Monday, 16 January 2017

Review ~ Portraits of Pretence by Susan Grossey

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

A bit of book blurb..

An elderly French artist is found dead in his rooms in London clutching a miniature portrait of a little girl. Intrigued, Constable Sam Plank delves into the world of art dealing and finds himself navigating the fragile post-war relationship between England and France. What is the link between this and the recent attacks on customs officers in London Docks? And will a beautiful mademoiselle put paid to Martha Plank’s matchmaking?
In this fourth novel in the Sam Plank series, set in the chilly spring of 1827, Plank and his junior constable William Wilson meet Frenchmen in London and daring blockademen in Kent to uncover smuggling and even more dangerous ambitions,

My thoughts about the book..

There are a collection of authors in my arsenal of ‘authors who will never let me down’ and I can officially say that Susan Grossey is now firmly placed in this category. The whole of the Sam Plank series of Regency crime novels have been an absolute joy to read and this fourth outing by Constable Sam and his able assistant Wilson is just as exciting as the previous three books.

The chilly spring of 1827 sees Sam and his junior constable, William Wilson, investigating the unexplained death of an elderly French artist who has been found dead in mysterious circumstances. The only clue left at the scene is an exquisite miniature of a young girl which the old man is clutching in his hand. Given the unusual circumstances surrounding this death neither officer will leave any stone unturned until the mystery is solved to their satisfaction. However, dabbling in the complicated world of art reveals far more questions than it does answers, and Plank and Wilson soon find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into a shadowy criminal underworld filled with conspiracy and dangerous secrets.

Confident in his ability, Constable Plank strides the streets of London with all the self-assurance of a man who knows his place in the world. He strives for justice and truth in an entirely commendable way, and his integrity and honesty shines through with every word that this author so lovingly shares with her readers. What I enjoy most about this series is the way that the world of Regency crime comes alive in the imagination, so that it becomes an entirely believable world of thieves, vagabonds, conmen and criminals who scurry and skulk within the shadows of the great city of London.

There is no doubt that the author has created a plausible and comprehensive Regency world and with each successive novel I feel as if I am returning into the bosom of a well-loved family. Sam and Martha’s thoughtful care and supervision of the ever vulnerable Constable Wilson, and of course, Martha’s marvellous ability, in moments of extreme worry, to be her husband’s still small voice of calm is, as always, written with such thoughtful attention to detail.

As one book finishes I am heartened to know that, like buses another one will be along soon, after all, the author did say that there would be seven Sam Plank stories and I am holding her to that promise. I don’t want to contemplate what I will do when this wonderful crime series comes to an end but maybe by book number seven Sam may well have put his foot down and said… “There’s more”..!

Best Read With.. A tankard or two of porter and a well roasted chop..

About the Author

You can find more about Susan and her writing by visiting her website ~ click here

Follow on Twitter @ConstablePlank or @susangrossey

Read an extract from Portraits of Pretence by clicking here 

My thanks to Susan for sharing Sam Plank's world with me and for including a "Jaffareadstoo" quote on the cover on Portraits of Pretence.

As a reader I am delighted to endorse this wonderful series.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered ...

Feeding the German Troops during WW1

Food was considered a luxury to British soldiers fighting at the front during WW1 and this was no exception for the German troops who were facing the same constrictions. Food rations were in short supply

German Army Daily Rations

26 ½ ounces of bread or               
17 ½ of field biscuits or 
14 ounces of egg biscuit               
53 ounces of potatoes  
4 ½ ounces vegetables 
2 ounces dried vegetables

German Insulated Hot Food Container

© IWM (FEQ 803)

With a small plaque marked 'Nicht aufs feuer setzen' ('Do not place on a fire')

The food container was worn on the back like a rucksack and kept food hot rather like a vacuum flask

This container was captured by the 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment.

A Dispatch Dog brings food to Germans at the front

© IWM (Q 23700)

The dog is wearing a special harness on its back which can hold mess tins. In the background, a third soldier can be seen pointing his rifle over the top of the trench.

German Soldiers queue at a hot food wagon

©Digital Images

This photograph was in a collection of WW1 memorabilia brought back from the Western Front by my husband's grandfather, Sam Whalley


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Close To Home ....Martin Edwards

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.

Today I welcome North West Crime Writer

Martin Edwards

Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author?

I’ve always wanted to write stories – really, from the time I was able to read. And I became fascinated by detective stories at a very tender age – just short of nine years old. (I tell the full story of how that came about in the introduction to THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER). I wrote a mystery at age 10 – the first in a series! – and a full-length thriller while I was training to be a solicitor (my parents had wisely urged me to get a ‘proper job’ so that I could pay the rent while trying to write). But I realised the thriller wasn’t good enough to publish, and so I never sent it anywhere. When I started working in Liverpool, I began to write articles, and later books, about the law. My first book’s unlikely title was UNDERSTANDING COMPUTER CONTRACTS. Surprisingly, it did quite well. But novels were what I wanted to write, and eventually I published ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE in 1991. The hero was, naturally enough, a down-at-heel Liverpool solicitor....

As a writer based in the North West, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?

The British publishing world revolves around London, there’s no denying that. But I’ve always been devoted to my part of the country, and writing books set first in Liverpool and more recently in the Lakes has been  a source of great enjoyment. Also, technology means that you can live pretty much anywhere and still do quite a bit to promote your books.

Your novels are set in the North West but I wonder do the people and its landscape shape your stories in any way?

Absolutely. The Harry Devlin books couldn’t be set anywhere but Liverpool, and when I returned to the series after a ten year gap with WATERLOO SUNSET, I really enjoyed exploring the changes in the city during that time, through his eyes. The sub-text of the series is the metamorphosis of Liverpool since the dark days of the early 80s (which coincided with my arrival there, but I don’t think I was to blame....) In a different way the Lakeland landscape – and literary heritage – is at the heart of the Hannah Scarlett books. There the sub-text concerns the pressures on rural English life, and in particular on Lakeland life..

If you were pitching the North West as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

I have tried to ‘sell’ the North West many times during my legal career, explaining to disbelieving young solicitors why it would be appealing to relocate oop North. For those addicted to London, it’s only a train ride away, but the quality of life is immeasurably better here in my personal opinion. It’s not just that housing is so much more affordable (even in Cheshire!) but also that there is so much variety on your doorstep in terms of landscape and places to spend quality time. There’s culture aplenty – look at Liverpool’s museums and art galleries, let alone all the others – and plenty of peaceful places where you can get some writing done. An example, a short bus ride from Chester, is the unique Gladstone’s Library.

In your research for your books, do you visit any of the places you write about and which have made a lasting impression?

I always visit them, and for me it’s vital try to soak up the local atmosphere. So I explored Williamson’s Tunnels in Liverpool when working on FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST. I even dragged my protesting teenage children to Coniston for a very wet and cold February week-end so I could see what the place was like at the time when THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH was set. Luckily they are still speaking to me. Among many other examples, I’d highlight the fascinating west coast of Cumbria, around the intriguing ancient port of Ravenglass, which forms the backdrop to THE DUNGEON HOUSE. A wonderful part of the world, and very atmospheric.

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

I’ve been a member of the CrimeWriters’ Association for many years, and CWA events have helped me to form many friendships. I was a founder member of the very active Northern Chapter of the CWA, and later a founder member of Murder Squad, founded by Margaret Murphy and also including Ann Cleeves and Cath Staincliffe among others. Both groups are still going strong. I’m now the Vice Chair of the CWA, and a year ago I was elected eighth President of the Detection Club, which was the world’s first social network for crime writers. It was founded by G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and several others; that trio were among my predecessors as President, so I’m honoured and excited to have the role. We have three dinners a year in London, and they are very convivial events. Apart from all that, I enjoy going to crime conventions here and overseas.

How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

I’ve found libraries in particular very supportive of my writing, and I enjoy doing a range of library events – including talks, workshops, and murder mystery evenings. I’m concerned about the threat to library funding – libraries form an essential part of every community and any local council and government that is committed to improving community cohesion should take care to protect and enhance the library service.

And finally, if someone is new to your work, which book do you think they should start with?

THE COFFIN TRAIL is the first of the Lakes books, and a lot of people tell me they like to start there. My own favourite in that series is THE DUNGEON HOUSE, while I’m fond of YESTERDAY’S PAPERS and WATERLOO SUNSET in the Devlin series.

You can discover more about Martin on his website by clicking here

His crime writing blog by clicking here 

Twitter @medwardsbooks

Huge thanks to Martin for sharing his thoughts about his work and also about

what makes living and writing in the North West so special.

Coming next week : Paula Daly


Friday, 13 January 2017

Review ~ The Buttonmaker's Daughter by Merryn Allingham

A bit of blurb...

May, 1914. 

Nestled in Sussex, the Summerhayes mansion seems the perfect country idyll. But with a long-running feud in the Summers family and tensions in Europe deepening, Summerhayes’ peaceful days are numbered.

For Elizabeth Summer, the lazy quiet of her home has become stifling. A chance meeting with Aiden Kellaway, an architect’s assistant, offers the secret promise of escape, but her marriage to a man of trade has no place in her father’s plans. In the ensuing conflict, Elizabeth along with her family faces a dangerous future.

As the sweltering heat of 1914 builds to a storm, she faces a choice between family loyalty and an uncertain life with the man she loves.One thing is definite: this summer will change everything.

My thoughts about the book...

The last halcyon days of summer 1914 are the focus for this well written historical saga which explores the stifling atmosphere of living and working in one of England's large country estates.

Elizabeth Summer, the eponymous button maker's daughter, finds that she is about to be the centre of a family conspiracy but her burgeoning relationship with one of her father's employees, ensures that Elizabeth's loyalty to her family will be tested to the limit.

Initially, the uncertainty of what is happening in Europe doesn't seem to be having much effect on Elizabeth or the people who live at Summerhayes, but as the story progresses there is a shift in the tension and a palpable dissent starts to appear. We watch as Elizabeth becomes more and more unsettled, not just because of her own romantic awakening, but also because of the declining relationships within her family as long buried secrets threaten to disturb the very fine balance between love and hate.

The story may seem a little slow at the start but I think that this was a deliberate ploy to echo the slowness and laziness of the long hot summer. Gradually as the story strands start to come together the plot becomes tighter and much more complicated. I enjoyed the imagery within the story and in particular the descriptions of the gardens at Summerhayes and of the work of the young architect, Aiden Kellaway, who features so strongly in Elizabeth's life.

The author has a gift for storytelling; she writes well with a fine eye for historical detail and I am sure that readers who enjoy this style of historical fiction will find much to enjoy in The Buttonmaker's Daughter.

Best Read With of cook's pork pies and a glass of iced lemonade..

About the Author

Follow on Twitter @MerrynWrites

My thanks to the publishers and to Alice at Midas for my review copy of 
The Buttonmaker's Daughter

Read an interview with the author by clicking here

Blog Tour ~ The Buttonmaker's Daughter by Merryn Allingham

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for

I am delighted to welcome the author, Merryn Allingham who is sharing her thoughts about the inspiration for her novel.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

I visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan two years’ ago, ‘lost’ because they were only rediscovered in 1990 and since that time have been lovingly restored. The gardens’ heyday was the late Victorian/Edwardian period when owners spent a great deal of money, time and effort in creating a beautiful and exotic paradise. But, when in 1914, war came to England, everything changed. Over half the staff perished in the mud of Flanders and the gardens were left to a slow disintegration.

The buildings the gardeners had known in 1914 – the bothy, the melon house, the pineapple pit, among others – remained untouched. They had crumbled but stayed essentially the same. It was as though the gardens had slept for eighty years. Lead and zinc Victorian plant tags lay buried in the soil. A giant vine weaved its way through broken panes of glass in the walled garden. True romance! Not quite so romantic were the effects of requisitioning. In 1916, Heligan became a military hospital and during the Second World War housed the American army. The beautiful lawns, or what was left of them, were concreted to provide hard standing for tanks and jeeps, and the trees, many of them rare, used as target practice.

But what set me on the path to writing The Buttonmaker’s Daughter were the human stories. One that affected me greatly concerned the ordinary men whose labour created this beauty. One day in the summer of 1914, every gardener on the estate downed tools and walked together to Redruth, to enlist at the local recruiting centre. Most of the men never returned. A Day Book that listed every job completed, carried that day’s date but the rest of the page remained blank and poignantly, was never used again.

It was the image of those men, honourable and courageous, walking together to enlist in what they saw as a just cause, that stayed in my mind, and I knew I had to record that moment in a novel. My fictional estate, Summerhayes, is nestled in the Sussex countryside, rather than Cornwall, but it offers the same perfect idyll. And like Heligan, that idyll is disrupted by a war that looms ever closer, but disrupted, too, by conflict nearer to home - between neighbours and within the family itself. The summer of 1914 will change everything for the Summer family, as indeed it did for so many.

12 January 2017

May, 1914. 

Nestled in Sussex, the Summerhayes mansion seems the perfect country idyll. But with a long-running feud in the Summers family and tensions in Europe deepening, Summerhayes’ peaceful days are numbered.

For Elizabeth Summer, the lazy quiet of her home has become stifling. A chance meeting with Aiden Kellaway, an architect’s assistant, offers the secret promise of escape, but her marriage to a man of trade has no place in her father’s plans. In the ensuing conflict, Elizabeth along with her family faces a dangerous future.

As the sweltering heat of 1914 builds to a storm, she faces a choice between family loyalty and an uncertain life with the man she loves.One thing is definite: this summer will change everything.

The Buttonmaker’s Daughter by Merryn Allingham is published on 12th January (HQ, £7.99) If you would like to keep in touch with Merryn, sign up for her newsletter at

Twitter @MerrynWrites

My thanks to the author for her delightful guest post and to the publishers for their invitation to be part of this blog tour.

Blog Tour runs 9th - 15th January.

Do visit the other blog stops for more author content.


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Blog Tour Giveaway ~ Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on Publication Day

 From the cover..

In an age when we can google the answer to everything, Will Schwalbe has always believed that the answer to everything can actually be found in a book, if we just slow down enough to find out and then take the time to think about it and share with others. Books for Living is a wide ranging exploration of what books can teach us in the modern age.

Books covered include these classics :

David Copperfield 
Stuart Little
The Importance of Living
Giovanni’s Room
Bird by Bird
The Girl On The Train

Two Roads 12th January 2017

My thoughts about the book..

A book about books is always really fascinating for an avid reader. There is something almost voyeuristic about gaining access into the inner most thoughts of a bibliophile. Wondering just what books have influenced and encouraged others to read is a deeply satisfying process.

In Books for Living the author shares his thoughts very eloquently about the books which have influenced his thoughts and by using anecdotal stories he shares just how important reading has been to him in his life thus far. He includes an extensive and far reaching book list and more than once I found myself reaching for a pen to scribble down a note, or an idea, or even the name of an unfamiliar author. 

Of course, like many readers given a list of books, ever curious, I immediately turned at first to those stories I was familiar with just to see what the author made of some of my favourites, which include, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I was heartened to learn that he found much in them to ponder and enjoy. But then I was equally just as fascinated by the author's inclusion of Reading Lolita in Tehran which couldn't be more different from his thoughts about Stuart Little. But then, that's the beauty of sharing a love of stories, there is something for everyone.

I think that the real joy of Books for Living is that you can open the book at any place at whim and find something precious and profound within its pages. It is a book to treasure and to keep, it's a book for a rainy afternoon, or a summer in the garden. 

There is a thought that sometimes a book comes into your life at just the right time. The author puts it much more eloquently than I ever could:

"Every now and then the universe tells you what book you need to read ; it does this by placing the name of that book and author in front of you in various contexts, until you can't help but take note. You ignore book recommendations from the universe at your peril". 

I think that Books for Living is one such book and with its engaging celebration of the love of reading, I am sure that this will appeal to readers everywhere.

Best Read of those sharing buckets of fried chicken  and a side order of cola...

About the Author

Will Schwalbe has worked in publishing for many years.
He is the author of the international bestseller, The End of Your Life Book Club and co-author (with David Shipley) of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.
He has also worked in digital media, and was the founder of As a journalist he wrote for the New York Times and the South China Morning Post.
He lives in New York City.

My thanks to the publishers for their invitation to be part of this blog tour and for this generous giveaway opportunity

Find out more about the book by clicking here 

** Good Luck **

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Review ~ Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart

12 January 2017

A bit of blurb...

The bestselling author of Girl Waits With Gun returns with another adventure featuring the feisty, unforgettable Kopp sisters. 

In 1915, lady cops were not expected to chase down fugitives on the streets of New York City. But Constance Kopp never did what anyone expected. After besting (and arresting) a ruthless silk factory owner and his gang of thugs, Constance Kopp has earned her place as the nation’s first female deputy sheriff. She’s proven that she can’t be deterred, evaded, or outrun. But when a con man escapes from jail on her watch, she must find him before he disappears completely, and she ends up right back where she started - unemployed.

My thoughts about the book ...

In Lady Cop Makes Trouble we see the welcome return of Deputy Sheriff Constance Kopp who we first met in Girl Waits With Gun.

When a con man disappears from jail whilst Constance is on watch she takes it as a personal insult. Fired with her unique brand of bravado, she never for one minute takes the idea of defeat as an option, even though those around are perhaps more sceptical of her ability to track down a man who doesn't want to be found.

This complicated search for a man who does not want to be discovered forms the basis of the story and, as always, takes Constance into the very heart of the action. The other characters that flit into and out of the story add their own distinctive perspective and Constance's sisters, Norma and Fleurette, continue to add their own unique charm.

What I love about this historical crime series is the sheer joie de vivre which Constance exudes at every opportunity. She is a feisty and determined protagonist who brings such exuberant joy to the story that the pages almost turn themselves. What can be guaranteed is that for Constance Kopp there is never going to be a dull moment and even though her brief spell as the deputy sheriff seems to be over almost before it has begun Constance never falters in her search for justice.

The brave and bright new world of early twentieth century New York comes vividly to life with Constance best placed in her role as a strong female protagonist. Within the story there is plenty of action and lots of twists and turns in a plot which always keeps you guessing.

Based on actual events, Lady Cop Makes Trouble is a well plotted action adventure and I am sure that this series will continue to go from strength to strength. 

Best read with … a cup of black tea and some soda crackers

Visit the author's website

Follow on Twitter @Amy_Stewart

Find on Facebook Amy Stewart Author

Thanks to Sophie at Scribe for the opportunity to read and review Lady Cop Makes Trouble.