Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween

 My Halloween read


Mist over Pendle


Robert Neill

Mist Over Pendle
First published Hutchinson 1951

The forest of Pendle during the early seventeenth century: a wild, inaccessible corner of Lancashire where the ancient fear of demons and witches is still part of life - and death.

When several local people die in mysterious circumstances, Squire Roger Nowell dismisses talk of witchcraft as superstition. But soon a series of hideous desecrations take place, and there are unmistakable signs that a black coven is assembling to plot a campaign of evil and destruction.

The Pendle Witches lived during the reigns of Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603) and James I (1603 - 1625). As a result of King James I's firm belief in the existence of witchcraft, an Act was passed which imposed the death penalty "for making a covenant with an evil spirit, using a corpse for magic, hurting life or limb, procuring love, or injuring cattle by means of charms".

The Pendle Witch trials of 1612 are the some of the best recorded witch trials in British History. Altogether twenty people, of whom sixteen were women, were arrested and held for trial at the Lancaster assizes. 

Lancaster Castle

Among them were:

Witches of Pendle Forest

Elizabeth Southerns, aka Demdike
Elizabeth Device daughter of Demdike
James Device son of Elizabeth Device
Alison Device daughter of Elizabeth Device
Anne Whittle aka Chattox
Anne Redferne daughter of Chattox
Alice Nutter
Jane Bulcock
John Bulcock son of Jane Bulcock
Katherine Hewitt aka Mould-heels
Isabel Robey
Margaret Pearson

Old woman with taller younger woman

Two of the accused witches, Anne Whittle (Chattox) and her daughter Anne Redferne. Illustration from William Harrison Ainsworth's 1849 novel, The Lancashire Witches.

Thomas Potts, clerk to the assizes was charged with the task of writing a full account of the trial. Potts completed his treatise on the witch trial in November 1612. 

Five paragraphs of centred text in an archaic font describing the subject of the book. At the foot of the page is the legend "Printed by W. Stansby for John Barnes, dwelling near Holborne Conduit. 1613."
Thomas Potts 1612

My thanks to project Gutenberg for this extract from the Discoverie of Witches.(1612)

"Where that same wicked wight
    Her dwelling had--
    Dark, doleful, dreary, like a greedy grave
    That still for carrion carcases doth crave,
    On top whereof ay dwelt the ghastly owle,
    Shrieking his baleful note, which ever drave
    Far from that haunt all other cheerful fowl,
    And all about it wandering ghosts did wail and howle"--

The witness by whose evidence this legend was principally supported, was Jennet Device, a
child about nine years old, and grand-daughter of old Demdike. A more
dangerous tool in the hands of an unscrupulous evidence-compeller,
being at once intelligent, cunning and pliant, than the child proved
herself, it would not have been easy to have discovered. A foundation
being now laid capable of embracing any body of confederates, the
indefatigable justice proceeded in his inquiries, and in the end,
Elizabeth Device the daughter of old Demdike, James Device her son,
Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, John Bulcock, Jane Bulcock, with some
others, were committed for trial at Lancaster. The very curious report
of that trial is contained in the work now republished, which was
compiled under the superintendence of the judges who presided, by
Master Thomas Potts, clerk in court, and present at the trial. His
report, notwithstanding its prolixity and its many repetitions, it has
been thought advisable to publish entire, and the reprint which
follows is as near a fac-simile as possible of the original tract.

And as we celebrate Halloween spare a thought for the hundreds of innocent women who were persecuted and put to death for little more than living a life of poverty and hardship.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Review - Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Blackberry Winter
Published by Penguin Group (USA)
September 25th 2012

My thoughts

By coincidence a freak storm in Seattle in May 1933 heralds the opening of this lovely book about two women who are separated by time but who have a common purpose. Single mother Vera leaves her three year old son Daniel home alone so that she can go to work a night shift at the local hotel. The following morning after severe snowstorm has covered the city, she returns home to find that Daniel has gone. Vera is not an unfit mother; she’s just a woman struggling to make ends meet during the hardest of times. Similarly in 2010, Seattle is facing another of unexpected snow storm, and newspaper reporter Claire Aldridge is assigned to cover this phenomenon known as ‘Blackberry Winter’, and at the same time strives to uncover the story of what happens to Vera and her boy.

The novel sensitively and emotionally explores the story of Vera and Claire, and as the narrative flows back and forth through time, the gradual layering of the thoughts and feelings of both women are perceptively revealed. Sarah Jio is without doubt an accomplished author; she has a lovely lyrical way of writing which is so easy to read, and yet she can command a myriad of emotions in just a few sentences. I stayed up long and late to finish this story as once I started to read, I found I just couldn't give it up until I had found out just a little bit more.

For me the sign of a good story is when the characters stay with you long after the book is finished; I think that Blackberry Winter is one such story.


My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group USA for an e-copy of Blackberry Winter to read and review.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review - Love Unscripted by Tina Reber

Love Unscripted (Love, #1)
Published by Simon & Schuster
8 September 2012

My thanks to Simon & Schuster for a review e-copy

My thoughts

Taryn Mitchell isn't looking for love, she likes to keep her distance from men who threaten to break her heart, so when A -list movie star, Ryan Christensen comes into town and visits her bar in Seaport, Rhode Island, Taryn is determined not to be bowled over by Ryan’s good looks and charm. Inevitably, Tina finds herself falling for Ryan and yet their relationship is never going to be uncomplicated, and as Ryan is relentlessly pursued by paparazzi, Taryn isn't sure whether she can live with this unyielding aspect of Ryan’s life.

What then follows is a fairy predictable, chick lit romance which seemed to have all the elements of a good story but seemed lacking in proportion, the book was much too long and in parts a little bit boring. The characters lacked any sort of depth and by two thirds into the book, I had given up on wanting to know what happened next to either of them.

I am sure that some people will love it – it just wasn't for me.


Friday, 26 October 2012

Friday Recommended read...

The Secret Keeper 


Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper
Published 9 October 2012
Simon & Schuster

My thoughts

When Laurel Nicholson is sixteen she witnesses a shocking event during a family birthday party which disturbs not just her comfortable existence, but also her belief in what is right and proper in her world. Fifty years later, Laurel returns to her childhood home to be with her dying mother, and the appearance of a long forgotten photograph unleashes memories of a hidden family secret.

What then follows is a cleverly narrated dual time story which explores the ravages of war time London and combines a passionate love story alongside a mystery of epic proportions. The gradual layering of the narrative is skilfully manipulated and because the writing is so good, it is very easy to lose yourself in the story. The characters are all believable and whilst there are some who are not particularly likeable, they all add richness to the story. The dual time element is achieved quite seamlessly, and as the gradual revealing of the secret is exposed there is a real sense of completion. Very cleverly, Kate Morton has taken all the missing pieces of the puzzle links them together to form an unforgettable story of love, desire, deceit and greed.


Kate Morton seems to go from strength to strength; I think that The Secret Keeper is my favourite book so far.

My thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for a digital copy to review.

The Distant Hours
The Distant Hours

The Forgotten Garden
The Forgotten Garden

The House At Riverton
The House at Riverton

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Review Sacred Treason by James Forrester

Sacred Treason
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark
9 October 2012

My thoughts

England 1563, and with widespread Catholic plots against Queen Elizabeth I, herald William Harvey, known as Clarenceux, is worried when he is presented with a sinister book belonging to his friend, Henry Machyn. However, Machyn is in fear of his life, and he warns Clarenceux that the book must remain secret. When the Queen’s secretary, Francis Walsingham finds out about the book, his deadly determination to possess its secrets forms the basis for this well written and exciting historical mystery.

James Forrester has used his considerable skill as a historian and with impeccable research has created a truly believable Elizabethan world, and as you become immersed in the story, Tudor England with all its faults and failings is gradually revealed. The clever blend of fact and fiction is manipulated to good effect and as the twists and the turns in the plot are gradually revealed you find yourself almost wanting to go back to re read parts again, just to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

As this is the first book in a proposed trilogy, it is reassuring to discover that not all of the secrets are revealed and that there will be further discoveries to be made as the trilogy progresses.


My thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for a digital copy to read and review.

Wednesday, 24 October 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 


Ketchup Clouds

Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret - a dark and terrible secret that she can't confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.

Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can - in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.

Annabel Pitcher is the talented author of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece 

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Recommended Read - The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift

The Gilded Lily


Deborah Swift

The Gilded Lily
Paperback edition published by Pan Macmillan
September 2012

My Thoughts:

In 1660, and following the suspicious death of their employer, Ella and Sadie Appleby are forced to flee their native Westmorland. They head for the bright lights of the capital city where the sisters try to eke out a living, first as perruquiers at Madame Lefevre’s wig making shop, and then, when Ella is seduced by the ostentatious glamour of the beauty parlour on Friarsgate, Sadie, the more fragile of the two, is left to cope as best she can.

Whilst there is sometimes an air of romanticism attached to Restoration London, in The Gilded Lily, Deborah Swift has successfully cut through the gloss and glamour, and describes the city as a living, breathing entity. Gloriously atmospheric, the sights, sounds and smells are brought so vividly to life that you watch in fascination as Madame Lefevre controls her girls in the wig makers shop, you sample the potions and lotions on offer in the beauty parlour, and as you climb the rickety stairs with Sadie and Ella and enter their house on Blackraven Alley, the squalid and festering nature of their life is so realistic you can almost feel the flickering warmth from their meagre fire.

The richness of the supporting characters, the grit and realism of the action, all combine to make this a fascinating and strong story about two sisters whose need to support each other is not always successful, and yet when the odds are stacked against them, the overwhelming urge to survive is paramount.

Deborah Swift has undoubtedly captured this niche in the historic fiction market; both her books have captured the time and place with an authenticity which is sometimes lacking in this genre. I look forward to more books by this talented writer.

If you enjoyed The King's Mistress and The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell, then you will also love to read The Lady's Slipper and The Gilded Lily.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Man Booker Prize Winner 2012


Bring Up the Bodies (Wolf Hall, #2)

Fourth Estate; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (10 May 2012)

" You wait twenty years and two come along at once " - Hilary Mantel

Yesterday, Hilary Mantel became the first British author - and the first woman - to win the Man Booker Prize twice, and also the only author to win for two books in a series.

Read my review of Bring Up The Bodies

" His children are falling from the sky "

This worthy sequel to Wolf Hall begins in 1535, with the flying of falcons, which are ironically named after the dead female members of Thomas Cromwell’s family. Cromwell, now secretary to King Henry VIII is  flying high; he has the eye and ear of the King and with wit, verve and perspicacity, Cromwell manipulates his way around Henry’s kingdom. Meanwhile,whilst Henry’s amour is focused on Wolf Hall and the quietly simpering Jane Seymour, the angular beauty of Anne Boleyn, no longer queen of Henry’s heart, waltzes shrew like down the corridors of power. However, he who seeks to serve the King must also pander to the whim of an increasingly belligerent and unfulfilled monarch. Never a shrinking violet, Cromwell, glides insidiously as a reptile, until he has gleaned the information he needs in order to keep Henry satisfied. For whatever Henry desires, he gets, even if it means the destruction of those around him, and as Cromwell begins to systematically prepare his case against Anne Boleyn and the men of her court, no stone will be left unturned, and no element of tortured pondering will go unnoticed.

Bring up the Bodies is written in vivid detail from Thomas Cromwell’s Machiavellian perspective, as with his legion of spies, he infiltrates the board rooms and bedrooms of those at the very epicentre of Tudor supremacy. Divided into two distinct parts, the story progresses from September 1535, through to summer 1536, and grows increasingly darker and more sinister as the story progresses. Even though Anne Boleyn’s eventual demise is widely known, it is Mantel’s unique angle on the construction of the case that creates such a vivid rendition of this story. In many respects Bring up the Bodies is much lighter editorially than Wolf Hall, yet the writing is just as demanding, however,  occasionally Mantel goes off tangent, only to pull you back with an amazing turn of phrase, or sequence of events. I found myself going back and forth to re -read parts of the narrative, just because her phrasing is so good, and because I wanted to pick up on some hidden nuance that had previously gone unnoticed. Hilary Mantel has the uncanny ability to convey power, deception and intrigue in equal measure; her skill with words and her manipulation of the narrative is inspiring, and yet with quiet dignity, and meticulous research, she blends fact with fiction, and encourages the reader to watch as the accusations into Anne’s alleged adultery descend into tragedy.

Hilary Mantel has undoubtedly created a worthy sequel in Bring up the Bodies. The portrayal of Thomas Cromwell as a likeable and brilliant Tudor celebrity works incredibly well, and as always the Tudor court is displayed as a scheming hotchpotch of rivalry, intrigue and sexual mischief.

Mantel has provided a strong foundation for the culmination of this story in the third book in the trilogy. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Review - The Lives She Left Behind by James Long

The Lives She Left Behind
Published by Quercus
27 September 2012

Book Blurb

In a Somerset village, a teenage boy confronts a teacher with a story he should know nothing about. The boy's impossible knowledge uncovers memories Michael Martin has done his utmost to forget - and soon propels him into danger. As Martin confronts his past once more, three girls arrive in the village of Pen Selwood, one of them drawn by an ancient instinct to find a man called Ferney. Her actions reignite a love story, an instinct that cannot be broken, irrespective of the hurt and danger it brings to those around them.

My Review

In The Lives She Left Behind, James Long has continued the story he began in Ferney and has brought up to date the story of star crossed lovers who transcend time. This sequel cleverly interweaves a modern day love story with the memory of past lives, whilst at the same time ties up the loose ends which were left hanging at the end of Ferney.

This sequel works on all levels, the narrative flows well and the energy of the story in reuniting Ferney and Gally seems more focused and purposeful. The pain of their togetherness is palpable and all consuming, and yet there is almost a sense of homecoming in this conclusion, which is made all the more poignant by the effect their relationship has on those around them. The use of cleverly constructed peripheral characters helps to move the story along, so that it becomes more of an observation about the consequences of relationships rather than a history lesson.

Whilst it is possible to read this book with no prior knowledge of Ferney, the author does an admirable job of explaining the whys and wherefores, in my opinion it is better to enjoy the story from the beginning. This sequel always needed to be written as the ending to Ferney left many questions unanswered, but now, for me, there is a real sense of completeness, as all the pieces of the puzzle finally slip into place.

5 *****

My thanks to Real Readers for the pleasure of reading an early copy of this book.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Jaffa's Sunday Corner...

Cat themed Reading for the Discerning feline

Life of Pi (International Edition, Movie Tie-In)
Published by Canongate
October 2012

Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Book Blurb

One boy, one boat, one tiger . . .

After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction in recent years.


“My greatest wish -- other than salvation -- was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One I could read again and again, with new eyes and a fresh understanding each time.” 

Yann Martel, Life of Pi

The story of Pi Patel his bravery, determination and desire to succeed against all odds is the premise of this modern day classic, and one that deserves to be read by all generations of book lovers.

The premise of the book is that life is a story, and this is reiterated with startling clarity throughout Yann Martel’s prose as he manages to combine a clever use of imagery together with a lyrical narrative. At times reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling, Life of Pi is a story of survival at its most basic level. The spiritual voyage of individual belief combined with the power of imagination provides a unique vision which allows the reader to undertake an idealistic journey into the unknown.

The story doesn't suit everyone, reviews have been divided since it was first published, but it does make a very good book group read as it always encourages lively debate. Life of Pi has been reissued in light of the recent movie edition, and as such will bring this unusual story to a wider audience.

My thanks to NetGalley and Canongate books for a review copy.

Jaffa's favourite character is Richard Parker the 350 pound Bengal Tiger who accompanies Pi on his adventure. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Review - Sutton by J R Moehringer

Published 25 September Hyperion

The opening of the story in 1969 as Sutton is unexpectedly released from jail is a good starting point, as throughout the story, Moehringer’s intelligent commentary blends together and with a certain amount of gravitas explains not just the reason d'être  but also the personality of the man behind the myth. Sutton was born in the slums of Brooklyn in the first year of the twentieth century, and over three decades became the most prolific bank robber, and on the FBI’s most wanted list. With no prior knowledge of the history of Willie Sutton, I viewed this book completely open minded and was surprised to find not just a good crime novel, but also a social observation about the first part of the twentieth century. J R Moehringer has combined fact with fiction to sustain a fast paced and fascinating look into a life of unadulterated crime, and explains how Sutton was motivated not specifically by greed but more by a determination to win the girl of his dreams.


My thanks to NetGalley and Hyperion books for a review copy.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway - J J Marsh

I am delighted to introduce

© J J Marsh

Author of Behind Closed Door

Suicide -the act of taking one's own life.

Published by Prewett Publishing2012
Triskele Books
Homicide – the act of taking someone else’s.

An unethical banker suffocates. A diamond dealer slits his wrists. A media magnate freezes in the snow. A disgraced CEO inhales exhaust fumes. Four unpopular businessmen, four apparent suicides. Until Interpol find the same DNA at each death.

Beatrice Stubbs, on her first real case since ‘the incident’, arrives in Switzerland to lead the investigation. But there’s more to Zurich than chocolate and charm. Potential suspects are everywhere, her Swiss counterpart is hostile and the secretive world of international finance seems beyond the law. Battling impossible odds by day and her own demons at night, Beatrice has never felt so alone.

She isn’t. Someone’s watching.

Someone else who believes in justice.

The poetic kind.

What inspired you to become an author?

Books. I love stories. On stage, around the fire, on screen and between the pages. I've been telling stories ever since I could speak. As a toddler, I escaped from our back garden. My poor frantic mother found me in field, surrounded by curious cows. I was telling them a story. So I'm proud to say my first audience was a herd of puzzled Friesians.

Where did you get the inspiration for Behind ClosedDoors?

For plot, a magazine article on a German serial killer. For the atmosphere, the city of Zürich. For Beatrice Stubbs ... well, she's been with me a very long time, waiting for the right story.

Where did your research for Behind Closed Doors take you?

Up mountains, down crypts, round police stations, onto polo fields and into the mind of a psychiatrist. But most of the time was spent grubbing about in the back alleys of the Internet.

I find it amazing that so much information is available online. Have you read The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penney? An incredible evocation of the desolate, snow-covered landscape of Canada. She's never even been there. Testament to the power of imagination and the wonders of the Worldwide Web.

Which writers have inspired you?

Kate Atkinson, Val McDermid and Alexander McCall Smith in the genre of literary crime and for sense of location. For storytelling skill, Armistead Maupin, JKRowling and Stephen King. And for the brilliant ability to paint the subtlest detail on a huge canvas, Salman Rushdie, Louis de Bernières and ScarlettThomas

Do you have a special place to do your writing?

My study, which overlooks a graveyard. Three of my walls are covered with maps, grids, Post-its, images and reference material; the other is my bookshelf. I write at an old architect's desk and the futon behind me is supposedly for reading and thinking. But I never get a look-in because it's always covered with snoring pugs.

What are you writing next?

Book Four in the Beatrice Stubbs series. Book Three is now complete, and Book Two, Raw Material comes out in December 2012.

Here's an exclusive sneek peek at Raw Material.

Bank Holiday weekend. Beatrice Stubbs takes some holiday snaps on a secluded Welsh beach. Those innocent pictures reveal rather more than cliffs and seagulls, and someone wants them destroyed. But Beatrice has other things on her mind.
 Assigned to the London Transport Police, she’s pursuing the Finsbury Park Flasher, trying to pre-empt a serious sexual offence. Meanwhile, neighbour Adrian and companion Matthew decide to play Poirot, and investigate the mystery of the disappearing photographs. Amateur detectives and professional criminals are a dangerous mix.
From deserted Pembrokeshire beaches, through the shadowy underpasses of North London, to the remote Irish countryside, Beatrice discovers the darker side of human nature.

And finally for fun..

What books are on your bedside table?

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace; The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver; The Confidant, by Helene Grémillon; The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt; and most importantly, The Best of Jackie Annual, full of soft-focus pictures of David Essex and articles on How To Kiss. 

Jill - Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions and for allowing us a glimpse into the fascianting world of a writer. We wish you continued success with your writing career, and look forward to meeting up with Beatrice Stubbs in book two !

Jill has very generously offered a paperback copy of Behind Closed Doors to one lucky UK winner of this giveaway.

My thoughts on Behind Closed Doors

Sometimes a book takes you by surprise and Behind Closed Doors certainly surprised me. I don’t normally read books set in Europe but to have a crime book with such a sophisticated plot and with intelligent and witty dialogue was just a delight. I just couldn't stop turning the pages and read the book quickly over the space of a couple of afternoons.

At first detective Beatrice Stubbs is an unlikely protagonist, she deeply flawed from a problem only hinted at, and we are led to believe that her secondment from Scotland Yard to head the Zurich investigation is her last chance at redeeming herself. Leading a group of European experts is never going to be easy, and as the complicated investigation into a series of unrelated high profile suicides gets underway, Beatrice and her new team need to work together in order to discover a possible link between the deaths of such high profile business men.

Behind Closed Doors reads very well, it is neither too graphic nor gratuitously violent, and yet the air of menace is so well maintained that you almost find yourself holding your breath as the twists and turns in the plot get underway. Setting the book in Europe is inspired as it lends a certain solemnity to proceedings which is sometimes lacking in contemporary crime novels and also the occasional snippets of Swiss-German dialogue adds an extra dimension, as does Beatrice’s amusing ability to mix her metaphors. Her European counterparts are well described and form the basis for some interesting shared experiences.

Overall, this was a very good debut novel; Ms Marsh has the undoubted ability to control a complicated plot, and with remarkable skill weaves together all the strands of the story to an exciting conclusion. I would hope that this is not the end of Beatrice; she has so much potential, it would be a crime not to write more about her.


Wednesday, 10 October 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




Judy Finnigan

Published by Sphere
October 11 2012

From Goodreads

She was a daughter, a wife, a mother. She was my friend. But what secrets did Eloise take to her grave?

After her best friend Eloise dies from breast cancer, Cathy is devastated. But then Cathy begins to have disturbing dreams that imply Eloise's death was not all it seems.

With a history of depression, Cathy is only just recovering from a nervous breakdown and her husband Chris, a psychiatrist, is acutely aware of his wife's mental frailty. When Cathy tells Chris of her suspicions about Eloise's death, as well as her ability to sense Eloise's spirit, Chris thinks she is losing her grip on reality once again.

Stung by her husband's scepticism, Cathy decides to explores Eloise's mysterious past, putting herself in danger as she finds herself drawn ever deeper into her friend's great - and tragic - secret.

Judy Finnigan's debut novel Eloise seems to have been a long time coming, but I'm interested to see what she has done with her first dabble into fiction writing.

I love the cover -  I'm sure it's going to do extremely well for her.

Published 11 October 2012

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Review - Ferney by James Long

My thanks to Real Readers for a signed limited edition copy of this book.


Quercus 2012

My 5***** Review

In their search for a new home Gally and Mike Martin stop in the quiet English village of Penselwood, where Gally is curiously attracted to a dilapidated old cottage. Although Mike has reservations, he is relieved that Gally seems to find comfort and a sense of purpose, in renovating the old place. When Ferney, an enigmatic old gentleman who lives in the same village, keeps appearing, Gally is inexplicably drawn towards him, and yet finds no reason why he should seem so familiar. What then follows is the story of how two souls separated by time go on to find each other again and again and again.

Initially the story gets off to a slow start, and yet from the outset the chemistry between Gally and Ferney is undeniable. About a third into the book and the story really starts to unravel, the tragic history of the landscape is revealed, and a powerful and irrepressible connection starts to emerge. The book then starts to be compelling, as with great skill the author starts to manipulate the narrative into a story of reincarnation, and the power of shared memory. The time slip element to the story is particularly well done as the author manages to convey a sense of history, whilst at the same time keeping the integrity of the love story alive.

I first read Ferney when it was published in 1998, and fell in love with the whole nature of the story, so to find that the book had been republished was a real pleasure, and I enjoyed this second re read almost as much as I did the first time. The idea that there is a sequel to Ferney to look forward to in TheLives She Left Behind only adds to my reading pleasure.

The Lives She Left Behind
Quercus 2012

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Jaffa's Sunday Corner..

Cat themed reading for the discerning feline

This week Jaffa has been immersed in this beautiful story 


The Dalai Lama's Cat
October 1st 2012 by Hay House Visions

On the surface, this is the delightful story of the Dalai Lama’s cat, a cat of many names, who when rescued from the slums of New Delhi, goes on to find comfort and an intellectual home amongst the philosophers and teachers who inhabit the inner sanctum of the Dalai Lama. However, underneath this whimsical tale of feline adventure, there is also the added bonus of some rather special Buddhist philosophy, and an introduction into the world of this enigmatic spiritual leader.

Author David Michie is already an authority on Buddhist teaching; in this book he uses a light hearted and humorous approach to illustrate beliefs and attitudes into not just the human psyche, but also into how much we can learn from observing the karma of animal kingdom. The warmth and wisdom of the narrative, make this a very easy book to read, in fact it’s one of those stories that you can dip into and out of, and still find something meaningful amongst the pages.

We share the same two basic wishes: the wish to enjoy happiness and the wish to avoid suffering” 


Saturday, 6 October 2012

Review - A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir

My thanks to Random House Group and Ballantine Books for a review copy in advance of the US 


2 October 2012

Dangerous Inheritance


A Dangerous Inheritance
Ballantine -October 2 2012

In A Dangerous Inheritance, Alison Weir brings to life both the Tudor era, and the last of the Plantagenets, and explores the myth surrounding Richard III’s involvement in the disappearance of the young Plantagenet princes. Her use of two female protagonists, eighty years apart, allows the story to evolve, not just as a royal commentary, but also as an insight into scandalous political intrigue. Cleverly blending fact with fiction, Weir intertwines the story of Lady Katherine Grey, sister to the infamous Lady Jane Grey, with the story of Lady Katherine Plantagenet, the illegitimate daughter of Richard III. The story of the ‘princes in the tower’ has long been the subject of divided historical debate; it’s interesting therefore to have a fictional slant on the story told from two different female perspectives. For the purposes of A Dangerous Inheritance, Katherine Plantagenet has the benefit of having lived through the last of the turbulent Plantagenet dynasty, and by involving her with the tragic story of Lady Katherine Grey; it allows the introduction of a supernatural element linking the two women, and the clever blending of two historical time frames.

As always Weir’s research is impeccable, her ability to weave historical magic is evident in the way she controls the narrative, and she cleverly blends fiction, with factual historical accuracy. Although the story is enjoyable to read a standalone novel, there is some continuation of the story started in Weir’s previous book, Innocent Traitor.

A Dangerous Inheritance is published in the UK by Hutchinson 21 June 2012

Friday, 5 October 2012

Friday Recommends - Time's Echo by Pamela Hartshorne

My thanks to newbooksmag for a review copy of Time's Echo

My Friday Recommended Read 


Time's Echo 


Published 6 September

The Book Blurb: 

York , 1577: Hawise Aske smiles at a stranger in the market, and sets in train a story of obsession and sibling jealousy, of love and hate and warped desire. Drowned as a witch, Hawise pays a high price for that smile, but for a girl like her in Elizabethan York, there is nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.

 Four and a half centuries later, Grace Trewe, who has travelled the world, is trying to outrun the memories of being caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami. Her stay in York is meant to be a brief one. But in York Grace discovers that time can twist and turn in ways she never imagined. Drawn inexorably into Hawise’s life, Grace finds that this time she cannot move on. 

Will she too be engulfed in the power of the past?

My 5***** Review

Time's Echo opens with the details of very graphic experience which quickly sets the scene for this dual time narrative set in the city of York. When Grace Trewe is called to the city to oversee the closure of her deceased godmother's house, she is totally unprepared for the effect that the house has on her. Grace, a very modern woman is drawn into the troubled story of Hawise Aske, a young woman who has been grievously wronged, and whose voice echoes down the centuries.

With most dual time narratives there is a tendency to favour one time period over another, but in Time’s Echo both time frames are equally valid with neither one trying to outshine the other. The natural blending of the storyline with parallels in both the past and the future is seamless, and as both Grace and Hawise spiral out of control, the story takes on a momentum all of its own. From the beginning the story explores the historical significance of everyday life in Elizabethan York, and as Hawise and the ordinary people go about their everyday business, a story of thwarted lust, greed and ignorant superstition begins to evolve. In modern day York, Grace battles her own demons whilst at the same time experiences the insecurities and challenges of living day to day in two very different time periods.

Without doubt this is an extraordinarily good debut novel. Pamela Hartshorne is a very talented storyteller, and in Time's Echo she has combined her love of history, with a totally believable story of malicious superstition and overwhelming evil.

Time's Echo one of those rare finds that you want to keep on your book shelf in order to re-read and discover all over again.

It is one of my books of 2012.

Read it for Samhain- "when the worlds of the living and the dead become as one"...


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway - Gillian E. Hamer

I am delighted to introduce

Gillian E. Hamer

© Gillian Hamer

The Charter
G.E. Hamer (3 May 2012)
The legend of The Royal Charter is almost as famous as the story of the dead girl who wanders the cliffs at Point Lynas – a victim of the 1859 shipwreck.
After more than a decade away, Sarah Morton must return to her childhood home in Anglesey to bury her father. It’s her chance to say goodbye, and good riddance, to her past.
Yet her father leaves her a legacy. A letter. And a safe full of documents about the ancient shipwreck.
The Royal Charter had been carrying gold. Huge amounts of it. And her father’s death suddenly looks like murder.
Determined to discover the truth, Sarah is dragged into a dangerous journey, discovering she and the girl on the cliffs have more in common than she could ever believe.
Set along the dramatic and dangerous Anglesey coastline, The Charter is a story of greed and forgiveness – when the treasures of the past evoke the crimes of today.

Gillian has very kindly taken the time to talk about her book and has given a fascinating insight into what inspired her to write the story of The Charter.

Tell us about your novel The Charter.

The Charter is a crime thriller with a twist – an added paranormal thread with a dollop of historical fiction too!
I think it’s called mixed genre, and in terms of getting published down the traditional route that was The Charter’s downfall. Crime should be crime, ghost stories should stay separate. And no publisher wanted to take a risk, so I formed Triskele Books with other writers who were in the same position as me.
The Charter’s roots go way back to my childhood, scouring Red Wharf Bay for washed-up treasure with a family friend who owned a metal detector and had a passion for retelling local legends. Since then I've visited Llanallgo Church where the victims were buried, and spent a lot of time at Point Lynas and Moelfre researching the tragedy.
I felt the story of The Charter deserved more recognition, but I also wanted a way to bring it full circle into the modern day.
When I wrote the novel, I had no ideas about mixed genre, or any preconceptions about getting it published. I just wrote the story I’d had in my head for many years.

What inspired you to become an author?

In truth I'm not sure I ever felt inspired by any one thing. I've always loved to read. I started with Enid Blyton at a very young age, and then moved on to read every Agatha Christie in our local village library.
I always enjoyed English at school and moved into writing long stories as a hobby. In fact, my earliest claim to fame was winning a Blue Peter Competition when I was eleven, and to win I had write an episode of Grange Hill. I have a photograph somewhere of myself in the local newspaper but unfortunately I had mumps at the time and was absolutely terrified!
Writing has just been something I've always been able to do. However, it’s taken me the best part of a decade to get to this level and I'm still learning every day. It’s one thing to be able to write – it’s a totally different thing to get a book published. But I love every aspect of writing – from plotting to editing and everything in between.

Do you have a special place to do your writing?

Not one special place as I kind of move around a lot. I can write anywhere, even in front of the television if need be! Although I do like to write late at night in bed, when the house is silent and I can focus and let my mind go. I lose hours when I'm writing, and it’s a really odd sensation.
But I do prefer to do most of my thinking and plotting and researching at our cottage up on Anglesey. I have a small study with a beautiful view that, whatever the weather, never fails to inspire me.

What are you writing next?

My next book with Triskele Books is another crime and paranormal mix based on and around Anglesey called, Closure, and will be released on 1st December 2012.

Sneak peek of the back cover blurb below:

            Helen West is coming to terms with her husband’s death and trying to cope with her six-year-old son’s grief. Jake suffers from nightmares, and visions of what he calls his ‘other life’. He talks about a boy called Jacob and a place known only as ‘the island’.
Helen’s journey to find the source of Jake’s torment leads them to North Wales, where the university town of Bangor is in lockdown following a series of student abductions.
When Jake’s nightmares start to mirror the abductions, Helen begins to believe her son might have second sight. But what could Jake’s ‘island’ possibly have to do with these crimes? And how can they help without putting their own lives in danger?
It seems that decision will be Jake's alone.

Set along the beautiful North Wales coastline, Closure is a story of belief, revenge and repercussions of the past.

And finally for fun....What books are on your bedside table?

I always have a huge reading backlog! I have MargaretAtwood’s, Blind Assassin and the latest Philippa Gregory ready to read. And I'm also really looking forward to J K Rowling’s new novel as I was a massive Harry Potter fan! At the moment, I'm reading a novel by a new author – A Parachute inthe Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary.

While I used to read predominantly crime, I've now spread my wings a little and have discovered some really fascinating authors over the years. I think every writer must be an avid reader; it’s a constant source of inspiration. Not to mention when reading really good writing, it ignites something inside me that really fires me up to improve my own writing.

Gillian - Thank you so much for taking the time to visit jaffareadstoo, and for all your insightful answers to our questions. We wish you much success in your writing career, and are already looking forward to reading your next book Closure, when it is published in December 2012.

Gillian has very generously offered to give a kindle ecopy of her book The Charter to one lucky winner of this week's giveaway.

International giveaway is open to all.

Here is my 5***** review of The Charter

Sarah Morton returns to the Anglesey village of Moelfre to attend her father’s funeral, and as she goes back to the brooding house on the edge of the cliffs, she begins to realise that long buried secrets threaten, not just the present, but also the past. Beautifully written, this story literally bounds along at top speed, there is never a lull in the narrative as with expert skill the author combines historical legend, with a modern day murder mystery. The Charter works so well on all levels, the historic legend of the Royal Charter forms the basis of the story, but the present day murder mystery is equally compelling, and just as absorbing. The rapport with the characters is instantaneous, they are so finely drawn you can almost imagine them as people you know, and as the gradual layering of the present and the past combine, the stark truth begins to emerge of lives ruined by grief and despair.

With the author’s fine attention to detail, the stark coastal beauty of Anglesey comes gloriously alive. The legacy of the shipwreck lives on, and as the story unfolds, you can easily imagine that you are standing on the edge of the cliff path looking out over Dulas Bay, with the tang of salt and seaweed in the air, and the beleaguered ship, The Royal Charter, being tossed like a puppet in the churning waters of the Irish Sea.

It’s not often that a book comes along which covers all your favourite genres in one fell swoop, but, for me, The Charter is definitely one such book. Gillian Hamer writes with the passion of one who knows Anglesey well, and with great skill and imagination has turned this passion into a cracking good story.

I look forward to reading more novels from this talented author

Wednesday, 3 October 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.

Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer (Darcy and Fitzwilliam, #1)

My wishlist Wednesday book


Darcy and Fitzwilliam : A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer (Darcy and Fitzwilliam #1)


Karen V. Wasylowski

From Goodreads

A gentleman in love cannot survive without his best friend...

Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam couldn't be more different, and that goes for the way each one woos and pursues the woman of his dreams. Darcy is quiet and reserved, careful and dutiful, and his qualms and hesitations are going to torpedo his courtship of Elizabeth. His affable and vivacious cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam is a military hero whose devil-may-care personality hides the torments within, until he finds himself in a passionate, whirlwind affair with a beautiful widow who won't hear of his honourable intentions.

Cousins, best friends, and sparring partners, Darcy and Fitzwilliam have always been there for each other. So it's no surprise when the only one who can help Darcy fix his botched marriage proposals is Fitzwilliam, and the only one who can pull Fitzwilliam out of an increasingly dangerous entanglement is Darcy.

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite classic romances and I have grown to love the spin off ideas from other clever authors.This one is firmly on my wishlist.

I love the cover of this one - couldn't you just run down those stairs and along that path!

There is a competition to win a copy of Karen Wasylowski's sequel to Darcy and Fitzwilliam, Sons and Daughters,on her blog  here