Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Invisible Hand by James Hartley (GIVEAWAY)

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the The Invisible Hand Blog Tour 

Lodestone Books

My thanks to the author and Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

The Invisible Hand is about a boy, Sam, who has just started life at a boarding school and finds himself able to travel back in time to medieval Scotland. There he meets a girl, Leana, who can travel to the future, and the two of them become wrapped up in events in Macbeth, the Shakespeare play, and in the daily life of the school. The book is the first part of a series called Shakespeare´s Moon. Each book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play.

My Review :

Written for a young adult reading audience, The Invisible Hand explores the themes in Shakespeare's, Macbeth, thus making the story accessible and hopefully readable for a modern young audience for whom Shakespeare's more ponderous prose can often seem insurmountable.

I liked the idea of setting the story in a boarding school,with a young protagonist who thrives on adventure, and even though Sam is challenged by his time travel experience, and who wouldn't be alarmed about landing in medieval Scotland, there are lots of elements of surprise and more than a hint of danger to be found in the story overall.

The author writes well with his target audience in mind and neither patronises, nor protects them from the danger which is so often inherent in Shakespeare's work, and in particular in Macbeth. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the story which are nicely done and enjoyed Sam's reaction, particularly to the witches...well, it wouldn't be Macbeth without them, would it ?

The Invisible Hand is the start of a series of young adult novels entitled Shakespeare's Moon in which different Shakespearean plays will be featured but with the continuity of the same boarding school setting. I'm looking forward to reading more.

James was born on the Wirral, England, in 1973 on a rainy Thursday. He shares his birthday with Bono, Sid Vicious and two even nastier pieces of work, John Wilkes Booth and Mark David Chapman. His mother was a hairdresser with her own business and his father worked in a local refinery which pours filth into the sky over the Mersey to this day. They married young and James was their first child. He has two younger brothers and a still-expanding family in the area. As an Everton fan he suffered years of Liverpool success throughout the seventies and was thrilled when his father took a job in Singapore and the family moved lock, stock and two smoking barrels to Asia. He spent five fine years growing up in the city state before returning to the rain, storms, comprehensive schools and desolate beauty of the Scottish east coast. Later years took he and his family to baking hot Muscat, in Oman, and a Syria that has since been bombed off the surface of the planet. James studied journalism in London and later travelled through Ireland, France, Germany and India generally having a good time, before finally settling in Madrid, Spain, where he now lives with his wife and two children.

Social Media Links – 

Twitter @jameshartleybks


Giveaway – Win 5 x Signed copies of The Invisible Hand with special Invisible Hand tactile pens (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Do visit the other blog tour stops 

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Review ~ Coming Home by Fern Britton

Harper Collins
February 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

What's it all about..

When the only place you want to be is home…

When Ella’s beloved grandmother dies, she comes back to the beautiful Cornish coast to heal her heart. There she finds her home again and discovers a new life, and new love… But she also opens a treasure trove of secrets.

Sennen left Cornwall a young single mum but unable to cope. She left her children, her
family and part of her. She’s spent the years hiding from her past, hiding from herself.
Now it’s time to come back. To Cornwall. To face her mistakes. To pray for forgiveness. To hope for a future with her daughter.

My thoughts about it..

This is my first venture into the Cornish world that Fern Britton has been so busily creating since her first novel, New Beginnings, way back in 2011. This latest novel is now her seventh book and whilst they are all stand alone stories, they nevertheless share a Cornish theme, with some recurring characters. 

In Coming Home the story starts with the lovely Ella who has returned to Cornwall following the death of her adored grandmother, Adela. That there is more to Ella's return becomes apparent when family secrets concerning Ella, and her brother, Henry start to be revealed. For not only does Coming Home focus on Ella and Henry, but it also gives us the story of their mother, Sennen, who abandoned them, into the care of their grandparents, Adela and William, when she was just seventeen years old.

Allowing both strands of the story to evolve gives a real insight into the way that Sennen's abandonment of her children affected, not just Ella and Henry, but also that of her own parents, Adela and William, who bewildered by the disappearance of their much loved daughter, then had the responsibility of raising two tiny children who missed their mother, so dreadfully.

At times, this was a quite an emotional read, especially when Sennen's life after her disappearance is laid bare, and I found myself looking forward to the chapters in which she takes centre stage. Not that there is anything lacking in the modern day story, far from it, as the author captures the hurt and bewilderment which even now, years later as adults, Ella and Henry are still experiencing. I enjoyed getting to know Ella, her boyfriend Kit, who is rather special, and her brother Henry, whose hurt and sadness over his mother's abandonment is still raw and palpable.

The author writes with a fine eye for detail and has a lovely way of bringing the story to life so that it feels authentic and believable. The glorious Cornish setting comes alive and whilst it is obvious that this is forming an important backdrop to the story, it is in the character detail where the story really comes alive. The sense of family drama and hidden secrets is a theme which runs throughout the story and is skillfully and emotionally explored.

As I said at the beginning, this is my first visit to Fern Britton's, Pendruggan, but after reading Coming Home, I am sure that I will be making further visits, perhaps even starting at New Beginnings and working my way along from the start.

Fern Britton is a highly acclaimed Sunday Times bestselling author. Her books are cherished for their warmth, wit and wisdom, and have won Fern legions of loyal readers.

A hugely popular household name through iconic shows such as This Morning, Fern is also a much sough-after presenter.

Fern is deeply committed to a number of charities, in particular the Genesis Research Trust. She lives with her husband, Phil Vickery, and her four children in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall.

Twitter @Fern_Britton #ComingHome


Monday, 19 March 2018

Review ~ A Sweet, Wild Note by Richard Smyth

Elliot & Thompson
1 March 2018

When I was twelve I joined the Young Ornithologist's Club and so began my life long love of wild birds. There's nothing more relaxing,than listening, in the early morning, to the birds as they chirrup and tweet and go about their business, or to sit outdoors and listen to the steady chatter of busy sparrows, or the cheerful soaring of a blackbird in fine voice. I don't claim to be knowledgeable about birds, I just love them for joy they bring to my world.

A Sweet, Wild Note is a delightful book which allows a privileged glimpse into the complicated world of birdsong. From the reasons why birds sing the way they do, through to the association of birds in literature, drama, music and science, there is something very precious in what they share with us. I can still remember with great clarity the eeriness of the 1999 solar eclipse when all the birds went silent for a few minutes and I realised then just what a strange and unearthly world we would have if we had no birdsong.

The author writes very knowledgeably and shares his own personal stories and anecdotes alongside facts and figures which makes the book so easily readable. I really enjoyed dipping in and out of the chapters, picking up snippets of information that I never knew I needed to know about birdsong but which collectively enhance my understanding of what makes birdsong, and its connection to us, so very, very, precious.

The glorious book cover enhances what's inside to perfection and if you're a bird enthusiast I am sure that you will enjoy this book for its factual information, but it's also equally fascinating for those of us who just love the simple pleasure of listening to the daily soundtrack of the beautiful birds who inhabit our gardens, woodlands and landscapes. 

Richard Smyth writes about nature, history, books, philosophy, art, sport and anything else that occurs to him. His latest book, 'A Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear When The Birds Sing', is an acclaimed cultural history of birdsong.

Twitter @RSmithFreelance

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of the First World War

Imperial War Museum
“The war had begun and my heart beat then as it had never beaten before.”—Rosie Neal on the outbreak of war, 1914

In Their Own Words: Untold Stories if the First World War brings together for the first time, the personal accounts of 11 people who lived through the conflict, in a compelling and poignant collection from IWM's unparalleled Documents Archives.

In Their Own Words is a unique collection of stories and more, all of which look at the war from a different perspective.

My thoughts about it...

The eleven stories contained within the collection are a fascinating and poignant look at the effect of the First World War on the lives on ordinary people.

From Rosie's story at the outbreak of war in 1914, through to the reminiscences of Arthur on Armistice, 1914, the collection focuses on the personal accounts of those who were caught up in the evnts that happened between 1914-1918 and includes:

Gallipoli , 1915
The Battle of Loos, 1915
Prisoner of War, 1915-1916
Conscientious Objection, 1916-1918
The Battle of Jutland, 1916
The Battle of the Somme, 1916
War Work and The Home Front
The Third Battle of Ypres, 1917
The German Spring Offensive, 1918
Armistice, 1918

I am fascinated by the stories of the ordinary men and women who were caught up in the events of WW1 and this collection of stories gives a fascinating and very personal account of what happened and explains just how lives were affected.

Using archive material from the huge amount of WW1 information that is held by the IWM, and being presented in a very readable form makes this collection all the more interesting.

This is me reading - In Their Own Words


Saturday, 17 March 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The War Widow by Lorna Gray

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's Go back to...1947

Harper Impulse
22 March 2018
(ebook out now)

My thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of this book
The story opens in November 1947 as we meet the eponymous War Widow of the story. Kate Ward, a troubled young woman, is staying at a genteel hotel in the small Welsh town of Aberystwyth, where she hopes to discover more about the mysterious disappearance of her ex-husband, Rhys. However, circumstances are against her, and from the very start of the novel, Kate suspects that there are some sinister people shadowing her, who seem determined to prevent her discovering more about what has happened to Rhys.

What then follows is a suspenseful story about Kate’s determination to discover the truth, whilst at the same time trying to keep herself safe from harm. However, it soon becomes apparent that anything to do with her ex-husband has been buried so deep that it takes a great deal of tenacity on Kate’s part to get to the bottom of this dark mystery.

It is this complex mystery which is at the heart of the novel and the many twists and turns in the plot are certainly designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. The overall pace of the story is fast, and there is so much going on within the story that you really do need to concentrate on what’s unfolding. I enjoyed trying to fit all the numerous pieces of the puzzle together.

I definitely had the feeling of this being in a post war setting, the way the places were described added an authentic and believable edge to the story, and I especially liked the references to newsreel information about Princess Elizabeth‘s wedding to Philip Mountbatten which again helped to put this story into its historical context.

There is no doubt that author has, with great enthusiasm, brought this spirited War Widow to life in an suspenseful story which thrives on excitement.

More about the author can be found on her website

Follow on Twitter @MsLornaGray

Friday, 16 March 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on 

The Ocean Liner Blog Tour

Lake Union Publishing
20 March 2018

My thanks to the author for this guest post, to the publishers for my copy of the book
and to Midas PR for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.

The Story that didn’t make it: The Black Eagle

Sometimes the parts an author finds most interesting are the ones that editors cut out! 

That happened to me with my "factional" novel, The Ocean Liner, which contains a number of real-life characters.

One of them who ended up on the cutting-room floor was Hubert Fauntleroy Julian, the Black Eagle of Harlem.

This larger-than-life character was celebrated and vilified in equal measure in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Handsome, golden-tongued and elegant, Julian billed himself as the first Black aviator at a time when Negroes were considered too primitive to drive a car, let alone fly an airplane. He was part authentic pioneer, part huckster. His detractors said he was merely a bootlegger and a daredevil stuntman who threw himself out of airplanes in red long johns. 

The Harlem Eagle's penchant for raising money on behalf of grand schemes, and then pocketing the proceeds, tarnished his career more than once. In fact, it was to escape prosecution that he was forced into a hasty flight from Harlem in a seaplane built by himself, which fell to pieces shortly after take-off and precipitated him into Flushing Bay with serious injuries. 

He also patented various ingenious aerial devices, including a motorized parachute for airplanes, which he called the parachutta-gravepreresistra. Demonstrating a smaller model, the saxophoneparachut-tapreresistationist, he sailed across the New York skyline, playing the saxophone, but unfortunately crashed through a Harlem police station window, and was arrested. Despite this inauspicious start, Julian had sold the patents to a Canadian aircraft company as the 'Airplane Safety Appliance.' The craziest of his schemes had a strange way of turning into something profitable for himself, if not for others. 

When Mussolini's Fascist army invaded Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia) in 1935, Julian rushed to the defence of the African nation. Wearing a dramatic uniform designed by himself, and accorded the rank of Colonel in the Ethiopian Air Force, he cut an impressive figure as he trained the barefoot tribesmen. As usual, his career was chequered. He crashed the Emperor's personal Gypsy Moth biplane into a thorn tree during a ceremonial parade in Addis Ababa. The plane had been a present from Selfridges department store in London, the Emperor's favourite shop, and the Emperor was furious. The number of Julian's flights which ended in crashes led to the suspicion that he didn't really know how to fly a plane at all. 

He managed to talk his way out of the disaster, and Haile Selassie awarded him the Order of Menelik, a spectacular red-and-green enamelled cross on a brilliant yellow ribbon. However, Ethiopia tragically proved no match for Mussolini's mechanized modern army, and Julian was forced to retire. 

During the Second World War which followed, Julian challenged Air Marshall Hermann Goering, the chief of Hitler's Luftwaffe, to an aerial duel over the Channel, saying that the Nazis had insulted the black races unforgivably, and offering to settle the matter like gentlemen, in fighter planes. Goering did not respond to the challenge. 

Julian followed this with a scheme to raise an army of Negro pilots, nurses and doctors, 'The Friends of France,' to assist the French in their war against the Nazis. France, he said, was among the few European nations to have treated the black peoples with kindness. 

Julian recommended that every Negro volunteer should receive French citizenship and a degree from the Sorbonne. This proposal, like so many others, failed to win approval. 

The Black Eagle gave up aviation after the war but found his metier as an arms dealer during the 1960s and 1970s, selling munitions to various states in South America and Africa. He remained a controversial figure until his death in 1983 at the age of eighty-six. The enduring memory he leaves is of a magnificent swashbuckler who inspired a generation of Black pilots. 

About the Author

Marius Gabriel served his author apprenticeship as a student at Newcastle University, where, to finance his postgraduate research, he wrote thirty-three steamy romances under the pseudonym Madeleine Kerr. Gabriel is the author of several historical novels, including the bestsellers The Designer, The Seventh Moon, The Original Sin, and the Redcliffe Sisters series: Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye and Take Me To Your Heart Again. Born in South Africa, he has lived and worked in many countries including Italy and Spain, and now divides his time between London and Cairo.

Huge thanks to Marius for spending time with us today and for this fascinating guest post.

Twitter @Scribbler4Bread #TheOceanLiner

Do visit the other blog tour stops for more exciting content

The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel is published by Lake Union Publishing on 20th March.

What's it all about 


In September 1939, cousins Masha and Rachel Morgenstern board the SS Manhattan bound for New York, leaving behind everything – and everyone – they know in war-torn Europe. America offers a safe haven, but to reach it they must survive an Atlantic crossing fraught with the danger of German U-boats and their lethal torpedoes, 

Their only distraction from peril is the drama of life on board. Among their fellow passengers are the composer Igor Stravinsky, making a new start after a decade of personal tragedy; and Rose Kennedy, wife of the US ambassador to London, determined to keep her four young children from harm. And then there’s Thomas, a young Nazi with a secret ... 

All 1,500 passengers on board are hoping to find a bright future at the end of their perilous journey. But as they discover, fate is not smiling upon them all. 

Thoroughly researched, The Ocean Liner is a fictionalised portrayal of some of the true stories from The Golden Age of the Ocean Liner, and sensitively pays tribute to some of true tragedies of the period. From the destruction of the SS Athenia, the heroics of Commodore Albert ‘Rescue’ Randall, to the events that changed Rose Kennedy’s life forever, Gabriel brings to life a cast of refugees escaping WW2.


Thursday, 15 March 2018

Author Spotlight...Lorna Gray

I am delighted to introduce the author

Hi Lorna, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for spending time with us today.. Will you explain to us a little more about the plot of The War Widow without giving too much away?

Harper Impulse
22 March 2018

Absolutely - no spoilers here! The War Widow is a sequel to 1940s adventure In the Shadow of Winter. It is about identity, courage and self belief. Danger stalks the coastline of Wales while the bells of a Royal Wedding peel out to the fading echoes of war.

Labelled a hysterical, grieving divorcee in the wake of her ex-husband’s death, no one will believe heroine Kate Ward is being pursued by two violent men demanding answers she cannot give. Not the police, not the guests at the Aberystwyth hotel, and certainly not the reclusive war-veteran-turned-crime-novelist, Adam Hitchen, a reserved widower who is the only source of kindness in a shadowy world of suspicion and fear. 

As ghosts old and new rise to haunt her, Kate must rely on all her strength and courage to uncover the shocking truth hidden within a twisted web of lies.

Kate is the main protagonist of The War Widow. Tell us about her and why you decided to tell her story?

Kate is wonderful. She isn’t an extrovert but she’s steadfast. For me there is no more proof of her bravery than in the way she faces her most personal challenge of all - the question of who she is set against the way other people perceive her. 

When things get a bit tricky in the wake of her ex-husband’s apparent suicide, Kate finds herself feeling very isolated because it’s not just the underlying mystery that is dangerous. In the year or so since the divorce, Kate’s been trying to start again but now she’s in a position of having to depend upon other people’s judgement once more. And they are so busy making assumptions about her that they start taking charge in a very wrong way. This feeling of powerlessness is I think one of those fearsomely dangerous moments in a test of self-belief. It’s also a wonderfully romantic way to meet Adam - it takes a man like him to perceive Kate’s oft-underestimated inner resolve and decide, despite the odds, to help her. 

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?

I’m the sort of author who maps out the basic narrative and swiftly finds that the characters start dictating their own actions. I find it quite funny really when I set out to write a scene a certain way only to discover about half way through that one of the characters is letting me know quite plainly that they simply wouldn’t behave that way. It’s great actually. It’s the moment I know they’re not just mannequins on a page.

Location seems to play a major part in your novels. Can you tell us why you decided to set The War Widow mainly in Aberystwyth?

I know and love Aberystwyth from my years there as an art student. These days I live near Cirencester and it was in a local charity shop window that I found my inspiration for this book. It came in the form of the chance discovery of a 1925 Guide to Aberystwyth (complete with instructions on where to catch one’s charabanc). The guidebook united my memory of life in Aberystwyth with my new life in Cirencester. It made me think about how much my heroine might try to reinvent herself after the end of a relationship and how certain elements of the past might quite simply refuse to let her go.

The War Widow is your second post war novel. What makes this era attractive to you?

To be frank, my original inspiration came from a conversation I had with a next door neighbour. He’s in his eighties now and was in his teens at the end of the war. He started talking about the years of recovery and change and I realised just how abruptly my education had stopped with the final days of the war. WWII is naturally a period that vastly influences the world I know today but the time that came afterwards is almost as important because this was when an awful lot of people had to deal with what had happened to the life they knew and attempt to build a new idea of normality for themselves. Everybody’s idea of what constitutes ‘normality’ is so different, I think it’s the most evocative era for an adventure.

And finally , what do you hope that readers will take away from The War Widow?

I hope you’ll love Kate and Adam as much as I do, and the era and the mystery and danger. I also hope you’ll begin to spot the fine threads that run from one book to the next. And please get in touch with me on Facebook or Twitter. It’s lovely to talk!

 The War Widow by Lorna Gray

More about Lorna can be found on her website

Follow on Twitter @MsLornaGray

Huge thanks to Lorna for being our special guest today

Thank you for sharing your writing with us, Jaffa, Timmy and I wish you continued success.