Saturday, 29 September 2012

Review ~ Corrag by Susan Fletcher

Fourth Estate
4 march 2010

From Goodreads

In Corrag, Susan Fletcher tells us the story of an epic historic event, of the difference a single heart can make - and how deep and lasting relationships that can come from the most unlikely places.

"I've heard fate talked of. It's not a word I use. I think we make our own choices. I think how we live our lives is our own doing, and we cannot fully hope on dreams and stars. But dreams and stars can guide us, perhaps. And the heart's voice is a strong one. Always is."

My Thoughts

Late seventeenth Scotland, and the Massacre of Glencoe forms the basis of this beautifully written novel, which not only charts the start of the disintegration of the Scottish clans, but also of the violence and persecution associated with the first Jacobite uprising.Told in a series of vignettes between Corrag, a young woman imprisoned and sentenced as a witch, and Charles Leslie, an Irish Jacobite sent to discover more about the highland massacre.

The slow and often lyrical content of the narrative takes some getting used to, as does the alternate voices of Corrag and Charles Leslie, but once this is firmly entrenched in your mind, the story evolves into a story of hurt, anguish and ultimate despair.

Great read and highly Outlander friends will love this one !


Friday, 28 September 2012

Friday Recommends

My Friday Recommended Read 


The Turning Point 


The Turning Point
Published 2 August 2012

From Amazon

A gripping novel of passion, intrigue and ambition, set against the backdrop of 1950s Britain in the popular tradition of Kate Morton. Cambridge, 1952. When Ellen Kingsley embarks upon an exciting career in scientific research she soon finds herself caught in a bitter world of rivalry and ambition. Resisting the advances of charismatic Marcus Pharaoh, who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of success, she moves to London and falls in love with dashing Alec Hunter. Then a chance encounter introduces Pharaoh to Ellen's old school friend, the captivating India Mayhew, and they embark upon a passionate love affair that leaves destruction in its wake. And amid a web of deceit and desire, long-held secrets will be revealed with far-reaching consequences...

My Thoughts

The Turning Point opens in 1952, when Ellen Kingsley takes a scientific appointment at the mysterious Gildersleve Hall; there she comes into contact with the enigmatic Marcus Pharaoh, a distinguished scientist, who is as bold as he is dangerous. Caught up in tragedy, Ellen is forced to make some difficult decisions, and her future, once assured, suddenly starts to look uncertain, as secrets from the past threaten the future.

Easy to read from the opening page, this is one of those lovely books that you can just curl up with and read without having to think too hard about convoluted motive, plot or malice. The story is nicely told, the characters are likeable without any one overshadowing the other, and the fine attention to detail really makes the story flow along, so that you become immersed in the lives of Ellen, India and Marcus.

I am always comfortable reading a Judith Lennox novel; she is a talented story teller and with consummate ease draws the reader into a believable world. 

If you like Kate Morton, Rosie Thomas, JoJo Moyes then I think you would like this one.

Judith Lennox is the author of several books.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Author Interview and UK Giveaway - Anne O'Brien

It is with great pleasure I introduce

  Anne O'Brien

© Anne O'Brien

The King's Concubine
Mira Books 4 May 2012

England's Most Scandalous Mistress. One marriage. Three people. Proud king. Loving wife. Infamous mistress. 1362, Philippa of Hainault selects a young orphan from a convent. Alice Perrers, a girl born with nothing but ambition. The Queen has a role waiting for her at court. 'I have lifted you from nothing Alice. Now you repay me.' Led down the corridors of the royal palace the young virgin is secretly delivered to King Edward III - to perform the wifely duties of which ailing Philippa is no longer capable. Power has a price, and Alice Perrers will pay it. Mistress to the King. Confidante of the Queen. Whore to the court. Her fate is double edged; loved by the majesties, ostracised by her peers. Alice must balance her future with care as her star begins to rise - the despised Concubine is not untouchable. Politics and pillow talk are dangerous bedfellows. The fading great King wants her in his bed. Her enemies want her banished. One mistake and Alice will face a threat worse than any malicious whispers of the past. 

Anne has kindly taken time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for jaffareadstoo.

Welcome Anne,

What makes you write Historical fiction?

I cannot recall a time when I did not enjoy History.  My father was the source of my original fascination – I have much to thank him for.  As a child I was taken to visit castles and churches and stately homes – anything with a touch of history - and fell in love with the lives of the people who lived there.  I found it easy to imagine them.  I read historical fiction as a child and my interest continued through school and university.  My degree was in history, and in another life I taught history for many years.  When I decided to try my hand at writing, about ten years ago now, it was an obvious choice to make.  ‘Write about what you know’ is the advice usually given to would-be authors, isn’t it?  And so I attempted a ‘Georgette Heyer style’ Regency romance, which was, to my delight, published.  And the rest is History...
Since then I have taken a different step, to write about characters who actually lived.  It gives me great pleasure to breathe some life into these medieval people.

What was the inspiration for a novel about Alice Perrers?

It was pure chance.  How often does that happen? 
I had no thought of writing about Alice Perrers, mistress of that most powerful of Plantagenet Kings, Edward III, at the same time as she was a damsel (lady-in- waiting) to Queen Philippa, but she crossed my path when I discovered a copy of Lady of the Sun, the life and Times of Alice Perrers by F. George Kay in a second hand book shop.  I bought it out of interest but was not impressed with Alice.  There was very little that we knew about her that could be supported by evidence.  What we did know gave her an astonishingly bad press from contemporary writers, painting her with a black reputation and with absolutely no redeeming features.  This was not a woman I could immediately admire: 
‘There was ... in England a shameless woman and wanton harlot called Ales Peres, of base kindred ... being neither beautiful or fair, she knew how to cover these defects with her flattering tongue ...’
This was the view of Thomas Walsingham, a monk at St Albans who knew Alice well.
Alice fared no better at the hands of reputable modern historians. 
‘Edward III was sick and enfeebled, given over to the wiles of his rapacious mistress.’ 
The adjective rapacious, or one equally unpleasant, is used very frequently about her.
And yet something attracted me to this remarkable woman from the fourteenth century.  I thought that she could not possibly be quite so dislikeable, and on not one occasion do we hear Alice speaking for herself. 
I thought that I would give her that chance.  This was the beginning of The King’s Concubine.

Did your research into Alice’s life reveal any surprises?

I knew that Alice was attacked because she persuaded Edward to give her grants of land.  So successful was she that she controlled 56 manors, castles and town houses stretching over 25 counties of England from the north to the home counties. What I did not realise was that out of all those pieces of property, only 10 were royal grants.  The rest of them Alice acquired for herself.  What an astonishingly competent and smart businesswoman she must have been, especially for the time in which she lived.  Even better, when property disputes arose, Alice, with the King's authority behind her, had the temerity to sit in the law courts to intimidate the judges and ensure that she got the best deal for herself in the legal outcome.  I can imagine her doing that, and the judges detesting her.
Alice became the wealthiest common-born woman in the land; if she had been a man her wealth would have qualified for an earldom.  How’s that for a woman with no recognisable family, and absolutely no evidence to inform us of where she acquired her education.
And did Alice really strip the rings from her royal lover’s dead body?  Well, that’s a marvellous scene to enjoy in The King’s Concubine ...

Do you have a favourite historical character?

I had to think hard about this question – and I am not sure that I do have a favourite character.  I have some who have definitely grown on me as I wrote about them, such as the redoubtable Alice Perrers.  I think I would have to say that my favourite character is the one I am writing about at the present time.  They live with me for so long that they become part of my thoughts, even when I wish they wouldn’t.  Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t, sometimes they get under my skin when they won’t help with the plotting, but that is what makes a character come to life.  I think the most exhausting of my heroines was Eleanor of Aquitaine whose voice was loud and clear from the first page, even though she lived 900 years ago.  The most complex was Katherine de Valois, who was not what we would call a strong character but became a very determined one.  Alice Perrers was the most shadowy and difficult to unwrap because of lack of balanced evidence.  Anne Neville was very young and subject to the will of her family and royal dictates so that for her it was an essay in growing up.  They all have something to admire in them, and I love doing it.
One character I have in my mind to write about at some time in the future is Warwick the Kingmaker – so not a woman for once.  What a remarkable man he was: intelligent, educated, charismatic, but so driven by ambition that it brought this downfall.

Do you write stories for yourself, or other people?

I write about people I am interested in, and so I suppose in that sense I write for myself, and therefore I write about women from medieval English History.  My purpose is not to tell the detail of wars and alliances, of politics and constitutional developments – that is the role of a history book – but to give some insight into the lives of the women who lived under the shadow of those major movements.  Women are almost silent in medieval history, even queens, so I enjoy allowing them to speak again and give their view on their life and particularly their relationships with family and husbands, and the choices forced on them by the politics and mores of the day.
At the same time I try to keep my audience in mind.  What interests me in detail might not be useful for the plot.  I have edited out many sections I loved for the sake of the pace of the book.  That’s one of the irritating parts of writing – but it makes for a better novel in the end.

Do you have a special place to do your writing?

©Anne O'Brien
This is my writing room, the smallest bedroom in my cottage, now set up as my office/study/library.   It is not ideal because it has the sloping ceilings of a cottage – so space for bookshelves is limited - but it is full of light with two windows and very compact so that I can (usually) find what I am looking for.  It is also too small to fit in a comfortable chair as well as computer, desk and bookshelves.  If I am there, it is to work, not to read for pleasure – which is always tempting.  My PC, where I do most of my work, faces the smallest window so that I can see the oak trees just beyond my hedge but nothing else – no distractions!  The other window looks out over cider apple orchards and fields full of Hereford cattle which take my interest all too easily.  The piles of books tend to grow higher as I become involved in the Work in Progress.  Because it is my work room, I don’t have to tidy everything away every night.  Tidying is a terrible thing – I forget where I have put just what I must have!  The notice board is mostly for illustrations to give me inspiration.  The little wooden bookstand is a prize possession, picked up in a local antique shop.  It is constructed from the oak supports of the historic English Bridge in Shrewsbury that were replaced in 1926.
I have a laptop which I occasionally use elsewhere in the house, but this room is where most of my work – all the sweat and blood – takes place.

Which writers have inspired you?

The writer of historical fiction who has influenced me most is Dorothy Dunnett.  Her skill in compiling and manipulating complex plots and characters impressed me long before I ever thought of writing.  I read the Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolo, and mourned when they were ended.  Her use of language and subtle characterisation are exceptional.
In more recent years I have enjoyed the novels of Ariana Franklyn, historical crime, beginning with the Mistress of the Art of Death.  The humour and clever manner of weaving factual material with the personal stories of Adelia, the twelfth century female doctor, and Rowley, the Bishop in her life, is a joy.  The balance between facts and story-telling in these four novels – sadly Ariana Franklyn died in 2011 - is impressive: History is never allowed to get in the way of a good story, which I think is essential in historical fiction.

Can you tell us what you are writing next?

I have just completed a novel about Katherine de Valois, the French princess who was married to Henry V, hero of Agincourt, bringing with her as her dowry the kingdom of France.  They were a beautiful couple, praised and feted on all sides, given a wonderful love scene in Shakespeare’s Henry V, but historically all was not what it seemed on the surface.  There was little romance in Katherine’s early life.  And then, when Katherine was widowed, she fell in love with Owen Tudor, a most unsuitable match.  Owen was Welsh – and so discriminated against in English law – and a servant in Katherine’s employment as Master of the Queen’s Household.  Katherine’s is a tale of pain and anguish, of intense joy and love - and ultimate tragedy.  It is a great story, and is at the moment with the copy-editors.
It will be released in 2013 – probably April/May and titled The Forbidden Queen.

If you wish to keep in touch with me and my novels, and are interested in the progress of my new novel of Katherine de Valois, The Forbidden Queen, do visit my website:

Or my facebook page:

Or follow me on twitter

Anne - Thank you so much for spending time with us , Jaffa and I have loved reading about your inspiration for The King's Concubine and we wish you continuing success. We look forward to the publication of The Forbidden Queen in 2013.

Anne has very generously offered a signed copy of her book The King's Concubine to one lucky UK winner of this giveaway.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wishlist Wednesday...

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

My Wishlist Wednesday book


Before I Met You
Lisa Jewell

Before I Met You
Published by Century
19 July 2012

From Goodreads:

Having grown up on the quiet island of Guernsey, Betty Dean can't wait to start her new life in London. On a mission to find Clara Pickle - the mysterious beneficiary in her grandmother's will - she arrives in grungy, 1990s Soho, ready for whatever life has to throw at her. Or so she thinks...

In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette - Betty's grandmother - is starting her new life in a time of post-war change. Beautiful and charismatic, Arlette is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But less than two years later, tragedy strikes and she flees back to Guernsey for the rest of her life.

As Betty searches for Clara, she is taken on a journey through Arlette's extraordinary time in London, uncovering a tale of love, loss and heartbreak. Will the secrets of Arlette's past help Betty on her path to happiness?

Why this one?

Well, I've always enjoyed Lisa Jewell's well written stories.
She seems to have developed her own style of writing which is very similar 
to another of my favourite authors- JoJo Moyes.
I enjoy well written dual time stories and this one sounds just the sort of book to curl up on the sofa
with - so onto the wishlist it goes !

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Review ~ Hunk for the Holidays by Katie Lane

My thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for a copy to read and review.

Hunk for the Holidays
Published by Grand Central Publishing
25 September 2012

My thoughts on Hunk for the Holidays 

When Cassie McPherson books a male escort for the evening of her company Christmas dance, she is delighted with the lean good looks of James, the latest in a long line of escorts. It’s not that Cassie can’t get a date of her own, but she’s been hurt before, and hiring an escort means that her heart doesn’t get involved. However, she is unprepared for the effect that the handsome James will have on her head, and heart.

What then follows is a delightfully romantic story of love found, love lost and love regained, all set against the cut throat world of the Denver construction world. Katie Lane knows how to write a good story, her characters are all believable, and even though you sort of know where the story is going from the beginning, it doesn’t detract from the reading pleasure. The “will they, won’t they” aspect, of James and Katie’s relationship forms the basis of the novel, and the twists and turns in the plot help to make this an easy to enjoy romantic novel.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Review ~ Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal

My thanks to NetGalley and Icon Books for an early reading ecopy of this book.

Shakespeare on Toast
Published 11 September Icon Books

My Thoughts

All too often people are put off reading Shakespeare for pleasure, because they think it is too difficult, too stuffy and too downright boring. What this book aims to do is demystify the bard by presenting snippets of Shakespearean anecdotes in easy to read chunks. From great actors, like Sir John Gielgud, who made Shakespearean interpretation all their own, to Shakespeare’s introduction of over 1700 words into the English language, even to Elvis’s Presley’s use of Shakespeare in “Are you lonesome tonight?” – Shakespeare’s literary contribution to the world as we know it today is boundless.

I really enjoyed this book, it contains answers to all those questions about Shakespeare you never knew you needed answers for, and presents the facts in a relaxed and easy to manage style. It even touches on the great debate as to whether Shakespeare actually wrote his own plays, or whether they were in fact written by someone else, I’ll let you make your own mind up on that question.

Overall, this book is a delightfully informative look at the mystery that still surrounds the life of William Shakespeare, but the undoubted truth is that his literary legacy still lives on.

I only wish I’d had it to browse through when I was struggling to learn chunks of Richard III for my English A ‘Level.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Jaffa's Sunday Corner....

Cat themed reading for the discerning feline

The Poetry of T S Elliot

Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat

There's a whisper down the line at 11:39
When the Night Mail's ready to depart,
Saying 'Skimble where is Skimble has he gone to hunt the thimble?
We must find him or the train can't start.'
All the guards and all the porters and the stationmaster's daughters
They are searching high and low,
Saying 'Skimble where is Skimble for unless he's very nimble
Then the Night Mail just can't go.'
At 11:42 then the signal's nearly due
And the passengers are frantic to a man -
Then Skimble will appear and he'll saunter to the rear:
He's been busy in the luggage van!
He gives one flash of his glass-green eyes
And the signal goes 'All Clear!'
And we're off at last for the northern part
Of the Northern Hemisphere!

You may say that by and large it is Skimble who's in charge
Of the Sleeping Car Express.
From the driver and the guards to the bagmen playing cards
He will supervise them all, more or less.
Down the corridor he paces and examines all the faces
Of the travellers in the First and in the Third;
He establishes control by a regular patrol
And he'd know at once if anything occurred.
He will watch you without winking and he sees what you are thinking
And it's certain that he doesn't approve
Of hilarity and riot, so the folk are very quiet
When Skimble is about and on them ove.
You can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks!
He's a Cat that cannot be ignored;
So nothing goes wrong on the Northern Mail
When Skimbleshanks is aboard.

Oh it's very pleasant when you have found your little den
With your name written up on the door.
And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
And there's not a speck of dust on the floor.
There is every sort of light - you can make it dark or bright;
There's a button that you turn to make a breeze.
There's a funny little basin you're supposed to wash your face in
And a crank to shut the window if you sneeze.
Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
'Do you like your morning tea weak or strong?'
But Skimble's just behind him and was ready to remind him,
For Skimble won't let anything go wrong.
And when you creep into your cosy berth
And pull up the counterpane,
You are bound to admit that it's very nice
To know that you won't be bothered by mice -
You can leave all that to the Railway Cat,
The Cat of the Railway Train!

In the middle of the night he is always fresh and bright;
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he's keeping on the watch,
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.
You were fast asleep at Crewe and so you never knew
That he was walking up and down the station;
You were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle,
Where he greets the stationmaster with elation.
But you saw him at Dumfries, where he summons the police
If there's anything they ought to know about:
When you get to Gallowgate there you do not have to wait -
For Skimbleshanks will help you to get out!
He gives you a wave of his long brown tail
Which says: 'I'll see you again!
You'll meet without fail on the Midnight Mail
The Cat of the Railway Train.'

T S Elliot

Friday, 21 September 2012

Friday Recommends...

My thanks to for the opportunity to read this book in advance of publication.


The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

Published 27 September 
by Orion books

My Thoughts:

"I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."

The disreputable streets of lower Manhattan, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, are brought vividly to life in this eagerly anticipated second novel by Ami McKay. Our narrator, throughout the story, is the eccentrically named Moth, a girl from the slums of Chrystie Street on the lower East side. When she is sold by her mother into servitude at the age of twelve, and after a brief period as the maidservant to a mean and vitriolic woman, Moth is lured by the prospect of good food and a feather bed, to the notorious ‘infant school’ brothel of Emma Everett.  However, in the brothel, Moth exchanges one form of servitude for another, and discovers that in the dark and squalid world of prostitution, security comes with a high price to pay, and innocence is a commodity which is all too easily sold to the highest bidder.

With Dickensian precision, Ami McKay has produced a compelling and haunting novel. Her ability to invoke this dissolute period in American history is present in every word, and her captivating description of life in lower Manhattan literally leaps off the page. The sights, sounds and smells of a swarming city are described in such vivid detail that it is all too easy to imagine the grime, squalor and sheer despair of trying to survive in a world where youth and innocence is exploited at the worst level. The novel runs along at a tidy pace, there is no clumsiness within the narrative, and the use of extra snippets of historical information in the form of additional inserts in the book margins adds an interesting and informative dimension. The rich array of characters from freak show oddities, to slum house mystics, adds a fascinating insight into this crowded world of immorality, and yet it is the voice of Doctor Sadie, a character Ami McKay has based on one of her own ancestors, who lends a resonance and gravitas to this emotional story.

Without doubt, The Virgin Cure, with its charlatans and curiosities, captures the very essence of the seamier side of 1870s New York. There is something strangely repellent about the debauched world of the nineteenth century prostitute, and yet Moth’s delicate simplicity, steals right into your heart, and flutters with spirited wonder through the worst of her experiences. Overall, The Virgin Cure is an emotional and thought provoking read, and one that will remain with me for a very long time.

This will definitely be on my 2012 Best Reads list !

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Review ~ The Two Week Wait by Sarah Rayner

The Two Week Wait
February 2nd 2012 by Picador

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Sarah Rayner's previous book, One moment, One morning ,so it was a real pleasure to read this new story which features some of the characters we met in that novel.

This time, in The Two Week Wait, the story focuses on Lou and her quest to become a mother using IVF, whilst at the same time donating her own eggs so that another woman can be helped in the same way.

What then follows is a story of how infertility and the need for a child can encompass all things. The story is not without heartbreak but it is sensitively told and never sensationalises this very personal event.

I enjoyed the story, I thought it was well written and informative without getting too involved in the scientific structure of infertility.

You don't have to have read One Moment, One Morning as both books are stand alone stories, but is always nice to have some continuity and a chance to see a different aspect of a character we are already familiar with.

One Moment, One Morning
March 3rd 2010 by Picador

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Wishlist Wednesday

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

My wishlist Wednesday book 


The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price

Purveyor of Superior Funerals


Wendy Jones

The Thoughts & Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals
Published by
Corsair (21 Jun 2012)

Everyone has to make decisions about love...

Wilfred Price, overcome with emotion and a yellow dress, on a sunny spring day, proposes to a girl he barely knows at a picnic. The girl, Grace, joyfully accepts and rushes to tell her family of Wilfred's intentions. But by this time Wilfred realized his mistake. He does not love Grace.

Wendy Jones' charming first novel is a moving depiction of love and secrecy, set against the rural backdrop of a 1920's Welsh Village, and is beautifully told.

This is worth having on my wishlist purely for the quirkiness of the book title !!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Review ~The Time keeper by Mitch Albom

Have a Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch…

For One More Day by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young…

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch…

The Time Keeper
Published September 4th 2012 by Hyperion

From Goodreads

From the author who's inspired millions worldwide with books like "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" comes his most imaginative novel yet, "The Time Keeper"--a compelling fable about the first man on earth to count the hours. The man who became Father Time.

My thoughts:

The Time Keeper is a short but profound story which looks at the beginning of time, and juxtaposes it alongside two modern day protagonists, Sarah who is suicidal and has too much time, and Victor who is terminally ill and wants more time. Reminiscent of the mysticism of Paul Coelho, The Time Keeper is a fascinating look at how we are all bounded by time constraints, and yet we never appear satisfied, and are always searching for more ways to expand the time we have.

Mitch Albom has managed to create a fascinating story which neither over emphasises, nor trivialises the point he wants to make. His fine attention to detail captures the very essence of time, and his lasting legacy reminds us that we should make the most of this most precious gift, before it is too late.

Easy and quickly read over the space of a few hours, this story continues to creep into my thoughts days after finishing the story.

My thanks to NetGalley and Hyperion for an ecopy to read and review. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Review ~ Ash by James Herbert


Comraich Castle, a reclusive fortress on the west coast of Scotland provides the setting for this rather disturbing novel, featuring the enigmatic ghost hunter and parapsychologist, David Ash. When sinister paranormal events start to disturb the equilibrium of this unusual sanctuary, there is no one more suited to the task than this ghost hunter extraordinaire, but the dark forces which hang like a miasma over the inhabitants of the castle, soon start to take centre stage.

The book starts off a little slowly; there is a gradual introduction to the major characters and an opportunity to get to know the castle and its surroundings, before unrelenting horror is unleashed. As always, David Ash is an interesting protagonist, he’s as deeply flawed as ever, but no less brilliant because of it, and his ability to deal with terrible events, makes for compelling reading. The slow build up of terror is well done, and as you read, almost without realising, you start to look into shadows before you turn off the bedroom light!

I always want to read a JamesHerbert book with my eyes closed, which I know makes no sense, but as I turn the pages, sometimes I’m just a little too frightened to find out what’s happening. Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable, fascinating, and downright creepy story, probably best read in the cold light of day before the creeping shadows of night begin to fall.....

Ash comes in at a whopping 690 pages, but believe me once the story gets under way, you won’t want to put the book down...

My thanks to Katie James at Pan Macmillan for a review copy of this book.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Jaffa's Sunday Corner

Cat themed reading for the discerning feline

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I've been in London to look at the queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair

~~Nursery Rhyme~~


The origins of the "Pussycat pussycat" rhyme dates back to the history of 16th century Tudor England. One of the waiting ladies of Queen Elizabeth I had an old cat which roamed throughout the castle. On one particular occasion the cat ran beneath the throne where its tail brushed against the Queen's foot, startling her. Luckily 'Good Queen Bess' had a sense of humour and decreed that the cat could wander about the throne room, on condition it kept it free of mice!

First Published 1805 in Songs for the Nursery.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Friday Recommends...

My Friday Recommended read 


The Girl You Left Behind


The Girl You Left Behind
Published 27 September 2012

My thanks to Real Readers for a review copy in advance of publication

From Goodreads

In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything - her family, reputation and life - in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie's portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting's dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened...

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most - whatever the cost.

My 5***** Review

This dual time narrative set alternatively in wartime France, and modern day London explores the history of an enigmatic painting which acts as a link between two very different women.

What I enjoyed most about  The Girl You Left Behind was the ease of transition between the dual time frames. 

The story starts in 1916, with the first third of the book involved with Sophie’s story. The description of her life in occupied France is vivid, and made all the more evocative by the sense of unrelenting hardship, and restriction of choices. I felt a sense of loss when Sophie’s part in the story ended, only to be drawn quickly into life in modern London, and newly widowed Liv’s despair at her dreadful financial status. With great skill, the author infuses such warmth into her characters that Liv very quickly becomes as much loved as Sophie, and as the lives of these two very different women intertwine, we are drawn into a story of devastating sorrow. 

I really enjoyed this story; it’s very easy to get emotionally involved with both Sophie and Liv, and as neither time frame outshines the other, I was just as enthralled with the modern day mystery, as I was with the historic setting of occupied France. 

Without doubt  The Girl You Left Behind will be in my top ten reads of 2012 - and if you have never read a book by JoJo Moyes, then please give her books a try - you won’t be disappointed.

There is a prequel to The Girl You left Behind available now as a novella ebook

Honeymoon in Paris: A Novella

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Review - Love Slave by Jennifer Spiegel

 Love Slave


Love Slave
Published 4September 2012 Unbridled Books

My 3 *** Review 

Set in nineties New York when the craziness of the streets is mirrored in the craziness of life in this vibrant city. Sybil Weatherfield is an office temp by day but ,by night she becomes a journalist writing for New York Shock - her column "Abcess"  makes her something of a minor celebrity.
But life is transient and Sybil seems to float in a blur of temporary status until she hooks up with Rob - he's the lead singer in a rock band called Glass Half Empty, who is quietly mourning but covering his loss in late nights and trivialities. What then follows is a story about love, loss and the search for the meaning of life
Sharp and witty in places, the author has a nice way with words, she describes New York as someone who knows the city well. I would think that if you experienced this time in the nineties, you would associate more with the characters, but as a social observation this story is carried me along until its satisfactory conclusion.

My thanks to NetGalley and Unbridled Books for the opportunity to read something so far out of my comfort zone.

Jaffa says ...."Nice cat on the cover!"

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Wishlist Wednesday...

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

My Wishlist Wednesday Book 

The Rose Petal Beach


Dorothy Koomson

The Rose Petal Beach

From Goodreads

Every love story has a dangerous twist. Tamia Brenett is horrified when her husband, Scott, is accused of something terrible - but when she discovers who his accuser is, everything goes into freefall. Backed into a corner and unsure what to think, Tamia is forced to choose who she instinctively believes. But Tamia's choice has dire consequences for all concerned especially when matters take a tragic turn. Then a stranger arrives in town to sprinkle rose petals in the sea in memory of her lost loved one. This stranger carries with her shocking truths that will change the lives of everyone she meets, and will once again force Tamia to make some devastating choices..

I love the elegance of this book cover -it reminds me of an Alma Tadema Painting !

Dorothy Koomson has  long been one of my favourite authors, and sooner or later I know I'll get a copy of this one.

Published in the UK by Quercus on the 26th August 2012.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Review ~ The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid

My thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic inc for a review copy.

The Vanishing Point


The Vanishing Point
Grove Atlantic
September 2012

From Goodreads

One of the finest crime writers we have, Val McDermid’s heart-stopping thrillers have won her international renown and a devoted following of readers worldwide. In The Vanishing Point, she kicks off a terrifying thriller with a nightmare scenario: a parent who loses her child in a bustling international airport.

My3*** Review

The story opens with child abduction at a US airport -  it’s the stuff of nightmares for every parent, one minute your child is there, and then as powerless to help, you witness your child being taken away. The Vanishing Point starts off well, the idea of looking back to see how the story unfolds is interesting, and as we are introduced to the major characters, we are given glimmers into the twisted world of celebrity status. There is Scarlett Higgins, a TV reality star with an unsavoury past, and Stephanie Harker, the ghost writer, who when drafted in to write Scarlett’s autobiography as a letter to her then unborn child, takes on rather more than she bargained. Add together a handful of American FBI agents, mix together with English detectives, and this book should satisfy readers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Overall, I thought the book was a well written thriller, with enough twists and turns in the plot to keep the book ticking along nicely. The troubled past of the main protagonist is convincing, and as there are so many nuances of recent celebrity lives intertwined in the narrative,  you find yourself wondering if something like this could ever have happened. The least convincing part of this story, for me, was the ending of the book, which I found a bit improbable, but, this is fiction after all ,and a few liberties are allowed to be taken. 

I'm not a huge fan of Val McDermid,  this is only the second book of hers that I have read, however I am sure that her legions of fans will devour this book.

Monday, 10 September 2012

The walk in my week...

The walk in my week took in two very pretty places


English Lake District

 This beautiful Princess of the Lake brightened a stormy landscape

Even on a cloudy summer's day little boats still bob around on 
Lake Windermere

The majestic qualities of the hills above Lake Windermere are hard to resist

 a pretty seaside town in Cumbria

on the edge of the English Lake District

Arnside is famous for its tidal bore

 The tidal bore results from a combination of the high tidal range and the shape of the bay as it narrows into the Kent Estuary at Arnside. The water enters the tapering estuary and the rising waters become confined which results in a distinct wave developing, which can be anything from a few centimetres to almost a metre high on full spring tides.

And just to prove a reviewers work is never kindle is always close at hand !

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Jaffa's Sunday Corner

Cat themed reading for the discerning feline

The Tale of Tom Kitten



The Tale of Tom Kitten
Published in September1907
 Frederick Warne

Once upon a time there were three little kittens, and their names were Mittens, Tom Kitten, and Moppet.

They had dear little fur coats of their own; and they tumbled about the doorstep and played in the dust.

Mrs. Tabitha dressed Moppet and Mittens in clean pinafores and tuckers; and then she took all sorts of elegant uncomfortable clothes out of a chest of drawers, in order to dress up her son Thomas.

Tom Kitten was very fat, and he had grown; several buttons burst off. His mother sewed them on again.

What Did Jaffa think?

This lovely story will last forever .....

The naughty little kittens who wouldn't keep their clothes clean is a favourite of mine, but kittens really shouldn't be dressed in smocks and trousers !

I think if I had a coat like Tom's my buttons would pop off too...