Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Aphrodite's Tears by Hannah Fielding

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the 

Aphrodite's Tears Blog Tour

London Wall Publishers
25th January 2018

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

I am delighted to welcome back to the blog one of my favourite authors.

I asked Hannah where she got the inspirations for Aphrodite's Tears...

Inspirations for my new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears

The seeds for Aphrodite’s Tears were sewn in my childhood. Firstly, through the Greek people I met who told me all about their country and its traditions (I grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, at a time when it was a very cosmopolitan place, and many of my parents’ friends and my school friends were Greek). Secondly, and importantly, through my family’s love of storytelling, which introduced me to Greek mythology.

It was a children’s book that first opened my eyes to these fantastic stories. I remember it as well-thumbed, with a cracking spine, and falling open on certain stories I loved: Persephone and Hades, King Midas and the golden touch, Theseus and the Minotaur (although the Minotaur illustration would frighten me). My governess read this book over and over to me, as did my parents, and I lived the stories in my imagination.

The stories of Greek mythology stayed with me over the years, and when I had my own children, I was able to rediscover them all over again; and then, more recently, once more with my grandchildren. The more I read these stories, all different versions of them, the more they ignited sparks in my imagination – I wanted to write something infused with these ancient tales.

Beyond my love of legends, though, Greece had become a natural choice for the setting for a novel because of my history with the country. Where better to situate a romance than where I have experienced some of my own most romantic moments? I bought my wedding dress in Greece, and I honeymooned there, on the Greek islands. The stunning sunset that Damian and Oriel watch together on Santorini in Aphrodite’s Tears… I have seen that myself, many times, and each time it has taken my breath away.

As well as the romance of Greece, the values of the Greek people struck a chord with me. In Aphrodite’s Tears, I conceived a story that focuses on a tight-knit community, isolated from others, in which tradition and family are very important. From my travels in Greece, I knew that the Greek island setting would be a good fit. Helios is the kind of island I think many of us would love to escape to, where traditional values are still important and family is at the heart of everything. I remember learning that according to Greek customs a man should still ask a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and thinking: ‘This is the place for a love story.’

Greece is a very special setting for me, and it is one I know well. ‘Write about what you know’ is an old adage, but an apt one – my novels are always set in places that have meaning for me. I would add, however, that is just as important to write about what inspires you. Greece – its people, its customs and traditions, its history, its legends, its landscapes – this place inspires me. For as the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley put it: ‘We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece.’

Huge thanks to Hannah for this fabulous guest post.

Twitter @fieldinghannah # AphroditesTears

Aphrodite’s Tears is out in paperback on 25th January for £7.99

Do visit the other blog tour stops

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Review ~ The Confession by Jo Spain

11th January 2018
My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for my ecopy of this book

Harry McNamara and his wife Julie are watching television, at home, when a man calmly walks into their house and brutally murders Harry, as Julie paralysed with fear, watches in horror. A little later the same man walks into a police station and admits to killing Harry in an unpremeditated attack claiming that he didn't know his victim. 

Knowing 'whodunnit' at the very start of the novel is an interesting premise as it allows not just a unique glimpse into the mind of the killer but it also lays bare the imperfections and cracks in the marriage of Harry and Julie. What then follows is a clever and twisted psychological thriller which puts under the microscope, not just the lives of Harry McNamara and his wife, but also the life and background of JP Carney, the man who is responsible for Harry's murder. And as the complex reasons for the killing start to unfold, so a story of lies, deceit and deadly secrets starts to emerge. 

Of course, there is more to the story than at first appears and the lead detective on the case, Alice Moody, is determined to pick holes in JP’s story. She will leave no stone unturned and no suspicion unchallenged in her quest to find out just what motivated JP to commit such a seemingly random act of appalling violence. 

The story abounds with a real sense of foreboding, and, as it skips around in time, so it exposes the complexities of the central characters and these are highlighted with clever precision, and a real sense of style. No one is beyond reproach, indeed not many of the characters are even remotely likeable, and yet, there is such a clever sophistication to the story that you can't help but find yourself taking sides, first with one character, and then another,  until you don’t really know where your loyalties lie or who is telling the truth . 

Rather unusually for me, I didn’t see the direction the story was heading and there were many times I thought I had it all sussed out only for the plot to veer off in a completely different direction, so the dénouement when it comes was , for me, a real eye opener. 

Without doubt The Confession is a really clever psychological thriller with one of the best opening lines I have read in a long, long time. Shall I tell you what it is ….er no, read it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession is her first standalone thriller.

Twitter @SpainJoanne #TheConfession

Monday, 22 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Nucleus by Rory Clements

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Nucleus Blog Tour

Bonnier Zaffre
25 January 2018
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour
What's it all about...

England is partying like there is no tomorrow, gas masks at the ready. In Cambridge the May Balls are played out with a frantic intensity - but the good times won't last... In Europe, the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, and in Germany the persecution of the Jews is now so widespread that desperate Jewish parents send their children to safety in Britain aboard the Kindertransport. Closer to home, the IRA's S-Plan bombing campaign has resulted in more than 100 terrorist outrages around England.

But perhaps the most far-reaching event of all goes largely unreported: in Germany, Otto Hahn has produced the first man-made fission and an atomic device is now a very real possibility. The Nazis set up the Uranverein group of physicists: its task is to build a superbomb. The German High Command is aware that British and US scientists are working on similar line. Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory is where the atom was split in 1932. Might the Cambridge men now win the race for a nuclear bomb? Hitler's generals need to be sure they know all the Cavendish's secrets. Only then will it be safe for Germany to wage war.

When one of the Cavendish's finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is once more drawn into an intrigue from which there seems no escape. In a conspiracy that stretches from Cambridge to Berlin and from Washington DC to the west coast of Ireland, he faces deadly forces that threaten the fate of the world.

What did I think about it...

This new historical thriller takes us right back into the complicated world of Professor Tom Wilde, the Cambridge historian and amateur detective, who we first met in Corpus. In Nucleus, we have an altogether darker mystery which sees Tom, and his companions, pushed to the limit of even their considerable endurance. 

It's 1939 and England is on the cusp of war and the brilliant scientists at the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge are working frantically to complete their research into nuclear fission which could lead to the production of the first nuclear bomb. However, Germany also has its eye on this considerable prize, and there are some unscrupulous individuals who will stop at nothing to get the information they need in order to gain superiority as Europe races towards conflict. 

Nucleus is a fascinating historical thriller which is totally convincing in its authenticity, alive with menace and teeming with characters that stay with you long after the last page is turned. I always enjoy being in Tom Wilde's company, he is fast becoming one of my favourite amateur sleuths, and it's really interesting to see, in this novel,  how his troubled relationship with his girlfriend, Lydia, develops, particularly as Lydia is also about to be tested to her limits when she embarks on her own dangerous mission. 

From sleepy Cambridge, to the dark days of pre-war Berlin, and even to the inner sanctum of the White house and a meeting with President Roosevelt, Nucleus is filled with the plots and schemes of some unscrupulous individuals who will stop at nothing to get what they want. The story moves along at a rollicking pace and the multiple twists and turns in the plot certainly kept me guessing right until the end. The historical aspect of the story is, as ever, impeccably researched and everything feels so authentic that it really is, at times, like being a fly on the wall with a privileged view of everything as it happens. The central plot is all consuming and the multiple strands of the story with all their elements of danger and intrigue make for an exciting historical thriller. 

I hope that it won't be too long before Tom Wilde comes back with another fascinating historical adventure

RORY CLEMENTS won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2010 for his second novel, Revenger. He is the author of the John Shakespeare series of novels which are currently in development for TV by the team behind POLDARK and ENDEAVOUR. Since 2007, Rory has been writing full-time in a quiet corner of Norfolk, England, where he lives with his family.

Twitter #Nucleus

Do visit the other stops on the Blog Tour


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of the First World War

It is possible to walk in any of our cemeteries  to discover a CWGC headstone from WW1. 

On a visit to Mellor, a small village in Lancashire, I discovered this Commonwealth War Grave in a quiet part of the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin church. The solitary headstone caught my eye and on further inspection I discovered that it was the grave of  a young nurse, something I have not seen before.

Mary Jennette Robins

Mary Jennette Robins, was an officer in the Royal Navy, in the Queen Alexandra Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNN ). When I searched online at the Imperial War Museum, Lives of the First World War website, I discovered that Mary was born in 1890 in Blackburn, Lancashire and that she sadly died of pneumonia on the 4th November 1918.

I discovered that Mary features on the Women of the Empire memorial in York Minster where the names of 1,400 women are commemorated and their names are inscribed on oak screens.

Mary Jennette Robins has no connection to me or my family and the only thing we have in common is that we were both nurses.

For every one of these quiet resting places, in graveyards up and down the country, there are so many stories to be told of ordinary lives lost and of families who forever mourned their loss.

It does no harm, if you come across any of these headstones, to stop and, in a moment of quiet reflection, acknowledge the sacrifices that were made over a hundred years ago. The least we can do is to remember what they did, and say thank you.

In this final year of my commemoration of the First World War, I am hoping to feature more stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.


Saturday, 20 January 2018

Hit Fic Saturday ~ The Good Sister by Maggie Christensen

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to..1938

Two Isobels. A lifetime of regret. A love that spans the years

Cala Publishing
November 2017
My thanks to the author for providing an ecopy of this book to review

What's it all about ...

In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for. Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.

In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood and overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control and, almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.

What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future? 

My thoughts...

There's always something fascinating about reading a dual time story which intertwines the stories of two very different characters, whose shared connection to the past encroaches on the future. In The Good Sister, the author has once again brought us two memorable female characters and, as we discover, both of the Isobel's, one in the 1940s, and the other in 2015, are joined by something which happened decades ago, in the past.

The story splits its time between past and present and the author does a good job of allowing both women to have their voice. Time and place are represented well, and, over the course of the story,  I enjoyed getting to know both of the characters and enjoyed seeing just where the events of the story would take them.

The author writes this type of fiction, featuring more mature heroines, really well and it is to her credit that she allows the story to unfold in a rather gentle manner, which makes for very pleasant reading. 

The Good Sister is a lovely, family saga for a cold and wintery afternoon and is the author's first foray into writing historical fiction. I hope it won't be her last. 

Maggie Christensen

Twitter @MaggieChriste33

Amazon UK

Friday, 19 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ In Love and War by Liz Trenow

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the 

In Love and War Blog Tour

Pan Macmillan
January 25th
My thanks to the publishers for the copy of the book and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

I am delighted to have the author, Liz Trenow, as my guest on the blog today.

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Liz, tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing? 

I spent most of my working life as a journalist (starting on local newspapers then moving to the BBC) and had tinkered with writing fiction but with a demanding job and a husband and two daughters at home never found time to write a novel. In my late fifties I managed to get early retirement and decided that it was now of never! I was incredibly fortunate to find an agent, and then a publisher – something I’d never even dreamed of.

What can you tell us about In Love and War without giving too much away?

The bodies of one in four who died in the First World War were never found – all their families were told was that they were ‘missing, presumed dead’. My husband’s uncle is one of these, and his name is inscribed with the many thousands of others on the Menin Gate at Ypres. 

When I was researching an earlier book, The Poppy Factory, I discovered that almost immediately after the end of the war several thousands of people made the difficult journey to the devastated battlefield areas of Flanders and the Somme, desperate for news of their lost loved ones. 

It must have been horrifying to witness the chaos that war had left behind: the mud, the trenches, the make-shift cemeteries, and I wanted to try to imagine how these early battlefield ‘pilgrims’ might feel, through my three characters: a young English widow, an American woman whose brother was lost, and a German mother whose son died.

In researching the story, did you discover anything which surprised you?

So many things! I’d intended to set the story in Ypres but when we visited there on a battlefield tour we discovered that the place had been completely rebuilt after being almost levelled to the ground by the war: hardly a building had been left standing and in 1919 there were no hotels or facilities for tourists there. 

Then we visited a little village called Poperinghe, which had never been captured, and it was there we went to Talbot House, the ‘home from home’ for soldiers of all ranks created by a charismatic army chaplain called Tubby Clayton. He and the house play an important part in my story. 

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?

When I start I usually have quite a clear idea of what they are like and what will happen to them during the course of the novel. But characters do evolve as you write them, sometimes in interesting ways. I can get quite attached to them, and they do go on living in my head long after I’ve finished the book. 

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

Yes I do get emotionally involved in my characters although I wouldn’t say it ‘takes its toll’ to any great extent. All I know is that if I feel genuine sadness, or joy, for them, they have come alive in my mind and will hopefully do the same for my readers. 

Where do your ideas for stories come from, and as one book finishes do you already know where the next book will take you? 

Ideas come from lots of sources – many of my books have been inspired by my family’s 300 year history of silk weaving (they’re still weaving today in Sudbury, Suffolk). Others come from something I have read, perhaps doing research for a previous book, as was the case for In Love and War. I usually know what book I am going to write next – the one I’m currently working on was inspired by a rather minor character from a previous novel, The Silk Weaver.

What's it all about...

July, 1919. The First World War is over. The war-torn area of Flanders near Ypres is no longer home to trenches or troops, but groups of tourists. Controversial battlefield tourism now drives bus-loads of people to witness first-hand where loved ones fell and died. 

At the Hotel de la Paix in the small village of Poperinghe, three women have come to the battlefields to find a trace of men they have loved and lost. Ruby is just 21, a shy Englishwoman looking for the grave of her husband. Alice is only a little older but brimming with confidence; she has travelled all the way from America, convinced her brother is in fact still alive and still in France. Then there’s Martha and her son Otto, who are not all they seem to be…

The three women may have very different backgrounds, but they are united in their search for reconciliation: to reconcile themselves to what the war took from them, but also to what life might still promise for the future,

Liz Trenow is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. In Love and War is her fifth novel. The Forgotten Seamstress reached the top twenty in the New York Times best seller list and The Last Telegram nominated for a national award. Her books have been translated into a number of languages.

She lives in Colchester in Essex with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters and two grandchildren.

Twitter @LizTrenow #InLoveAndWar

Amazon UK

My thanks to Liz for answering my questions so thoughtfully and for her invitation to be part of the blog tour.

Do visit the other Blog Tour stops 


Thursday, 18 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's very last stop on 

The Last Mrs Parrish Blog Tour

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book and for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.

Harper Collins
January 11th
What's it all about...

Amber Patterson is tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who melts into the background. She deserves more. She deserves a life of wealth, luxury and leisure.

Daphne Parrish is the golden girl of the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut. With her modelesque looks, her picture-perfect mansion and her millionaire husband, Jackson, she has everything Amber has ever wanted.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive—if she didn't have a plan. Gradually, Amber insinuates herself into the Parrish family’s life. Before long, she has become Daphne’s closest confidante, and is catching the eye of Jackson. But a skeleton from her past could undermine everything Amber has worked for, and if discovered, her well-laid plan may end in disaster…

What did I think about it...

Amber Patterson is every woman's worst nightmare, she's manipulative, unscrupulous, and yet, is insignificant enough to blend into the background. However, as she starts to infiltrate into the perfect life of the rich and beautiful, Daphne Parrish, you can't help but wonder if that little niggle of doubt that you have about Amber Patterson is going to be significant.

I’m not going to tell you any part of the story because that would be to really spoil everything, but as the plot progresses, and as Amber starts to ingratiate herself into Daphne's life and family, so more and more deadly secrets start to be revealed.

That the story takes the reader on a rocky, roller coaster of journey is without question and whilst, in many ways, it is an uncomfortable novel to read, as there are some really dark sexual references, I think these only add strength and purpose to, what is, in effect, a stunningly, clever psychological thriller.

It is to the author’s joint credit that they have created in The Last Mrs Parrish such a compelling read. It is eerily addictive, expertly managed and so succinctly plotted, that there were times when I read with my mind stunned in disbelief, scrabbling the pages so that I could read quicker and quicker, and, even then, not quite believing what was being revealed.

So great was the need to discover how the story would eventually play out, that I read the whole lot in a matter of hours, and I closed the book with a real sense of having read something which was truly unputdownable.

So many novels are described as unputdownable when they are clearly not, but, believe me,  The Last Mrs Parrish really is unputdownable and is a stunning debut from two talented writers.

Liv Constantine is the pen name of bestselling authors and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and email. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is their debut thriller. 

Twitter @livconstantine2 #TheLastMrsParrish