Sunday, 22 April 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

In the spring of 1918, Lady Northcliffe, the wife of the founder of the Daily Mail newspaper, appealed for women to remember a loved one by donating a pearl from one of their necklaces in order to raise money. Capturing the imagination of the country, The Pearl Appeal went on to become one of the most successful fundraising campaigns of the war. The event raised over £94,000, roughly £5 million in today's money, and amongst the first to donate was Queen Alexandra, the Queen Mother, which soon encouraged many others to follow suit.

To mark 100 years since the original campaign, the British Red Cross is reviving its Pearls For Life Appeal to help support people in crisis throughout the world.

You can find out more about the British Red Cross Appeal by clicking here Pearls for Life Appeal

I recently came across this interesting book which explains the Pearls before Poppies appeal in more detail. It's definitely on my wish list!

The History Press
March 2018

What's it all about..

Drawing on the archives of the Red Cross, Christie’s and the Victoria and Albert Museum, this book traces the story of the Red Cross Pearl Appeal throughout the eventful year of 1918. Interweaving the story of the campaign with the personal stories behind individual pearls this book provides a snapshot of a world that was changed forever by the war. 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

His Fic Saturday ~ The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...14th Century, England

February 2018

My thanks to the author for sharing her novel with me

The Cold Light of Dawn is now the fourth, and possibly the last, book in this epic historical saga which brings the medieval world of Edward III so vividly to life. 

In this latest adventure we meet up again with Adam and Kit de Guirande as they flit between their countryside manor house, at Tresaints, and the Royal court. As in previous novels, their life is just as eventful and, as they immerse themselves in the scheming and political manoeuvrings of the Edwardian court, so they find that, as always, danger is never very far away.

With Edward II believed dead, the English court is very much at the centre of controversy, and even as the new young King, Edward III, starts to flex his political muscles, there are still courtiers who gravitate towards Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer. With his allegiance to his young king stretched to breaking point, Adam de Guirande, once again finds that his loyalty towards his mentor, Mortimer, will be tested to the absolute limit of even his, considerable, endurance.

It goes without saying that I am greatly enamoured of Adam de Guirande, who is fast becoming one of my favourite literary heroes. I love his ability to be at the heart of the action, whilst at the same time keeping his integrity intact. Adam and Kit's ardent love for each other shines like a beacon throughout, and the moments spent with them in the quiet of their bed chamber adds a really delicious blend of passion and spice to the story.

'Real life' historical personalities truly come to life in the hands of this skilful writer and by the end of this novel I really felt as though I had walked in the shadow of Roger Mortimer and, whilst not always in tune with his actions, by the end of the story, I had come to respect his ability as a political operator, and will, most certainly, miss his commanding presence. That there was also another sad departure of a character I had grown to love took me completely by surprise and, it must be said, that I shed a little tear and mourned his loss rather more than Mortimer's.

There is something rather wonderful about this exciting historical series which, with every successive story, grows in depth and complexity, and which offers a fascinating glimpse into life at one of the most controversial royal courts. The historical aspect is beautifully researched and, whilst the author takes one or two liberties, there is always a real sense of authenticity which captures perfectly the sights, sounds and sensations of a busy medieval world.

Steeped in history and alive with all the brilliance of a medieval court at the height of its power, The Cold Light of Dawn commands your attention. The story glitters and swirls around those vibrant personalities who made their mark on history and whose exciting stories deserve to be retold.

That the author feels this could be the end of The King's Greatest Enemy series is something I feel I must challenge, as to be without Adam de Guirande in future stories is not something I wish to contemplate. 

More .....please 😊

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, chances are she’ll be visiting in the 17th century, more specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga

Like on Facebook

Follow on Twitter @abelfrageauthor

Friday, 20 April 2018

Blog Tour ~ Guilt by Amanda Robson

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

19 April 2018

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

What's it all about..

There is no bond greater than blood . . . 

When the body of a woman is found stabbed to death, the blame falls to her twin sister. But who killed who? And which one is now the woman behind bars? 

Zara and Miranda have always supported each other. But then Zara meets Seb, and everything changes. Handsome, charismatic and dangerous, Seb threatens to tear the sisters’ lives apart – but is he really the one to blame? Or are deeper resentments simmering beneath the surface that the sisters must face up to? 

As the sisters’ relationship is stretched to the brink, a traumatic incident in Seb’s past begins to rear its head and soon all three are locked in a psychological battle that will leave someone dead. The question is, who?

My thoughts about it..

There is a distinctly dark feel to Guilt which is apparent from the very start of the novel when a murder is committed, and the subsequent build up to the reason for this dreadful crime will take us into some very dark places indeed.

Non-identical twin sisters, Miranda and Zara, have a close and loving relationship, that is, until Sebastian, Zara’s less than charming boyfriend appears on the scene, and who seems determined to drive a wedge between the sisters. That this three way relationship causes problems is perhaps something of an understatement, and there are times when the emotional pull of the story really bites hard, especially as it covers some rather disturbing themes.

Told from the view point of the three main protagonists, the story slips comfortably between past and present and also between Zara, Miranda and Sebastian, and as their fascinating narratives unfold so the tension starts to increase. The story moves along at considerable speed, and the deliciously short and, at times, snappy chapters are perfectly proportioned to allow for quick reading. Some psychological thrillers just cry out to be read in one sitting, and that’s how Guilt worked for me, as I really couldn’t wait to see how the story played out in the wider scheme of things.

There is no doubt that in this her second psychological suspense novel, the author has really played to her strength. She has a real skill for getting into the finer details of what makes people tick, how they think, act and react is all closely considered, with never a drop of anything superfluous that could get into the way of good storytelling. And in bringing the characters of Miranda, Zara and Sebastian to life, she has once again, given us a story with a real sense of edginess and yet, which also has its basis in stark reality.

Beautifully observed and written, Guilt is one of those cleverly woven stories which really performs to the strength of its title as the feeling of culpability runs like a thread throughout the whole of the novel.

After graduating, Amanda Robson worked in medical research at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and at the Poisons Unit at Guy’s Hospital where she became a co-author of a book on cyanide poisoning. Guilt is her second novel.

Twitter @AmandaRauthor #Guilt


Thursday, 19 April 2018

Review ~ Whatever Happened to Margot? by Margaret Durrell

March 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

What's it all about..

In 1947, returning to the UK with two young children to support, Margaret Durrell starts a boarding house in Bournemouth. But any hopes of respectability are dashed as the tenants reveal themselves to be a host of eccentrics: from a painter of nudes to a pair of glamorous young nurses whose late-night shifts combined with an ever-revolving roster of gentleman callers leading to a neighbourhood rumour that Margo is running a brothel. Margo's own two sons, Gerry and Nicholas, prove to be every bit as mischievous as their famous Uncle Gerald - and he himself returns periodically with weird and wonderful animals, from marmosets to monkeys, that are quite unsuitable for life in a Bournemouth garden.

My thoughts about it..

I've always loved My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell and have watched the current TV adaptation of his Corfu trilogy with great delight. Margot Durrell is one of my favourite characters so to have a book written by her has been an absolute joy.

We meet Margot again in Whatever Happened to Margot? in 1947 following her divorce from a British RAF pilot. On her return to England from Corfu and with limited financial resources she is persuaded by her aunt Patience to open a guest house in genteel Bournemouth. This idea is met with slight scepticism but as always, Margot with considerable aplomb embarks on this enterprise with great gusto.

Margot’s guest house is soon filled with an assortment of lodgers, some are genuinely odd and others are so funny that they make you laugh out loud with glee. Their adventures are as varied as their characters and it soon becomes obvious that the new occupants of this large Edwardian house, in a quiet leafy street, will certainly shake up the neighbourhood. And as the guest house gets underway and begins to influence the area so Margot's standing in the community starts to take a knock, especially when people accuse her of running a brothel.

The other Durrells who flit into and out of the story add a real sense of continuity and it was lovely to meet up again with Mrs Durrell, always with her interminable knitting in tow, and of course, I looked forward to a visit from Margot's younger brother, Gerald, who landed at the guest house accompanied by a crate of monkeys and large python.

In Whatever happened to Margot?, Margaret Durrell has recounted her adventures as a landlady with a fine eye for the ridiculous and a real sense of time and place. And anyone who has ever read any of the Durrell novels will recognise that marvellous self-deprecating wit which is always so evident. Margot's self exuberance continues this trend, and she writes with a natural flair for observation and more than a hint of the downright eccentric.

If you are a fan of the TV series, then Whatever happened to Margot? is a great continuation of the story of Margot's fascinating and eventful life.

About the Author

Margaret "Margo" Durrell (4th May 1920 - 16th January 2007) was the younger sister of novelist Lawrence Durrell, and elder sister of naturalist and author Gerald Durrell, whose Corfu Trilogy - My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods feature her as a character. Born in British India, she was brought up in India, England and Corfu. Margo had two children, Gerry and Nicholas, with her husband Jack Breeze, a British Royal Air Force pilot she met when he was stationed in Corfu during the Second World War. After they divorced, she moved back to Bournemouth, and started the boarding house she wrote about in her memoir, Whatever Happened to Margo?

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Blog Tour ~ What Lies Within by Annabelle Thorpe

Jaffareadstoo is excited to be taking part in the What Lies Within Blog Tour

12 July 2018 (paperback)
5 April 2018 ( Kindle)

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

What's it all about..

What Lies Within is a sophisticated and suspenseful tale of three old university friends bought back together in steamy Marrakech.

Married couple Freya and Paul have always kept in contact with their Hammad, their wealthy friend from university but when he offers the couple a new life in Morocco, the move will change their lives forever as revelations about their past come to light and Freya realises neither Paul or Hammad are the people she thought they were.

My thoughts about it ...

With its setting in Marrakech, What Lies Within is a vivid and insightful look at the way that friendships change and alter over time, and how, sometimes, these changes aren’t always for the better.

Married couple, Freya and Paul give up their home in London and travel to the colourful city of Marrakech, where their wealthy friend, Hamad requires an architect to help renovate three Riads, which are amongst the city’s most historic buildings. Architect, Paul has been part of successful design business in London and he is eager to work on the Marrakech project which, when completed, will be a gift for Hamad’s girlfriend, Racine.

It is during this time when Freya, Paul and Hamad’s long standing friendship will be stretched to breaking point and as hidden secrets start to emerge so their friendship is tested to the absolute limit. This disharmony affects Freya and Paul and the perceptive glimpse into their relationship uncovers a marriage which has been built on lies and deceit. 

The author writes well, bringing the ancient walled city of Marrakech, with its shadowy alleyways and lively markets, to life and it is obvious from the vibrant descriptions of the city, its people and its customs, that this is a place the author knows really well. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, particularly Hamad's grandmother, Edith ,who is joy to read, and whilst I didn’t always like some of the other characters, it is to the author’s credit that I came to understand why they acted as they did and could even feel sympathy for them.

What Lies Within is an interesting novel about the vagaries of friendship, the dangers of keeping secrets and of the deadly consequences of infidelity and deceit.

Annabelle Thorpe is an award-winning travel journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times and the Observer and travelled widely in the Middle East and North Africa. She has driven across rural Oman, trekked in Libya, spent time in Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE and has been regularly visiting Morocco for over ten years.

Twitter @annabellet #WhatLiesWithin

 Published on the 12th July in paperback, What Lie Within is available to pre-order on Amazon

 It's available now as an ecopy and trade paperback and is currently on Kindle for 99p

 Amazon UK

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Black Earth by Philip Kazan

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to host today's stop of The Black Earth Blog Tour

Allison & Busby
19th April 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book and to Random Things Tours for the invitation
 to be part of this Blog Tour

Whats it all about...

1922. When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoë Haggitiris escapes with her family, only to lose everything. Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also lost, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life. Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoë. But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.

My thoughts about it...

This atmospheric and evocative novel takes us back to the dark days of the Greek occupation during WW2. We follow the fortunes of Greek singer, Zoe Valavani and British Officer, Lieutenant Tom Collyer, two very different characters, whose shared wartime experiences become an absolutely integral part of the story. 

That Zoe has had a difficult start to life is beautifully observed, but it is her absolute tenacity to survive which will see her through the worst of what life has to offer. Tom is on active duty in Greece when he rescues Zoe from a road side tragedy, and even though their lives are so very different, fate links them in ways that they could never have imagined. 

The Black Earth is on all levels an emotional story. Beautifully written by an a writer who really knows how to get right into the heart and soul of a story, the narrative is really well controlled, so that it never becomes overly graphic or overly sentimental, but with eloquent precision it certainly gets its message across. 

From the very start of the novel, Zoe is a worthy protagonist, feisty, determined and so beautifully depicted that her character literary leaps off the page, and even as a child facing the most devastating loss imaginable, her strength of character and formidable spirit will see her fight to survive in a world that seems to have gone mad. Tom is very much a product of his British upbringing, his loyalty and bravery knows no bounds and throughout the story, he will need every ounce of his  British stoicism and military training to survive. 

Zoe’s eventful life in Greece, her relationship with her brother, Pavlo and her connection to Tom, form an emotional backdrop to a story which is both heart breaking and dramatic in equal measure. There is an absorbing intensity to the novel which I found compelling and the detailed and emotional description of living life in a war zone comes across so vividly that I could picture everything so very clearly; it was as if the place and the characters came alive in my imagination. 

Caught within the boundaries of an occupied war zone, there is much to consider in The Black Earth, not just about the effects of war on a country and its people, but also about the loss of connection and identity and of the constant struggle for survival.

About the Author


Twitter @pipkazan #TheBlackEarth


Monday, 16 April 2018

Blog Tour ~ Things Bright and Beautiful by Anbara Salam

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Things Bright and Beautiful Blog Tour

Fig Tree
5 April 2018

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

What's it all about..

Bea Hanlon has moved to a remote island in the Pacific with her husband Max, a devout missionary. The island is a place beyond the reaches of even her most fitful imaginings. 

It’s not just the rats and the hordes of mosquitos and the weevils in the powdered milk. Past the confines of their stuffy little house, amidst the damp and the sweltering heat, are the stirrings of much darker forces. Rumours are spreading of devil-chasers, who roam the island on the hunt for evil spirits. Bea gradually adapts to this strange new life until the previous missionary emerges unexpectedly from the jungle, and the island suddenly starts to turn against them all. Before long, trapped in the growing fever of her husband’s insanity, Bea finds herself fighting for her freedom, and for her life.

My thoughts about it...

Things Bright and Beautiful is set in the New Hebrides on a remote island in the South Pacific, where the missionary, Max Hanlon and his wife, Bea set about trying to convert the islanders to Christianity. That the islanders have their own customs and taboos is very obvious from the start and in trying to become accustomed to island life, both Max and Bea experience their own very different problems. 

The claustrophobic atmosphere of the island, and the oppressive nature of living in a place where the very air you breathe teems with verminous life, sets the scene for this unusual story, which looks at the power of superstition and the irresistible lure of insanity. 

Although the story is set in the 1950s, there is a timeless quality about it which, regardless of time frame, focuses the attention on the here and now. Max and Bea do their very best to settle into island life but it becomes obvious from the start that these two are very different people and the marital discord in their relationship isn’t going to be resolved easily. The destructive nature of living in such a menacing place and the rat-infested creatures that hide away in dark corners only serves to emphasise the terrifying consequences of living in such an enclosed atmosphere and further isolates, Max and Bea, from the community at large.

The islanders themselves have their own very distinct personalities, their way of life intrigued me and I especially enjoyed reading about Aru and Santra, and of the effect that these two very different people had on both Max and Bea. 

Things Bright and Beautiful is a highly original story with a complexity of narrative which is as fascinating as it is terrifying to behold.

Anbara Salam is half-Palestinian and half-Scottish, and grew up in London. She has a PhD in Theology, specialising in apocalyptic death cults, and is now a research associate at the University of Oxford. She spent six months living on a small South Pacific island, and her experiences there served as the inspiration for this debut novel.

Twitter @anbara_salam #BrightandBeautiful