Sunday, 29 November 2015

Travel Report - The Netherlands - Rotterdam, Amsterdam & Delft



August/September 2015 brought with is a long overdue trip to The Netherlands with my husband, Mr Ginger Cat, courtesy of a competition win with Expedia to commemorate 125 years since the death of Van Gogh.

We were allowed to choose our destination and, on the advice of the lovely Zarina at pagetostagereviews.com, we decided to book a week at the 5* Mainport Hotel in Rotterdam.

Day 1

After an early morning flight, we landed at Amsterdam Schipol Airport and jumped straight onto the train to Rotterdam. We were delighted to discover that public transportation in The Netherlands is extensive and very easy to use.

On our arrival at Rotterdam Centraal Station, we made quick use of the metro system to get us to Leuvehaven where the Mainport Hotel is located, close to the Erasmusbrug. The metro stop is directly across the road from the hotel, which was very convenient.
The Mainport Hotel, whilst looking fairly non-descript from the outside, is an example of the modern, stylish and funky design synonymous with Rotterdam, from the continental-designed floors to the chandelier in the lobby.  We were booked into a fourth floor (I think!) Waterfront Spa Room which was quite simply INCREDIBLE!

 
The huge (474 sq ft) room was beautifully designed, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the harbour, and contained both a wooden sauna in the bathroom and a whirlpool Jacuzzi in front of the windows looking out onto the river Maas. Amenities included free Wi-Fi, flat screen TV, coffee and tea making facilities, bathrobes, Malin+Goetz toiletries and some additional extras in the form of bath salts for the Jacuzzi and essential oil for the sauna, not to mention a travel journal for guests to leave their tips for future guests to read. The bed itself was incredibly comfortable. I could not fault a single thing. I can honestly say that this was one of the best (if not THE best) hotel room that we have ever stayed in!


On arrival, after having spent half a day travelling, we first treated ourselves to a beer on the terrace overlooking the harbour whilst we looked at the map and got our bearings. It was a beautiful, hot day and we were happy for the rest. However, we started to feel a bit peckish and decided to walk towards the town centre, in the hope of finding some food.  We stopped at Sijf, in the shopping district, where we enjoyed one of their tasty doorstop-sized sandwiches whilst watching the world go by. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring, before pre-dinner drinks at Manzara followed by an early dinner at Il Faro Sardo. Our meal of pasta, bread, olives and red wine was delicious, however be warned that the menu is very limited. The evening was then spent relaxing and enjoying the facilities in our hotel room.

Mainport Hotel, Leuvehaven 77, 3011 EA Rotterdam (http://www.mainporthotel.com)

Bar Restaurant Sijf, Oude Binnenweg 115, 3012 JB Rotterdam  (http://www.sijf.nl/)
Manzara, Leuvehaven 65, 3011 EA Rotterdam (http://www.manzara.nu/)
Il Faro Sardo, Leuvehaven 73-74, 3011 EA Rotterdam (http://www.ilfaro.nl/)

Day 2

An early start to day 2 saw us making our way down to the famous Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge). We took a walk over the bridge and explored the other side of the harbour, an area that I believe is referred to as Kop Van Zuid.



Returning back across the Erasmusbrug and made our way through the park to the Euromast, an ugly looking tower which apparently has great views across the city. We had intended to venture up the Euromast tower, however the queue was long and we were hungry, so we instead made our way back to Oude Binnenweg where we stopped at Melief Bender for a quick bite to eat.



Rotterdam, the second largest city in The Netherlands, was rebuilt after WWII bombings and from the moment you arrive in the city and walk out of Central Station, it is impossible to ignore the modern, geometrical architecture which makes the city so distinct. After lunch, we decided to walk over to Blaak to visited the famous Kubuswoningen or Cube Houses.  Designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom, these striking cube-shaped houses are perched on top of hexagonal pylons and tilted so that all of the walls are angled. The three-storey houses are supposed to individually represent trees and collectively a forest. You are able to take a look around one of the houses, for a small price and we found it interesting from a design aspect but very claustrophobic inside.


After getting a bit overheated in the cube house, we walked over to the imposing archway-shaped Markthal to grab a drink.  The Markthal is a large indoor market, filled to the brim with tasty delights. When entering the building, your eyes cannot help but be drawn to the incredible ceiling. Described on their website as the ‘Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam’, artist Arno Coenen has designed a brightly coloured mural which covers the entire 11,000 sq metre ceiling.  I could have spent hours here – a truly wonderful place to visit!




Late afternoon/early evening was spent outside Rodin, with a few pre-dinner drinks whilst watching the many cyclists and shoppers passing by. Dinner that evening was Middle Eastern cuisine at Restaurant Bazar. The meal was reasonably priced and quite tasty, however we agreed that we probably would not revisit the restaurant during our stay.



Euromast, Parkhaven 20, 3016 GM Rotterdam (http://www.euromast.nl/en)
Kubuswoningen, Overblaak 70, 3011 MH Rotterdam, Netherlands (http://www.kubuswoning.nl)
Markthal, Dominee Jan Scharpstraat 298, 3011 GZ Rotterdam (https://www.markthal.nl/en)

Melief Bender, Oude Binnenweg 134, 3012 JH Rotterdam (http://www.meliefbender.nl/)
Rodin, Schilderstraat 20A, 3011 Rotterdam (http://rodinrotterdam.nl/)
Restaurant Bazar, Witte de Withstraat 16, 3012 BP Rotterdam (http://www.bazarrotterdam.nl/)

Day 3

The Netherlands has fantastic infrastructure for cyclists. Wherever you venture, you will see as many bicycles as you do cars. The bicycles themselves are largely a charming, upright style and despite not having been on a bicycle (other than an exercise bike) for years, I was determined to have a go! After some persuasion, my husband agreed to my plan to hire bicycles and then take the waterbus to Kinderdijk for the morning.


We picked up our bikes from hire shop under the Erasmusbrug and then got on the waterbus to Dordrecht, disembarking at Ridderkerk where we transferred onto the Driehoeksveer, a smaller ferry boat that took us to Kinderdijk. The waterferry ticket gives you a 10% discount on the entrance fee to Kinderdijk.



Kinderdijk is a big tourist attraction and an iconic sight. This UNESCO world heritage site is a collection of 19 windmills spaced out along a canal. There is a visitor’s centre and a couple of the windmills are open as museums to show how they would have been used many years ago.

There is a boat which can take you on a tour along the canal, however it is the perfect place to cycle and we thoroughly enjoyed our day here.



After a few hours exploring the windmills, we took the waterbus back to Rotterdam and stopped at Grand Café-Restaurant Loos for a coffee and a slice of lemon meringue pie.

Afternoon was spent on a bit more exploration whilst enjoying the sunny weather, before dinner at American-style restaurant Hudson Bar & Kitchen where I enjoyed the most fantastic plate of ribs. A perfect meal to end a really fantastic day.


Grand Café-Restaurant Loos, Westplein 51, Rotterdam (http://www.loos-rotterdam.nl/)
Hudson Bar & Kitchen, Schiedamse Vest 28, 3011 BA Rotterdam (http://www.restauranthudson.nl/en/home)

Day 4

Day 4 got off to an early start as we jumped on the train to Amsterdam. We had booked a hotel for the night in order to give us plenty of time to explore the city. Amsterdam is a beautiful city, built around a network of canals lined by picturesque town houses. There are bicycles everywhere and I was surprised by the sheer amount of people on the streets.



After arriving in Amsterdam, we walked the short distance to the Inntel Hotel Amsterdam Centre. Whilst not luxurious, the hotel was clean, cheap and central – similar in style to a Holiday Inn or a Premier Inn.


After a quick drink at the Five Bells Bar, we decided to go exploring. We first walked over to Ann Frank’s house, only to be met by a huge queue. As such, we decided not to wait but to continue our exploration, first stopping for a spot of lunch at the nearby Bagel & Beans. I’m a huge bagel lover and I was so excited to see how popular they are in The Netherlands!

After lunch, we walked down through Dam, through the flower market and over to the Rijksmuseum, exploring all the little side roads as we went. Amsterdam is really a very charming city. We had intended to visit one of the museums, however after our meandering walking tour of Amsterdam, we arrived a half hour just before the museum’s closed and decided that did not leave us enough time for a visit.


We walked back up towards Amsterdam Centraal Railway Station, stopping for a couple of drinks on the way. As it grew dark, we decided to head towards the infamous Red Light District.  During the day, the red light district is cloaked under a façade of charming buildings and beautiful canals. However, once sunset hits, it certainly is a unique and eye-opening experience there. The shop windows glow with red lights whilst scantily clad women wave to passers-by and beckon willing gentlemen through the doors. Whilst being undeniably seedy, it is an obvious tourist attraction with a great atmosphere and an experience that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the city.

Dinner was a pizza at Italian restaurant, Dolce, before a slow walk back to our hotel whilst taking in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam at night.

Inntel Hotel Amsterdam Centre (http://www.inntelhotelsamsterdamcentre.nl/).

Dolce (unable to find online)

Day 5

Day 5 was another day spent exploring the delights of Amsterdam.

After heading over to Anne Frank’s house and finding yet more queues, we decided to give up on the chance of seeing the house (if you plan to visit here, I would definitely advise you to book tickets in advance) and instead stopped for a breakfast of traditional mini Dutch pancakes (poffertjes) at Sara’s Pancake House.



As it was raining, we then headed towards the Van Gogh Museum before having a change of heart due to the long queues. We decided to detour to The Heineken Experience instead. This was Mr GC’s choice, however I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to do there and we spent a good few hours learning about the brewing process and joining in on some silly but entertaining activities. I’m not a big beer drinker, so Mr GC made use of both his and my free drinks vouchers and was in a very good mood by the time we left!





After a quick drink at Carousel Pancake House, we made our way back towards the hotel, stopping at Myrabelle for a traditional lunch of bitterballen (meatballs) and kaasstengels (cheese sticks). After another pit stop at Café Wheels for a mug of traditional Dutch mint tea, we then headed back to the hotel to check out and caught the train back to Rotterdam, arriving back in time for room service and an evening making use of the Jacuzzi and sauna – a great fix for our weary legs.

I must say that whilst Amsterdam certainly has its charms, I am not a fan of crowds and it was just a too busy for me. I loved the look and feel of the city, with the canals and traditional architecture, however whilst I am happy that I have now visited and experienced the city, it is probably not somewhere that I would return to in a hurry.

Ann Frank’s House, Prinsengracht 263-267, 1016 GV Amsterdam (http://www.annefrank.org/en/)
The Heineken Experience, Stadhouderskade 78, 1072 AE Amsterdam (http://www.heinekenexperience.com)

Sara’s Pancake House, Raadhuisstraat 45, 1016 DD Amsterdam (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Saras-Pancake-House/422576581193895)
Carousel Pancake House, Tweede Weteringplantsoen 1, 1017 ZD Amsterdam (http://www.decarrouselpannenkoeken.nl/)
Myrabelle, Vijzelgracht 1, 1017 HM Amsterdam, Netherlands (http://www.myrabelle.nl/)
Café Wheels, Wolvenstraat 4, 1016 EP Amsterdam (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Wheels/456021967757387)

Day 6

We woke up to torrential rain on day 6 of our holiday which slightly scuppered our plans for the day. After a slow breakfast at the hotel, we decided to head to Rotterdam Zoo. This was not on our list of activities for the holiday, however options were limited due to the weather. Fortunately, the hotel provide umbrellas so we were able to stay somewhat dry on our walk to the Zoo.

After a bit of a trek to the Zoo, we were pleasantly surprised to find the attraction to be virtually deserted. We spent hours walking around and taking in all the attractions. Fortunately our route was well-planned and the weather seemed to clear up slightly for a few hours, except a couple of times when we, fortunately, we able to visit indoor exhibitions and stay dry.

I tend to be a bit wary of zoos as I hate to see animals cooped up away from the wild. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the facilities at Rotterdam Zoo.  The park is very large and wide variety of animals look to be well cared for and living in good conditions. We absolutely loved seeing the friendly and inquisitive Prairie Dogs – they were definitely my favourite of the animals, although seeing the Gorilla up close was definitely an impressive moment. I certainly would not like my chances against one of them in the wild!



After the hours spent at the zoo, we were starving upon leaving. However, being so close to dinnertime we made do with a quick stop at Steak En Bier for an afternoon snack of bitterballen and kaasstengels before meandering back to the hotel.

Dinner that evening was at Mexicano, where I had the chicken fajitas. This was undoubtedly one of the best meals we had during our holiday.

Rotterdam Zoo, Blijdorplaan 8, 3041 JG Rotterdam (http://www.diergaardeblijdorp.nl/en/)
Steak En Bier, Karel Doormanstraat 290, 3012 GP Rotterdam (http://steakenbier.weebly.com/)
Mexicano, Schouwburgplein 11, 3012 CL Rotterdam (http://www.restaurantemexicano.nl/)

Day 7

Day 7 was our last full day in The Netherlands and we really wanted to see a little bit more of the country. The weather was still pretty awful, so we decided to jump on a train to nearby Delf, the birthplace of artist Johannes Vermeer (The Girl with the Pearl Earring) and the origin of the traditional blue and white Delftware pottery.



Delft is a picturesque medieval town built around a network of canals and is just how I imagined Amsterdam would be. It was quiet, beautiful and idyllic, a true gem.

On our arrival, we were walking from the station to the town centre when the rain started up again with a vengeance! We ran down a narrow street and into the first café we saw, the Stads-Koffyhuis. What a delightful experience, with friendly staff, great coffee and cake and lovely décor.

From the café window, we noticed a church spire not too far in the distance and as soon as the rain eased off, we made our way across the canal to the Oude Kerk (‘old church’) where we bought tickets to allow us to look around both the old and new church.

The Oude Kerk was built in 1240 and has a beautiful interior full of striking stained glass windows. It is a beautiful building to visit and, whilst there, you must take a look for Vermeer’s gravestone.


After visiting the old church, we made our way over to the Markt Square where the Nieuwe Kerk (‘new church’) is located, stopping at a few of the charming little shops on the way.

The Nieuwe Kerk was completed in 1496 and is an ornate gothic building. Whilst both the new and old churches have their own charms from the outside, the interior of the new church is not, in my opinion, nearly as striking as the old church but is still just as interesting historically. The church tower is the second highest in The Netherlands and our main purpose was to walk up the tower in order to see the views over the town – this is certainly not for the faint-hearted! The tower consists of a very narrow seemingly-unending spiral staircase with a few doorways that you can step into if you hear people approaching from the opposite direction. You can walk to the top of the tower (which we did) or stop on one of the levels part way up. I must warn you that the climb would be difficult for anyone overweight or unfit. We had to stop for a rest several times and even discussed whether to turn around and go back down! On reaching the parapet, the bad weather meant that it was extremely windy and with the narrow walkway, I found the entire experience quite terrifying, even though I’m not really scared of heights. After a quick look, we went down to one of the lower levels and I found the wider walkways felt much safer.


On leaving the church, the rain was pouring down once again, so we ran over the square to Het Konings Huys for a spot of lunch whilst watching people run around the square trying to keep out of the rain.


After lunch, we treated ourselves to a little stroll around the shops before heading back to Rotterdam. We stopped at De Beurs for a quick drink (pink beer for me!) before heading back to the hotel to warm up in the sauna before dinner.

For dinner, the weather was too bad to venture far, so we headed back to Witte de Withstraat to try another of the numerous restaurants. We chose Italian restaurant, Gusto, where both myself and Mr GC enjoyed a bottle of wine and a pizza each. Whilst the food was not anything spectacular, it was nice and the atmosphere in the restaurant was good.

Nieuwe Kerk, Markt 80, 2611 GW Delft, Netherlands(http://oudeennieuwekerkdelft.nl/)
Oude Kerk, HH Geestkerkhof 25, 2611 HP Delft (http://oudeennieuwekerkdelft.nl/)
Stads-Koffyhuis, Oude Delft 133, 2611 BE Delft (http://stads-koffyhuis.nl/)
Het Konings Huys, Markt 38-42, 2611 GV Delft (http://www.hetkoningshuys.eu/)
De Beurs, Kruiskade 55, 3012 EE Rotterdam (http://debeursrotterdam.nl/)
Gusto, Schiedamse Vest 40, 3011 BA Rotterdam (http://www.gusto-rotterdam.nl/)

Day 8

Our flight was late afternoon on the Saturday, so we did not have to leave Rotterdam until after lunch. This gave us one last morning to spend in the city. Fortunately for us, the Wereldhavendagen or World Port Festival was starting that day in the harbour outside our hotel. 


We spent a lovely couple of hours walking along the side of the harbour, watching men carrying out traditional crafts such as grinding mustard seeds and carving wooden clogs. We got to have a look around some of the boats, went on a tour of HMS Portland, watched a couple of demonstrations and listened to more than a couple of Dutch sea shanties whilst trying out a local beer or two. Overall, a perfect end to our holiday.


Lunch was courtesy of the Bagel Bakery, after which we took a slow walk back to our hotel, collected our bags and started our journey back to Amsterdam Schipol Airport. 

Bagel Bakery, Schilderstraat 57a/59a, 3011 ER, Rotterdam

My Thoughts

Overall, we had a fantastic holiday. I loved Rotterdam, Kinderdijk and Delf. Whilst I wasn’t so keen on Amsterdam, I am still happy that I have now had the chance to visit and experience the city. Mr GC and I both agree that the holiday was a complete success and we look forward to visiting The Netherlands again in the future in order to explore a bit further afield.


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BLOG TOUR & AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT - Straight From The Heart by Breigh Forstner

BLOG TOUR

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
By BREIGH FORSTNER

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON NOW!
‘MUSIC WAS IN HIS BLOOD, AND SHE WAS IN HIS HEART…..’

Young attractive rock girl playing the electric guitar

SYNOPSIS

Cale Pelton didn’t want to fall in love.

Fresh off a breakup, he was scrambling to find a new lead guitarist for his band, Everlasting, before they went on tour. He wanted to enjoy being single, singing his heart out nightly to fans.
Never did he expect to meet Bryn Schaefler, the sassy rich girl that would change his life.
Bryn left her parents’ house with only her suitcase and guitar, leaving her old life behind her. She nails the band audition and becomes Everlasting’s new lead guitarist. Bryn didn’t want to find Cale attractive, let alone develop a crush on a bandmate. But when trouble starts to find the band, Bryn starts to believe her family will do whatever it takes to get her home.

Will Cale and Bryn listen to their heads and stay strictly professional? Or will they follow their hearts and admit their feelings towards eachother?

author photo

AUTHOR BIO

Breigh Forstner currently resides in Southeast Michigan with her two daughter. While she works full-time during the week, at night she spends time with her girls dancing and coming up with her next book idea. Her goal is to make it onto a best sellers list at some point in her career, and writes any chance she can get. She is a music lover and is a sucker for going to concerts, rock bands, and tattooed bad boys.

AUTHOR LINKS

Twitter: @BreighForstner

BLOGGERS: For review copies, please contact the author.

straightfromtheheartteaser3

Follow Breigh's book news as she's featured on other blogs throughout the week, including author spotlights, author interviews, guest posts & more!




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Friday, 27 November 2015

Book Review: Don't Turn Around by Caroline Mitchell



Title: Don't Turn Around
Author: Caroline Mitchell
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 24 April 2015

Twitter: @Caroline_writes 
Blog/website: http://caroline-writes.com/ 

Rating: 4 out of 5 

Blurb 

You don’t know him. But he knows you. 

Soon he would be able to touch her, to feel the warmth of her blood. And when the time came, nothing would stop him. 

As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked at what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave.

When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked. What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper – from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict.

Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play …

With her mother’s terrifying legacy spiralling out of control, Jennifer must look into her own dark past in a fight not only to stop a killer – but to save herself and those she loves. 

A heart-stopping supernatural thriller to engross fans of Rachel Abbott, Paul Finch and James Oswald. 

Review

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Don’t Turn Around for review.After seeing the cover on Twitter, I knew that this was a book that I would want to read and it did not disappoint!
 
Don’t Turn Around is a crime thriller with a paranormal twist. Obsessive-compulsive DC Jennifer Knight is investigating a string of murders which have a copy-cat element to those that her mother investigated many years previously. However, it appears that there may be something more sinister at play than a straightforward copy-cat killer. Matters become personal for DC Knight as she starts to receive silent phone calls, her house is broken into and she has the feeling that someone is watching her… is she about to be the next victim?

I liked the unusual mix of the police procedural novel and the paranormal elements. It really does make for a suspenseful and thrilling story. The plot line was well thought-out and tied up very nicely in the end, but not without some great twists on the way! The story jumps from the current investigation to the past investigation to great effect.

The story is told from a dual perspective which adds depth to the storyline. It was interesting to read the events from the villain’s viewpoint as well as from the cop’s viewpoint.

The characters are interesting. DC Jennifer Knight is strong-willed, determined and very intuitive (i.e. psychic). I would like to have learnt a bit more about Knight’s past in order to understand her better. Knight’s partner, Will, is loyal and likeable – the strong and stable type. The new PC, Ethan, is charming but mysterious. Finally, villainous Frank, is disturbed and just plain creepy – the sort character that, as a reader, we love to hate.

I very much enjoyed Don’t Turn Around. It is well written with a gripping plot and a great flow to the story. I’m looking forward to reading Caroline Mitchell’s next offering.

About the Author



Originally from Ireland, Caroline lives with her husband, four children and two dogs in a pretty village on the coast of Essex. Five years ago Caroline and her family encountered real life paranormal activity in their home. Paranormal Intruder is her best selling true story.
Caroline's new novel, Don't Turn Around has recently been published by Bookouture in a three book deal as part of her DC Jennifer Knight series. These edge of your seat crime thrillers are infused by Caroline's experience in both the police and the paranormal. To find out more please subscribe at www.caroline-writes.com.



Buy Links


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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Book Review: Blurring the Line (The Firing Line #1) by Kierney Scott



Title: Blurring the Line (The Firing Line #1)
Author: Kierney Scott
Publisher: Carina UK
Publication Date: 11 July 2014

Twitter: @Kierney_S
Blog/website: https://pinkinkladies.wordpress.com/

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb


A deadly undercover mission, a sizzling attraction that cannot be denied…



When DEA agent Beth Thomson recruits ex-soldier Armando Torres as an undercover agent, she knows she has hit the jackpot.


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Blog Tour: The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith


Title: The Jazz Files
Author: Fiona Veitch Smith
Publisher: Lion Hudson Plc
Publication Date: 17 September 2015

Twitter: @FionaVeitchSmit
Blog/Website: http://fiona.veitchsmith.com/  & www.poppydenby.com

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith.

Blurb


"It stands for Jazz Files," said Rollo. "It's what we call any story that has a whiff of high society scandal but can't yet be proven... you never know when a skeleton in the closet might prove useful."

Set in 1920, The Jazz Files introduces aspiring journalist Poppy Denby, who arrives in London to look after her ailing Aunt Dot, an infamous suffragette. Dot encourages Poppy to apply for a job at The Daily Globe, but on her first day a senior reporter is killed and Poppy is tasked with finishing his story. It involves the mysterious death of a suffragette seven years earlier, about which some powerful people would prefer that nothing be said...

Through her friend Delilah Marconi, Poppy is introduced to the giddy world of London in the Roaring Twenties, with its flappers, jazz clubs, and romance. Will she make it as an investigative journalist, in this fast-paced new city? And will she be able to unearth the truth before more people die?

Review

I must first thank Rhoda Hardie at Lion Hudson Plc for providing me with a copy of The Jazz Files for review.

My initial view on receiving the book was that the front cover is eye-catching and it certainly made me want to read more.

The story follows Poppy Denby as she arrived in London to stay with her disabled Aunt Dot and her companion Grace Wilson. Poppy comes from a traditional family, whereas Dot and Grace inhabit a different world. They were both heavily involved in the suffragette movement and they encourage Poppy to seek a career of her own.  Poppy quickly finds herself a job as an assistant to the Editor of The Daily Globe newspaper, Rollo Rolandson, a hard-drinking American with dwarfism. She intends to work her way up the corporate ladder until she earns a place as a journalist. However, as luck would have it, her very first day in the office turns out to be a lot more exciting than anticipated, with Poppy ending the day involved in an investigation of her own.

Aunt Dot introduces Poppy to Delilah Marconi, the daughter of one of their fellow suffragettes and an actress. Delilah quickly introduces Poppy into the ‘modern’ world of jazz clubs, dancing and pink champagne. The story is set in the 1920’s and I thoroughly enjoyed the historical aspect to this novel. I love the thought of the ‘roaring’ 20’s era, with the jazz clubs, jaunty music, flapper fashion and a real move out of the Victorian age, towards modern values. My enjoyment of history is relatively new, encouraged by books that I have recently read, and The Jazz Files has prompted me to do some further reading into the political history during that era. It is certainly a fascinating period in English history. It is interesting to read a story, based in that era, which involves strong women. The author has obviously put a lot of effort into her research in order to maintain (for the most part) the historical accuracy of the period.

The author does acknowledge at the end of the book that she has taken some liberties with the time line for the sake of the story. I found that this did not impact my enjoyment of the story in the slightest, however I have already admitted to being unfamiliar with the period in question and other people with more of an interest in that time may have a slight quibble with this.

Fittingly, the female characters take precedence in this story, with male characters either acting in support or playing the villains. The characters are all lively and engaging. I enjoyed reading about Poppy’s determination to succeed against a wall of disapproval. Her friend, Delilah, is similarly eager to live her life as an independent woman. Both the girls are spirited, determined, inquisitive and, to some degree, fool-hardy!

The older women, the former suffragettes, are great characters, all working together for a higher purpose. However, they are flawed characters and that has got in the way of their friendships and their successes. I particularly found the mystery around Elizabeth Dorchester’s incarceration to be intriguing.  We can never be certain of her grasp on reality and, therefore, her tale is unreliable – should Poppy believe what Elizabeth says or is it merely a fanciful story and further evidence of a mental breakdown? Why are Elizabeth’s family so eager to keep her away from the eyes of the world?

Of course, mention has to be given to the loathsome duo, Melvyn Dorchester and his son Alfie – two suitably hateful and delightfully villainous characters.

Poppy and Delilah’s enthusiasm and inquisitiveness lead the reader on an adventure with lively duo. Was Bert Isaacs, The Globe's politial correspondent, murdered? Why is Elizabeth Dorchester still institutionalised? Was there a dastardly plot behind Aunt Dot’s tragic injury?

Underneath the mystery, there is also a love story between Poppy and The Globe cameraman, Daniel Rokeby. I enjoyed reading a story in which the development of the friendship and relationship is the story, rather than merely lust. It was a delightful tale of friendship, flirtation,and blushes.

I am happy to report that The Jazz Files is a fantastic book filled to the brim with mystery, intrigue, misogyny and romance, along with a great history lesson of the real origins of ‘girl power’ – a reminder about what those women achieved and how hard they struggled for the benefit of future generations. The Jazz Files is interesting, suspenseful, entertaining and great fun, a real page turner! I am keen to hear more about Poppy’s adventures and hope that book number 2 will be on its way imminently.  

About the Author


Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer of books, theatre plays and screenplays.


Her children’s picturebooks, the Young David series, are now published by SPCK Publishing.

Her adult mystery series set in the 1920s, Poppy Denby Investigates, is published by Lion Fiction. The first book in the series, The Jazz Files, is available from September 2015.

She is a member of the British Society of Authors and the Association of Christian Writers. Fiona is also the editor of the popular writing advice website The Crafty Writer and her courses attract students from around the world.

She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities.

BUY LINKS


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