to Transworld for organising such a great challenge.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

My Latest Review is The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

This is my latest review for Newbooks and is one of the best debut books I have read for a while.
Jaffa enjoyed it but wasn't too keen on the treatment of some of the cats in the story - that made him cross enough to have a hissie fit.....

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 5paws

Homespun America in 1950’s is beautifully described in this accomplished debut novel which interweaves the lives of the Lake and Moses family. Samuel Lake is a preacher without a congregation and without any hope of a ministry of his own he is forced to return to his wife’s family farm in Arkansas with his eccentrically named offspring. Of his three children, it is eleven year old Swan Lake who is the formidable ringleader, who is tomboy enough to run wild through the rural landscape, and yet has a heart bigger than the Arkansas sky.
Reminiscent of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, this emotionally charged book reveals a story that is at times dark and dirty, and yet has a theme of faith, and family that transcends pure evil. There is an abundance of rich and varied characters who bring the story to life, from grandmother Calla who tends her flowers, and dispenses wholesome wisdom, through to the bravery of Uncle Toy who keeps the bar at ‘Never Closes’, and who loves the Lake children as he would his own.
I stayed up late and long in order to finish reading this story, it made me laugh, it made me cry and ultimately, it made me believe in the power of storytelling.
This is storytelling at its absolute best, and I would recommend this novel wholeheartedly to my book group. If I could give it more than five stars I would do so without hesitation.
Read it if you can.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Yippee - A new author for me .....!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 4paws

I've not read any of Val McDermid's books before and recently acquired this latest book , which is a stand alone story, and so not part of any established series.

At the beginning of the story we know that someone has been murdered , we even have two suspects facing trial for the crime but what then follows throughout the rest of the book, is the story of how, why, and what happened, not just to the murder victim, but also what happened to those who were intimately involved in the crime.

Overall, I enjoyed it and thought that the book was cleverly layered, with some interesting, though, not very likeable characters, and felt the story had just enough cliffhangers to keep me reading to find out what happened next. The plot isn't as gritty or as graphic as some murder / mysteries I enjoy, but there were some interesting observations, and I have to acknowledge that Val McDermid is obviously very adept at her craft.

Perhaps I have found me a new author - don't you just love it when that happens ?