Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Reviews ~ These Darkening Days and Turning Blue by Benjamin Myers

Moth Publishing
22 September 2017


As autumn draws in, a series of unexplained vicious attacks occur in a small northern town renowned for being a bohemian backwater.

As the national media descends, local journalist Roddy Mace attempts to tell the story, but finds the very nature of truth being brought into question. He turns to disgraced detective James Brindle for help.

When further attacks occur the shattered community becomes the focus of an accelerating media that favours immediacy over truth. Murder and myth collide in a folk-crime story about place, identity and the tangled lives of those who never leave.

My thoughts about it ...

Those who have read this author's previous book, Turning Blue, will be entirely familiar with both lead protagonists in These Darkening Days. Roddy Mace, the struggling journalist, once again combines forces, with disgraced, Cold Storage, detective, James Brindle, and in their own indomitable style they endeavour to find out just what is happening in this dark corner of the Yorkshire Dales.

When a woman is found brutally attacked, the police hunt is on to find the perpetrator, which in this secretive Pennine valley town is easier said than done. Before long it becomes apparent that this vicious attack is the core of something which runs much deeper, and the desperate race against time to discover the attacker is fraught with difficulties and distractions. Tensions run high and secrets run deep and neither the town nor its occupants are prepared to give up their secrets easily.

To say more would be to give far too much of this complicated plot away, so rather than spoil it, I will concentrate on the interest I have in this author, who conjures time and place so realistically that you really feel like you stalk the high Pennine moors in company with misfits and murderers. The visceral nature of these stories are not for the faint hearted, and if you haven’t read Turning Blue, than I would suggest that you do before embarking on this one, as to understand the author and his writing you need to start at the very beginning.  There is a dark lyricism to the stories, which is perhaps slightly more powerful in Turning Blue, which, believe me, takes a dark tale to the very extreme of darkness, but which is no less authoritative in These Darkening Days.

These Darkening Days is a compulsive and, at times, a distinctly uncomfortable read which brings rural-noir to life in a very convincing way. The brooding landscape of the high moors and the secluded nature of a small town at odds with itself is brought vividly and realistically to life. 

Small town crime has never been so interesting.

Moth Publishing

The depths of winter in the isolated Yorkshire Dales and a teenage girl is missing.

At a derelict farm high up on a hillside Steven Rutter, a destitute loner, harbours secrets. Nobody knows the bleak moors better than him, or their hiding places.

Obsessive, taciturn and solitary, detective Jim Brindle is relentless in pursuing justice. But he is not alone in his growing preoccupation with the case. Local journalist Roddy Mace has moved north from London to build a new life. 

As Brindle and Mace begin to prise the secrets of the case from tight-lipped locals, their investigation leads first to the pillars of the community and finally to a local celebrity and fixture of the nation's Saturday night TV. 'Lovely Larry' Lister has his own hiding places, and his own dark tastes.

My thoughts about it...

In the deep darkness of a snowy winter a local girl goes missing and for this small Yorkshire town life will be disturbed to such an extent that neighbour will look upon neighbour with more than a hint of suspicion. The malevolent forces which exist and flourish in the lonely corners of this wild and unforgiving landscape give refuge to the most depraved of individuals. That these debauched residents are well known within the town gives credence to the saying that you should keep your enemies close and your friends even closer. Steven Rutter is a depraved loner, eking out a miserable existence in the dilapidated and unkempt farm he vaguely calls home. That he has been victimised and abused throughout the whole of his miserable life lends a dark fascination to the overall visceral pull of the novel.

I read Turning Blue with an almost gruesome fascination, it’s not for the faint hearted and if you are offended by violence and graphic sexual description, then this is not the book, or the writer for you. It must be said that I did, at times read with one eye open and always with an air of trepidation about just what was going to happen next.

So, I will put the shocking contents aside and concentrate on the writing which is very good, and which is, at times, quite lyrical, something I really didn’t expect to find in a crime novel. The Yorkshire landscape is described in awesome detail and both the place and its people come vividly to life. It took a while to get used to the author’s distinct writing style, the no ‘speech marks’ confused me a little, but once this lack of punctuation sat more comfortably, and as the story started to bite, this, became no problem at all, but is perhaps worth mentioning.

Turning Blue is a dark and gloomy tale but which is perfectly written by an author who has given this rural noir genre a glorious new lease of life.

About the author

Benjamin Myers is an award winning writer His novel Beastings (2014) won the Portico Prize For Literature, was the recipient of the Northern Writers’ Award and long listed for a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award 2015. Pig Iron (2012) was the winner of the inaugural Gordon Burn Prize and Richard (2010) was selected as a Sunday Times book of the year. Turning Blue (2016) was named Book of the Year 2016 by Loud and Quiet magazine and his recent novel The Gallows Pole ( 2017) has already won the Roger Deakin award.

Find out more on his website by clicking here

Follow on Twitter @BenMyer1 @MothCrime

My thanks to the team at Moth Publishing for my review copies of these books

These Darkening Days will be published on the 22 September 2017


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Review ~ Midnight at the Bright Ideas Book Store by Matthew Sullivan

William Heinemann

What's it all about...

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the 'BookFrogs' the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: Trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

My thoughts about it...

I was really excited to receive my review copy of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, not just because of the tactile nature of its beautiful midnight blue hardback cover but also because any novel which features a book store is a sure fire winner with me.

When Lydia Smith discovers Joey Molina, one of her regular book customers, dead on the upper floor of her bookstore, this sad event opens up, for Lydia, a whole heap of secrets which she never knew existed. That Joey's life may be interwoven with Lydia's comes as something as a shock to her and the journey she must take in order to discover more about herself, and Joey, is both enlightening and frightening in equal measure.

I found that I was soon engrossed in the story, the writing is good and the plot development is maintained with a fine eye for detail and the complicated nature of the relationships within the novel added necessary light and shade. There are some deeply flawed characters, particularly Lydia's widowed father, Tomas, who had more than enough secrets of his own and the relationship between father and daughter is upsetting and at times, reveals far more questions than it does answers. I enjoyed the way the story combined both past and present . The mystery at the heart of the story is interwoven with some quite dark moments, particularly with those uncomfortable secrets which, if left unchallenged, can fester and destroy everything around them. 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a well written debut novel by a talented new author.

About the Author

Matthew Sullivan grew up in a family of eight spirited children in suburban Denver, Colorado. In addition to working for years at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver and at Brookline Booksmith in Boston, he has taught writing and literature at colleges in Boston, Idaho and Poland, and currently teaches writing, literature and film at Big Bend Community College in the high desert of Washington State. He is married to a librarian and has two children and a scruffy dog named Ernie.

More about the author can be found on his website by clicking here 

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore


Monday, 18 September 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Waterway Girls by Milly Adams

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on The Waterway Girls Blog Tour

7 September 2017

October 1943, West London

Nineteen-year-old Polly Holmes is leaving poor bombed London behind to join the war effort on Britain’s canals.

Stepping aboard the Marigold amid pouring rain, there’s lots for Polly to get to grips with. Not least her fellow crew: strong and impetuous Verity, whose bark is worse than her bite, and seasoned skipper Bet.

With her sweetheart away fighting in the RAF and her beloved brother killed in action, there’s plenty of heartache to be healed on the waterway. And as Polly rolls up her sleeves and gets stuck into life on board the narrow boat – making the gruelling journey London up to Birmingham – she will soon discover that a world of new beginnings awaits amid the anguish of the war.

My thoughts

When nineteen year old Polly Holmes leaves her home in bombed out London and joins a female crew of canal boat operatives in October 1943, she is little prepared for the changes that this decision will bring to her life. At first, due to an uncomfortable feud with Verity, a fellow crew member, Polly struggles to become accustomed to life on the canal. But gradually, under the watchful eye of skipper, Bet, the young crew members start to work together as a team and the arduous journey of taking the narrow boat from London to Birmingham is filled with excitement and adventure.

In The Waterway Girls the author brings together a group of feisty young women and describes vividly the hardships and trepidation that accompanied them on their canal journey. Life was tough, not just for the women who were recruited by the Ministry of Transport’s waterways training scheme, but also for the established canal folk who had, for so long, made the canal systems their home. Tensions run high and for Polly, Bet and Verity life on the canal is never without its complications.

Before reading this novel, I was unaware of the WW2 initiative of training women to crew canal boats in order to keep freight and other cargo on the move during the worst of the war years. Rather as the Land Girls kept the agricultural side of things going, so the Waterway Girls ensured that cargo and merchandise travelled safely from depot to destination, often in hazardous conditions.

I think that the author captures time and place really well and combines the descriptions of eventful life on the canals with the personal stories of the crew members. There is heartache a plenty ahead of them, but there is also a sense of hopefulness, as they each become accustomed to a new way of life.

The Waterway Girls is the start of a new saga series by this author and I am sure it will appeal to her many fans.

More about the author can be found on her website by clicking here

Milly Adams lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, dog and cat. Her children live nearby. Her grandchildren are fun, and lead her astray. She insists that it is that way round.

Milly Adams is also the author of Above Us The Sky and Sisters At War.

Follow the tour on Twitter #TheWaterwayGirls 


Do visit the other blog tour stops

My thanks to Becky at Penguin Random House for the invitation to be part of this blog tour and also for my review copy of The Waterway Girls.


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

War Poetry written in 1917 became rather more sceptical of the war 

Two Fusiliers

By Robert Graves

And have we done with War at last?

Well, we've been lucky devils both,

And there's no need of pledge or oath

To bind our lovely friendship fast,

By firmer stuff

Close bound enough.

By wire and wood and stake we're bound,

By Fricourt and by Festubert,

By whipping rain, by the sun's glare,

By all the misery and loud sound,

By a Spring day,

By Picard clay.

Show me the two so closely bound

As we, by the wet bond of blood,

By friendship blossoming from mud,

By Death: we faced him, and we found

Beauty in Death,

In dead men, breath.

Robert Graves was an English poet and author of antiquities specialising in classical Greece and Rome. He was soldier and poet during WW1.

His most famous work I, Claudius was published in 1934.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The White Camellia by Juliet Greenwood

On Hist Fic Saturday let's go back in time

to the ...Edwardian age

Honno Press

BeatriceTressillion is trying to make a new life in London having been forced to leave her home, at Tressillion House, in Cornwall. Caught up in the suffragette movement, the whole concept that women could have their own voice, is for Bea, a tantalising, and it must be said, enlightening prospect.

Sybil Ravensdale is a strong willed and independent woman, who having made her fortune as a hotelier in America, returns to the Cornwall of her youth, and finds herself in the envious position of being able to buy the stately, Tressillion House .

On the surface neither of these two women should have anything in common but the thread of Tressillion House binds the two together and gradually a story of dark secrets, lost inheritances and secret love emerges.

There is much to enjoy in this beautifully written Edwardian saga which looks more closely at the changing attitude to women and of the danger of forging an independent path, which Sybil discovers to her cost. The author writes with descriptive ease and brings both the stark beauty of Cornwall and the exciting streets of London to vivid life. I especially enjoyed the sections at the eponymous White Camellia tearoom in London, with its hum of female voices and the prospect of a slice or two of the White Camellia's delicious tea loaf. But there is so more to the story than descriptive slices of cake, there is an underlying mystery and an ever present sense of intrigue.

Lyrical, descriptive and beautifully redolent of a bygone era, The White Camellia is one of those lovely historical sagas which is meticulously researched and written so lovingly by an author who really makes history come alive.

More about the Author can be found on her website by clicking here 

Twitter @julietgreenwood

My thanks to the author for my copy of The White Camellia

Other novels by this author

13438190 18760917

Friday, 15 September 2017

Blog Tour ~ 99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's  stop on the 

99 Red Balloons Blog Tour

Avon Books
September 2017

Here's the blurb..

Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter? 

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge. 

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems? 

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared… 

This is a gripping psychological thriller with a killer twist that will take your breath away. 

I am delighted to introduce the author, Elisabeth Carpenter to Jaffareadstoo to tell us all about her debut novel..

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Elisabeth. Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for 99 Red Balloons?

A missing child is every parent’s worst nightmare. I wanted to explore the impact it might have on the lives of the wider family unit. I hope I’ve treated this subject with respect as it’s so emotive and horrific.

Without giving too much away – tell us three interesting facts about the story which will pique the reader's interest.

I’ve added the point of view of the child who goes missing, as I’ve not read many books on this subject that do that.

I’ve tried to combine pace with characterisation to, hopefully, make the characters come alive in the mind of the reader.

Part of the book is set on an RAF base in Germany. I lived there when I was a child (many, many years ago!).

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. Do they ever dictate how the story progresses or do you stick with a writing plan from the beginning and never deviate?

It takes a few months to get to know my characters, so by the time I’ve gone back to the beginning of the completed first draft, I have to take out things they wouldn’t do or say.

Sometimes the plot will emerge organically, giving the cast a situation that they must deal with, but I always have an ending in mind, which is fluid and often subject to change.

I love the start of a book when literally anything can happen. I try not to get too bogged down with what I had planned – if I’m bored with what I write, it’ll be boring to read. If I ever reach the stage of writing for the sake of it, I close the laptop and read, or watch a box set. I’ll be five minutes in and an idea will pop into my mind.

Do you write the type of books you like to read and which authors influenced you?

I’ve read and really enjoyed some of the psychological thrillers that were published recently. I was totally blindsided by the twist in Gone Girl. I also enjoy novels that have a light science fiction element to them, such as The Time Traveller’s Wife and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. These books have influenced me greatly, as they go quite deep into characterisation, which is what I’ve tried to do in 99 Red Balloons.

I love Sally Wainwright’s work. Happy Valley is genius, and I thought Last Tango in Halifax had excellent characterisation, humour and warmth.

99 Red Balloons is a great book title - if your life was a book, what would be its title?

Ooh good question! I’m a big Beatles fan, so if I were to choose a cheesy title it would be All You Need is Love. But, if I were to choose a title based on my writing career so far, I’d choose Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House.

Can you share with us anything about your next writing project?

Anna’s mother, Debbie, was last seen on holiday in Spain when Anna was just a baby. Thirty years later, the family receives an email from someone claiming to be Debbie.

The narrative follows Anna in her search for her mother, and Debbie in 1986 during the days leading to her disappearance.

About the author

Elisabeth Carpenter lives in Preston with her family and has been awarded a Northern Writers' Award bursary from New Writing North, and she was long-listed for the Yeovil Literary Prize (2015) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015). Two of Libby’s flash fiction pieces were shortlisted on – where she is now part of the judging team.

You can follow her on Twitter @LibbyCPT

Do visit the other Blog Tour stops

My thanks to Elisabeth for sharing her work with me and for answering my questions about 
99 Red Balloons. 

My thoughts about 99 Red Balloons..

When Emma’s eight year old daughter, Grace goes missing, the investigation into her disappearance opens up family secrets which have been buried for far too long. The story, told by multiple narrators, really gets into the heart of the mystery surrounding the abduction, but as time goes on, it becomes obvious that there are more questions than there are answers.

I really enjoyed getting to grips with this clever psychological suspense story which focuses on the dark and deadly secrets which are so often at the centre of a family disaster, and as more and more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle start to fit together we are given a unique insight into certain events which happened a long time ago. There's always something really disturbing about reading a story about a missing child and I thought that the author showed the emotional vulnerability of Emma's family really well and conveyed their defenselessness and also their inherent weaknesses as a family unit. That there are some dark family secrets to be revealed becomes obvious as the story progresses and it’s really interesting to see how the author allows these secrets to be exposed at their own pace without revealing too much, too soon.

When reviewing psychological suspense stories I am always conscious of not revealing very much as to say more would be to divulge far too much of the plot, and, believe me, this really is one of those stories which you need to read with an open mind. The mystery at the heart of the story is well handled and there are more than enough surprises in between to keep you guessing right up to end.

As a debut novel 99 Red Balloons works on several levels. There is great attention to detail, all the characters are finely drawn and whilst believable, they are not all likeable, with the exception of Maggie, who I thought was particularly interesting. The added inclusion of some psychologically damaged and terrifying individuals adds an interesting touch of menace to, what is, a compelling story-line.

There is no doubt that 99 Red Balloons is an exciting debut novel by an emerging new talent.

Thanks also to Sabah at Harper Collins for her invitation to be part of this blog tour and for my review copy of 99 Red Balloons.


Thursday, 14 September 2017

Blog Tour ~ Copy Cat by Alex Lake

Harper Collins
5 September 2017


The gripping new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of After Anna and Killing Kate.

When an old friend gets in touch, Sarah Havenant discovers that there are two Facebook profiles in her name. One is hers. The other, she has never seen.

But everything in it is accurate. Photos of her friends, her husband, her kids. Photos from the day before. Photos of her new kitchen. Photos taken inside her house.

And this is just the beginning. Because whoever has set up the second profile has been waiting for Sarah to find it. And now that she has, her life will no longer be her own…

My thoughts about it ...

When Sarah Havenant discovers that she has two Facebook profiles, she is stunned to find that one of them hasn't been initiated by her, and even though the content relates to her life and family, she is not the one posting the information. Using social media to mess with someone's mind is a very modern modus operandi and presents a real challenge, and as Sarah is about to discover, to her cost, friends aren't always what they seem on the surface.

To say much more would be to give away far too much about this cleverly controlled psychological thriller which starts to crank up the tension from very early on in the novel. There is so much going on, both in terms of Sarah's connection with her friends and also in her relationship with her husband, Ben, and her children, Faye, Miles and Kim. However, it is in the stylishly accomplished takeover of Sarah's life where the story really starts to bite deep.

To say that this novel is creepy is to underestimate the term, 'creepy' as, very quickly, the subtle picking away at Sarah's confidence gathers momentum and it becomes apparent that sinister forces are at work, with the sole intention of destroying everything that Sarah holds dear. The individual chapters which are voiced by the unknown perpetrator are full of hatred and malice and allow a tantalising glimpse into a really tortured mind.

I raced through Copy Cat at top speed as the short, sharp chapters lend themselves to speedy reading and as the story get deeper and deeper into the plot, so the need to know more about what is going to happen next in this taut thriller gets more and more compelling.

They do say that you should keep your enemies close and your friends even closer, which in terms of this tense psychological suspense story is rather a good idea.

Alex Lake is a British novelist who was born in the North West of England. After Anna, the author's first novel written under this pseudonym, was a  No. 1 bestselling ebook sensation and a top-ten Sunday Times  best seller. The author now lives in the North East of the US.

Follow on Twitter @AlexLakeAuthor

Take a look at the other blog tour stops

My thanks to Felicity at Harper Collins for the invitation to be part of this blog tour
and also for my review copy of Copy Cat


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Review ~ Dark and Twisted Tales for Grown Ups by Roald Dahl



What makes us innocent and how do we come to lose it? Featuring the autobiographical stories telling of Roald Dahl's boyhood and youth as well as four further tales of innocence betrayed, Dahl touches on the joys and horrors of growing up.

Among other stories, you'll read about the wager that destroys a girl's faith in her father, the landlady who has plans for her unsuspecting young guest and the commuter who is horrified to discover that a fellow passenger once bullied him at school.

Featuring extraordinary cover art by Charming Baker, whose paintings echo the dark and twisted world of Dahl's short stories.


How underhand could you be to get what you want? In these ten tales of dark and twisted trickery Roald Dahl reveals that we are at our smartest and most cunning when we set out to deceive others - and, sometimes, even ourselves.

Here, among others, you'll read of the married couple and the parting gift which rocks their marriage, the light fingered hitch-hiker and the grateful motorist, and discover why the serious poacher keeps a few sleeping pills in his arsenal.

Featuring extraordinary cover art by Charming Baker, whose paintings echo the dark and twisted world of Dahl's short stories.

My thoughts...

I read both of these books back to back and whilst there are similarities in the tone of Roald Dahl's impeccable writing, both books are deliciously different.

Innocence features autobiographical stories in Boy which tells of Dahl's own childhood and of the relationship he had with his family. There are also tantalising glimpses of the burgeoning writer in various references to those seeds of ideas which would germinate in later years and become stories we recognise.

There are four other short stories in this book which Dahl had published in various publications. All reiterate the theme of Innocence :

Taste in The New Yorker in 1951
Galloping Foxley in Town & Country in 1953
The Landlady in The New Yorker in 1959
Lucky Break  in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar in 1977

Trickery contains ten cleverly contrived stories which tell of cunning and deceit and carry all the characteristic trademarks of this wonderfully inventive author. Stories which twist and turn with delicious dark humour, these ten stories are a perfect size to read in half an hour or so, but the impact remains much longer.

Roald Dahl, the brilliant and worldwide acclaimed author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and many more classics for children, also wrote scores of short stories for adults. These delightfully disturbing tales present a side of Dahl that few have seen before; this stunning collection is most certainly a darker side of Dahl.

Charming Baker has had a string of international sell-out shows. His fans include Damien Hirst, British collector Frank Cohen, gallerist Harry Blain and New York dealer Alberto Mugrabi. His juxtaposition of nostalgia with sex and death is grown-up and playful, his works simultaneously beautiful and intentionally bothersome. His work has been described as ‘a kind of romantic melancholy that is very British. And sometimes the melancholy turns out to have sharp claws.’ The pictures make you sit up and examine your conscience.’ Theses sensibilities could equally be describing Roald Dahl’s approach to his domestically dark adult short stories, making Charming and Roald Dahl the perfect collaborators for these new collections.

Roald Dahl reveals more about the darker side of human nature in eight centenary editions 

Lust, Madness, Cruelty, Deception, War, Trickery, Innocence and Fear

More about the author can be found by clicking here

Twitter #RoaldDahl100

My thanks to Sam at Penguin for my review copies of Innocence and Trickery


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Spell of the Horse by Pam Billinge

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on The Spell of the Horse Blog Tour

I am delighted to introduce the author

Pam Billinge

Hi Pam and welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write The Spell of the Horse?

I live and work in Wiltshire, I am a horse-led coach and psychotherapist. I am bonkers about horses, not from a sporting point of view - I don't compete. I just love being with them and riding out to explore the world in harmony with them. I follow a "natural" approach to training and managing my herd and try to fit into their world as much as I expect them to fit into mine. I love the outdoors, nature, animals, good food, dancing and reading (mostly fiction and memoir). My latest achievement is learning how to get my jam to set - although I did so well I think I could probably use it tore-tile my bathroom.

In 2013 I had to rebrand my business, I offer what I call embodied horse-led therapy and learning to companies and individuals - I will say a little more about that shortly. The consultant I took on to help me with the branding exercise interviewed me on Skype to find out about me and what I do. He started by asking me almost the same question as you have Jo, "Tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to support people with your horse-work in the way that you do?"

We initially scheduled one session of about an hour but the time passed quickly and we had barely scratched the surface. We arranged another, then another and finally a fourth conversation. I got through quite a lot of hankies during each call because I couldn't answer "how did you come to do what you do?" without pretty much telling him my life-story, and in particular the story of how I came to understand what I do about horses and their ability to heal us. And how they healed me. When we were done he said straight out "Pam, you should write a book." I laughed. I had never written anything, apart from a few short articles and blogs, although I had always loved English at school. Writing a book could really not have been further from my mind. But over the months, the seed he had sown began to grow and take shape and the following year I began to write.

Without revealing too much what can you tell us about the book?

At its core, I would say that The Spell is a homage to horses and also to the human spirit. I tell my own story of how horses helped and healed me, through some really tough times, and also stories of transformation which those who have worked with me and my herd have experienced. But really it is not about me, or them. It is about how anyone can transcend the kind of life challenges we all experience at some point or other, like loss of self-belief, rejection, grief, redundancy, trauma and go on to live with purpose, joy and love. And most of all it is about the true nature of the horse and how they guide us to be true to our spirit.

Whilst writing, The Spell of the Horse did you learn anything which surprised you either about yourself, your clients or your horses?

Oh yes! Writing The Spell was as much of a journey as the life I lived in order to be able to write it. Mostly I learned about myself, although the reflection needed to tell the stories did also bring me an even deeper appreciation of the amazing nature of horses, and of the courage shown by my clients in tackling the issues that they do.

Getting the first draft completed was an epic journey with real troughs of self-doubt, fear of failing and being judged. It took a long time before I dared show my work to anyone and I kept telling myself that I wouldn't ever publish, just to make it OK to carry on in the face of my fears. When I did find the confidence to show a couple of people that I trusted, who worked in the publishing world, I was amazed when they told me it was really good and I should carry on. What helped me to find the courage to do that was really my work with clients, which is all about helping them to believe in themselves, and live without fear. If I was going to do the same, I realised, I owed it to myself and to them to get on with it and take my book seriously.

Once I had secured a publishing deal, and fine editing began, a new world of personal learning opened up. Not just about the technical side of writing -but about what my writing revealed of myself. In particular noticing which words I had "overused" in my text. These tended to be words which I realised I also used a lot in daily speech. For example words like 'slightly’, ‘less', 'almost’, ‘just'.....perhaps I was not living or communicating with as much clarity or confidence as I liked to think....that was the one of the things I took away.

Finally the process of publishing has connected me with real feelings of vulnerability. Showing my authentic self so openly to the world. I’m learning still to trust that by becoming vulnerable in this way will bring me strength, and I hope that I will inspire others to be true to themselves in the same way.

Your style of writing is very much 'from the heart'. Did this take its toll on you emotionally, and if so, how did you overcome it?

That is a great question Jo and so insightful. Yes it took a huge toll on me even when I was in final editing stages and knew the copy back to front. Since writing my book I hold anyone who writes a memoir in total respect because I know they have gone through the same process. Because of the nature of my work, as a psychotherapist, I was fortunate to have experience already of how to look after myself emotionally - lots of quiet peaceful time in nature, good food, sleep, exercise, fresh air. Being really kind to myself. Only doing as much as I knew I could deal with on that particular day. And of course my beloved horses, being with them always brings me great peace and comfort, whatever is happening in my life. It is like they connect me into a universal power source - I always leave the herd with renewed energy and heart.

Again, without giving too much away, what do you hope readers will take away from The Spell of the Horse?

I hope that readers will see themselves differently and that they can make different choices about how they live their life, if that is what they need. I hope that they will know horses differently, in all their depth, wonder and value to the planet.

Take a look at the other blog tour stops

My thoughts about The Spell of the Horse

There's something very special about our relationship with horses. For so long we relied on them, they helped to manage our daily lives in such a way that the symbiosis between us runs deep and is forever. In The Spell of the Horse the author reiterates this message time after time and shows just how the perfect cooperation between horse and human can be used to therapeutic effect.

Anyone who has ever had contact with horses will find an immediate connection, and will completely understand the unique spell of the horses in this book. The author writes about this association with fine attention to detail, her special affinity and deep respect for horses shines through with every well written word and every emotional connection.

I think what this book also shows is that it’s not just about galloping horses across feathery fields, or kicking up surf along the water’s edge, as sometimes the most valuable healing comes from just being in close proximity to one of these magnificent creatures. Anyone who has ever stroked the soft face of a horse and looked into the quiet wisdom of its eyes will know exactly what I mean. There’s comfort to be had in standing quietly in a horse’s stall, just listening to the quiet munch of hay, or hearing the stamp of restless feet and the judder of breath.

I can easily understand how the author wanted to share her work and the value of what she does is boundless. The Spell of the Horse is not just about the value of horse led therapy, it’s also a fitting tribute by someone whose love and respect for horses shines through this book from start to finish.

You can find out more about Pam on her website

Visit on Facebook 

Follow on Twitter @pam_billinge #HorseSpell


My thanks to the author for being my guest today and to Stephanie and Rosalie at Blackbird Digital for their kind invitation to be part of the tour and for providing an e-copy of 
The Spell of the Horse.


Monday, 11 September 2017

Review ~ Reality Rehab by Lisa Mary London

I'm delighted to share my review of Reality Rehab By Lisa Mary London


Faded soap star Gloria Grayson swaps banoffee pie for humble pie with a stint on reality TV. But her last ditch bid to salvage her celebrity backfires, when the ex-husband from hell is sprung on her in front of 10 million viewers. 

Can Gloria win back A-list status, happy ever after and her Rear of the Year title? Reality is stranger than fiction!

Faded TV star Gloria Grayson has hit rock bottom. Sacked from her starring role in a top soap, divorced from hell-raising actor 'Mad' Tommy Mack, and obese from binge eating, her days as Britain's sexiest blonde are well and truly over.

But her luck changes when cruel paparazzi photos relaunch her career, and she and her fat, feisty dog are booked to appear on TV's Reality Rehab.

Gloria is incarcerated with an American psychotherapist, a rabble of D-list celebrities and umpteen cameras, then put on a starvation diet. But worse is to come, with the shock arrival of her alcoholic ex-husband.

Tears and tantrums ensue as the divorced couple's therapy sessions take over the show, and ratings soar. The other celebrities are infuriated to be sidelined and Reality Rehab fast becomes The Tommy and Glo Show. 

But Gloria and Tommy are hiding explosive secrets from each other and 10 million viewers - Reality is stranger than fiction!

What did I think about it ...

I think that Reality Rehab is probably one of the quirkiest stories I've read this year and, if I'm honest, it could so easily have passed me by, as sneaking into the house a book with a dog on the cover, however cute, would have caused Jaffa's tail to twitch. So it's safe to say that reading Reality Rehab under cover on my Kindle didn't cause Jaffa any worrying moments.

Gloria Grayson's unique personality reminded me so much of those faded soap stars who continue long past their sell by date, who always seem to try a little too hard on games shows, or who turn up time after time on late night chat shows, reliving moments of their now faded glory, and dining out on having that long ago affair with a B-listed movie star. I liked Gloria's character from the start and even though I found her to be rather a sad figure, I did feel immense sympathy for her and there is no doubt that her love for her pampered pooch, Baby-Girl,  is both genuine and heartwarming. 

The other celebrities who join her in the house are, as we say in the North, a rum bunch but they made me laugh out loud and it's easy to place well known personalities in the same situation. I won't say more, or who they reminded me of, as that would spoil the effect of reading Reality Rehab for yourself. But you'll recognise traits and similarities... 

This is a really funny feel good sort of story and is a perfect fit for anyone who has ever watched a reality TV programme and wondered just what on earth was going on behind the scenes. There's some laugh out loud moments but there's also a canny perception into the psyche of celebrity and the whole culture of baring all, figuratively speaking, on national television.

If you're a bit tired of reading angst ridden domestic noir and need a lighter read that still packs a punch then do give Reality Rehab a try, you won't be disappointed!


Lisa Mary London went from Chief Reporter on a sleepy Cotswold newspaper to become Celebrity Producer on some of Britain’s best-loved TV shows.  Her TV credits include An Audience with Ken Dodd, A BAFTA Tribute to Julie Walters, The British Comedy Awards and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! She’s worked with stars from Tony Curtis to Ant and Dec, and her debut novel Reality Rehab features around 200 famous names.

‘There’s never a dull moment when you’re working with the stars’, says Lisa. ‘One minute you’re sipping champagne with Pierce Brosnan, the next you’re standing in the Ladies’ minding Barbara Windsor’s handbag.’

Reality Rehab is based on her real life, behind-the-screen experiences as a Celebrity Producer. ‘I’ve met many old school stars like my book’s protagonist Gloria, who curse reality TV and think the cast of TOWIE should be stacking shelves at Tesco, not walking the red carpet.

‘She’s a cross between Diana Dors, Boadicea and Miss Piggy, a glorious, garrulous anti-heroine with bags of fattitude - Gloria puts the real in reality TV!’

Gloria’s petulant pooch Baby-Girl is closely based on the book’s cover star, Lisa’s beloved Maltese Dolly-Dog (says Lisa - ‘You couldn’t make her up’).  Dolly-Dog won fame on ITV’s Loose Women when she married Sherrie Hewson’s Westie Charlie, in a ceremony officiated by John Barrowman (available on YouTube).  The couple split acrimoniously and are currently fighting for custody of a chew toy.

A journalist by profession, Lisa has written for the Daily Mail and was briefly a News of the World reporter, but made her excuses and left before anyone was imprisoned for phone hacking.

Find out more about the author on her website by clicking here

Follow on Twitter @lisamarylondon

Donate to Dogs! Mutts with Friends Dog Rescue receives £1 from every paperback sold. 

Enjoy a rollicking good read and help hounds

My thanks to Lisa, and of course, Dolly -Dog for my review copy of Reality Rehab


Sunday, 10 September 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

War Poetry written in 1917 became rather more sceptical of the war 


By Ivor Gurney

If it were not for England, who would bear

This heavy servitude one moment more?

To keep a brothel, sweep and wash the floor

Of filthiest hovels were noble to compare

With this brass-cleaning life. Now here, now there

Harried in foolishness, scanned curiously o'er

By fools made brazen by conceit, and store

Of antique witticisms thin and bare.

Only the love of comrades sweetens all,

Whose laughing spirit will not be outdone.

As night-watching men wait for the sun

To hearten them, so wait I on such boys

As neither brass nor Hell-fire may appal,

Nor guns, nor sergeant-major's bluster and noise.

Ivor Gurney was a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. At the outbreak of war he volunteered as a private in the Gloucestershire regiment but was initially turned down because of poor eyesight.

He joined the 2nd and 5th Gloucestershire regiment in 1915.

He was wounded and gassed in 1917 while serving in France.


Saturday, 9 September 2017

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Viking Fire by Justin Hill

On Hist Fic Saturday let's go back in time

to the story of the last Viking, Harald Hardrada...

Abacus Books
 7 September 2017

What's it all about..

In 1035, a young fifteen year old Viking is dragged wounded from the battle. Left for dead, for the next twenty years his adventures lead him over mountains, down the length of Russia and ultimately to Constantinople and the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Drawn into political intrigue he will be the lover of Empresses, the murderer of an emperor; he will hold the balance of power in the Byzantine Empire in his hands, and then give it all up for a Russian princess and the chance to return home and lead his own people, where he must fight the demons of his past, his family and his countrymen in a long and bitter war for revenge and power.

My thoughts about it...

It's always interesting to have another perspective on the events that happened in that momentous year of 1066, when England faced the threat of invasion, not just from across the English Channel in Normandy, but also, from the far north, by the fearless warrior, Harald Hardrada, King of Norway.

Viking Fire charts the life of Harald Sigurdsson, younger brother of Olaf, King of Norway, from his early roots, through to the magnificence of his later years, and tells of his search for revenge, and lust for power. To say that Harald lived a fascinating life is an understatement and as this novel shows, life around this Viking warrior was never dull, nor lacking in adventure.

Bringing this fierce and ferocious time to vivid life, the author gives us a fascinating insight into what Harald's life may have been like and with meticulous research and fine attention, to even the smallest of details, combines known factual history with well written fiction, and cleverly blends both into a really good historical adventure.

Having my own preconceptions of Hardrada’s known ruthlessness and brutality, I didn't expect to actually like the man, but all credit to the author, who created such a vivid picture of this Viking warrior, that my dislike, turned into a grudging respect for a man who, driven by his principles, set his sight on the ultimate prize, that of England’s crown.

Viking Fire is the second book in this author's fascinating Conquest Trilogy which began with the story of Harold Godwinsson, in Shieldwall, and which continues in this story up to and including Hardrada's death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in September, 1066.


If the Conquest years are of interest to you and you enjoy well written and gripping historical adventure then this series is a good place to start. As with any trilogy it's best to start at the beginning however, each of these books can be read as standalone novels. 

More about the author can be found on his website by clicking here

Follow on Twitter @JHillAuthor #VikingFire


My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of Viking Fire


Friday, 8 September 2017

Review ~ A Sea of Straw by Julia Sutton

Cheyne Walk Press

What's it all about...

Will a man walk two thousand kilometres for a woman? In 1967, Ze will. Salazar's Portugal has become a prison for him.

1966: When Jody, young mother and designer from Manchester, arrives on the Lisbon coast, she brings the lure of 'Swinging London' to Portuguese painter Ze 's existing dreams of freedom. A nascent love is interrupted when, back in England, husband Michael forces her to choose between their 2-year-old daughter Anna and Ze . And Ze, at home in Lisbon and grounded by the state's secret police, can only wait.

For both Jody and Ze, love is revolution. And personal and political threads weave their story, a period piece set amid the then socially conservative North of England, the light and rugged landscapes of modern Portugal, and the darkness of the dying years of Europe's longest-running dictatorship. A Sea of Straw, with its pervading atmosphere of saudades, is a quest for love in revolutionary times.

What did I think about it...

There is much to consider in this debut novel set amidst the politically volatile background of 1960's Portugal and the steadfastness of Northern England, and which looks at a love affair which attempts to survive in a country which is in turmoil.

It's a difficult story to say too much about as I am conscious of not giving anything of the story away so what I will say is this is a well written and astute first novel. It takes a little while to get used to the time switches, moving as it does between different time frames, people and places, but once I had settled into the author's writing style I found that my understanding of the novel became easier. The characters are well developed and believable and such is the draw of the story that I felt like I had gone back in time to an era in history that, regrettably, I knew very little about. Salazar's Portuguese dictatorship as seen through the eyes of the young artist, Ze shows, very eloquently, of the struggle for identity and of the constant threat of fear.

A Sea of Straw is one of those clever stories which makes you think about what has gone before.

More about the Author can be found by clicking here 

Julia Sutton is an artist and writer from East Anglia, who has lived and worked for much of her adult life in continental Europe. Following eleven years in Paris, she returned, in 1997, to her native Suffolk coast, where she now lives and writes full-time. her short stories are published in literary magazines and online. A Sea Of Straw is her first novel.

Follow on Twitter @juliamarysutton

Follow this link for more information  - click here 

My thanks to the author for sharing her story with me.