Giveaway: The Calculated Series by K. T. Lee

It’s such a shame that it’s unethical to enter my own giveaway as I’d love to win this five ebook Calculated Series from K. T. Lee in a hugely generous gesture from K. T. to celebrate the fifth book in the series, Calculated Entrapment, being released.

K. T. Lee has featured here on Linda’s Book Bag a couple of times in the past: firstly when we chatted together all about her book Calculated Deception in a post you can see here. More recently we celebrated Calculated Reaction when K. T. provided a cracking guest post about writing strong females that you can read here. In that post you’ll also find details of the first four books in the series.

This time I’m delighted to be able to offer one lucky reader an ebook box set of the entire Calculated Series. Details of how to enter are below, but let’s look at the details for Calculated Entrapment, the latest book, first.

Calculated Entrapment is available for purchase through the links here.

Calculated Entrapment

Stefanie Ryland is a marine biologist whose life is going exactly to plan. She’s worked her way up the corporate ladder to land her dream job at the Oceanic Exploration Group and has a fulfilling personal life. Not to mention, her older sister, Ree, is soon going to make her the world’s greatest aunt. However, a surprise phone call from Ree forces Stefanie to re-evaluate everything she thought she knew. Not only has her sister been secretly moonlighting for the FBI and CIA, but Ree has also helped thwart several dangerous attacks. And her team believes that Dmitri, the man behind the attacks, has made the OEG his next target.

For CIA Operations Officer Joey Pacelli, putting Dmitri out of play isn’t just his job, it’s unfinished business. When the CIA and the FBI ask Stefanie Ryland to help them take Dmitri down, Joey travels to San Francisco to protect her. Teaming up with Stefanie is the perfect chance for Joey to beat his old nemesis at his own game. There’s just one problem – Dmitri is playing by an entirely new set of rules.

Giveaway – A Five E-Book Box Set of The Calculated Series

For your chance to win an ebook box set of all five of K.T. Lee’s Calculated Series, click here.

The Calculated Series box set will be accessed through a one off code via Book Funnel and is open internationally.

The giveaway closes at UK midnight on Thursday 10th December 2020.

About K.T.Lee

KT

K.T. Lee is a writer, mom and engineer who grew up on a steady diet of books from a wide variety of genres. When K.T. began to write the kind of books she wanted to read, she mixed clever women and the sciences with elements from thrillers (and a dash of romance) to create The Calculated Series.

Find out more about K.T.’s books at her website or find her talking about writing, science, and cute animals on Instagram and Facebook. You can follow K.T.Lee on Twitter @KTLeeWrites.

 

The Clearing by Samantha Clark

When Samantha Clark got in touch to tell me about her memoir The Clearing, I was stunned by the beauty of the book’s cover and intrigued by the link between Samantha’s writing and art to the extent that I simply had to feature The Clearing here on Linda’s Book Bag. I’m thrilled that Sam has provided an extract from her book along with a fabulous piece of her artwork for me to share today. My enormous thanks to Sam for a copy of The Clearing in return for an honest review too. I am delighted to share my review of The Clearing alongside Sam’s pieces.

Published by Little Brown, The Clearing is available for purchase in ebook and hardback, with paperback pre-order through the links here. The Clearing will be released in paperback on 4th March 2021.

The Clearing

This house has been a regular presence in my life for as long as I can remember. My heart has sunk a little every time I walk in . . .

Samantha Clark enjoyed a busy career as an artist before returning home to Glasgow to take care of the house that her parents had left behind. Moving from room to room, sifting through the clutter of belongings, reflecting on her mother’s long, sedated years of mental illness and her father’s retreat to the world of amateur radio and model planes, Samantha began to contemplate her inheritance.

A need for creativity and a desire for solitude had sprung up from a childhood shaped by anxiety and confusion. Weaving in the works and lives of others, including celebrated painter Agnes Martin and scientist of dark matter Vera Rubin, The Clearing is a powerful account of what we must do with the things we cannot know.

An Extract from The Clearing by Samantha Clark

There is one room here that I have not entered for a long time. When he retired from his forty-five years as an engineer with the BBC, this room became my father’s retreat and I did not intrude. I take a deep breath and pause, my hand on the doorknob, remembering my recurring dreams of this moment, dreams in which I open the door to find Poppy, the much-loved dog of my teenage years, waiting patiently, starving and forgotten for decades, staggering to her feet to greet me lovingly, dreams from which I waken with a guilty, tender grief that sits upon me all day. Softly, I push, and go in. The chilled air smells of rubber cement and 3-in-1 oil. I tread carefully, sliding over magazines, envelopes and discarded shoes. Nearest the door lie bits of old tents, coils of rope, canoe paddles, oilskins, a canvas rucksack now stiff with mildew. Next to it, propped against the wall, are several cumbersome and mysterious structures of copper pipe, wire and dowelling, over six feet long and half as broad.

Working my way further in I reach my father’s workbenches by the window. As I look around me, the clutter covering every surface begins to differentiate into recognisable objects: a radio transceiver, a Morse key screwed to the benchtop, Bakelite headphones, an ancient, yellowed BBC Micro computer, dog-eared copies of Practical Wireless magazine, padded envelopes spilling electronic components that look like beetles or sweets, enormous valves retrieved from decommissioned TV transmitters, crocodile clips and voltmeters, oscilloscopes and signal generators, batteries of every conceivable shape and size. The carpet by my feet is littered with tiny slivers of balsa wood, drops of solder, bits of plastic insulation stripped from electrical wire. My father’s amateur radio licence is pinned to the wall, showing his call-sign: GM3 DIN. There are two sets of plastic walkie-talkies, the packaging still unopened. Face down on a 70s brown vinyl office chair lies a loudhailer, half-dismembered, spewing wires.

Stacked on the bookshelf are manuals on UHF/VHF radio and building home-made antennae. The titles read Out of Thin Air, Devoted to Low Power Communication. Just so. Everything in this room is devoted to communication. But only at a distance. Only with strangers. While I was busy making my own adult way in the world, and while my mother, folded unreachably inside her illness and drowsy with medication, slept in her chair through decades of television, my father must have sat in here for hours with his headphones on, listening for voices riding carrier signals bounced off the troposphere, ghost voices sizzling through the static, transmitting little himself save a few pips of Morse to distant strangers known only by their call-signs.

The objects propped by the door, constructed from copper pipe, broomsticks and spirals of thick copper wire are, I now realise, home-made antennae. These ramshackle assemblages are, it seems, capable of picking up radio signals from the other side of the world, if conditions are right. With these antennae my father listened to the ether, for messages it might bring him.

I pick up a handheld transceiver from my father’s workbench, black and heavy, with a stubby rubber aerial like one of those early mobile phones, and switch it on. Unexpectedly, its battery still holds some power. The tinny speaker crackles to life then gives off a steady fizz of white noise – cosmic microwave background radiation, a signal emitted uniformly across the universe at the same wavelength, the sound of photons from the Big Bang still cooling after fifteen billion years. I listen for a while, hoping that the soothing and miraculous sound of the beginning of the universe will steady me for the task ahead, but I find myself thinking about electronic voice phenomenon, when the dead are said to be heard speaking to us through the interference, and, spooked, I switch it off again. But I can’t resist a mawkish ‘Bye Dad. Ten four. Over and out,’ as I do. Just in case.

*

I love this image Sam has shared too. She made it to convey her father’s passion for amateur radio, and it has so much relevance and resonance if you’ve read The Clearing:

 The Listener

Samantha Clark, 2019, gesso, graphite and gouache on pine board.

Having read The Clearing, I keep returning to this image and looking for the qualities of grey, the light between them and the swirl of emotion I have discovered in the book. Each time I do so, there is more to discover.

My Review of The Clearing

I hardly know where to begin to review The Clearing. It is, quite simply, fabulous. The strapline to The Clearing claims it is ‘A memoir of art, family and mental health’ and whilst that is true, Samantha Clark’s writing is so very much more. The Clearing is science and self-discovery. It’s nature in all meanings, alongside nurture and spirituality. It is philosophy and entertainment. It is art, history and travel. In under 200 pages, Samantha Clark has written as multi-layered and beautiful a text as I have ever encountered. I feel privileged to have read it.

It’s difficult to review plot in a memoir, although one would usually expect quite a linear approach. As the title suggests, this is a book predicated on the author clearing out her parents’ home after their death. A literal clearing. And yet it isn’t. As Samantha Clark describes this physical clearing she spellbindingly weaves in her memories, both real and imagined, as well the subjects I’ve mentioned above, blending them with the clearing of her guilt at her relationship with her parents, her mother especially, and she shows just how there is a clearing, a space, in the most unexpected places where both she and her reader can find meaning and peace. Reading The Clearing is just glorious. It’s a kind of literary Japanese kintsugi that transports the reader into a realm of possibility even where there is grief and bleakness.

I found the visual quality of Samantha Clarks descriptions simply thrumming with meaning and emotion. Her attention to detail, her ability to unite the abstract and concrete together into something that is simultaneously ethereal and tangible, I found completely stunning. In The Clearing the invisible souls of the author’s parents, of herself and of humanity at large, fill the pages until the reader feels almost as close to the events she describes as the author herself. Many, many times I found Samantha Clark’s intensely personal writing created passages in The Clearing that expressed what I had indistinctly felt but had never been able to articulate for myself, so that reading this book was a kind of catharsis or clearing for me too.

It is impossible to define The Clearing. It is beautiful, literary and cerebral and yet it is accessible, personal and moving.  I found it educational, hypnotic, mesmerising and emotional. I thought The Clearing was sublime and one of the best books I have read this year. Don’t miss it.

About Samantha Clark

Samantha Clark has been a practising visual artist for many years, working across a range of media, including video, installation, drawing, photography and text, and her writing has emerged from this long creative evolution. Sam originally studied Fine Art at Edinburgh College of Art, Belgrade Academy of Fine Art and the Slade School of Fine Art (UCL), and has taught at Edinburgh College of Art, Tasmanian School of Art, and the University of the West of Scotland. She has an MA in Values and Environment from the University of Central Lancashire and has published in several academic journals on environmental philosophy and eco-art. She currently teaches at the University of the Highlands and Islands and online, and lives on Orkney.

You can follow Sam on Twitter @sam_clark_art or visit her website for further information. You’ll also find Sam on Instagram and Facebook.

Staying in with Sarah Mallory

Here on Linda’s Book Bag I feature all manner of books from all kinds of publishers, but in almost six years of blogging I’ve rarely featured one from a Mills and Boon author. I decided it was high time I rectified that omission and with a brand new series under way, I invited Sarah Mallory to stay in with me to chat about it. Luckily Sarah agreed to join me.

Staying in with Sarah Mallory

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag SarahThank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thanks for asking me – always a pleasure to meet up and natter 😊. And since I have only recently moved into my current home, I thought I’d share with you one of the things that persuaded me this was the house for me… this little area of bookshelves hidden away under the stairs – it’s where I keep old and much-loved books that I like to return to again and again.

Oh my goodness. That is just fabulous. I’m very jealous.

And I hope you like dogs, because I have brought my faithful companion, Willow.  He is a whippet, and although he loves to run he is sooo lazy, and lies in my office for hours while I write.

Willow is very welcome too Sarah. I hope he won’t be fazed by all the cat ornaments and pictures here!  So, tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

This is Forbidden to the Highland Laird. It is my first ever Scottish Highland romance and has just been published by Harlequin/Mills & Boon. I chose this book because writing it was a project very close to my heart. You see, I moved to the Scottish Highlands a couple of years ago, and immediately found myself inspired by the landscape and the culture. I have been itching to write something set here ever since. And this is only the first….

Oo. I like the sound of this. We’ve just bought a motorhome and the Scottish Highlands are on our list of places to visit. What can we expect from an evening in with Forbidden to the Highland Laird?

Ooh, romance, adventure, hopefully a few smiles! I have been writing Regency and Georgian romantic adventures for years, both as Sarah Mallory and Melinda Hammond (my alter ego and original pen name. All my Melinda Hammond books and short stories are self published) but this is my first novel set in the Scottish Highlands, and it has been a whole new learning curve!

It must be quite confusing having two names Sarah! Tell me more about Forbidden to the Highland Laird.

First and foremost it is a romance, but with a rich historical background. The Scottish Highlands in the early 18th century were a world away from Georgian Edinburgh or London, where the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, was bringing new ideas about science, education and all aspects of life. Life in the Highlands was still very much dependent upon the clan system. Family and kinship were very important

There was a rich culture of music and story-telling that continues to this day. It was listening to a traditional Scottish harpist that was the first inspiration for my story and for Ailsa, my heroine.

Here is the moment Logan first sees Ailsa:

They had left Ardvarrick land and were travelling through thick woods when he heard it, a bright tinkling sound that at first he thought was water in the burn, but as they moved on the sounds grew louder. He recognised a melody. Someone was playing a harp, the sweet, clear notes carrying to him on the slight breeze. The path continued through the woods, but to one side the pines thinned out and the ground fell away to the edge of a loch whose waters reflected the clear blue of the sky. And sitting on the rocks at the side of the loch was a young woman. Logan silently waved to his men to stop. From the shelter of the trees he watched her playing the harp, the sun glinting off the silver strings as they moved beneath her fingers. It was a very agreeable picture and her appearance was much in keeping with the surroundings. Her kirtle and cape echoed the varied greens of the lush grass while her long hair was reddish brown and gold, like the autumn moors and the bracken that covered the hill slopes on the far side of the loch

Right. That’s it. I’m packing up the motorhome and am on my way! Wonderful description Sarah!

The harp, or clàrsach, was one of the earliest musical instruments and there is a fine example of an early Harp belonging to Mary Queen of Scots in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh and I based Ailsa’s harp on this one.

Another moment of inspiration came when I visited Strome Castle, although there is very little left of it now. I know there are many much more impressive castles around Scotland and I have visited lots of them, but when I stood within the remaining walls of Strome Castle and looked out over Loch Carron I immediately pictured someone imprisoned here. The book was little more than a vague idea at that stage, but scenes were beginning to emerge, and it was turning into a cracking adventure!

That scene made it into the book, and here is a small snippet from it:

When Ailsa woke again the moon was rising and relieving the darkness with a grey-blue light. The scratchy plaid that acted as her blanket was pulled up around her face and smelled even more malodorous. Her nose wrinkled. These plaids were worn by men for days on end. During the day, half of it was fastened with a belt around the waist as a kilt and the rest thrown over the shoulder, to be used as a cape in bad weather. At night it could be wrapped around its owner if they were obliged to sleep in the open. No wonder, then, that it smelt so bad.

She sat up suddenly, her mind racing. Dragging the makeshift blanket from the bed, she pulled the edge of it through her fingers, counting the lengths. It was what, four, five yards long? She tugged at the woven material. Could she trust it?

Ailsa dragged the plaid across to the window, where she took one of the ends and forced it several times over the spike where she had tied her petticoat. Then she bundled up the rest and threw it out of the window. The paid dangled down, shifting slightly in the breeze. It stopped several feet short of the narrow grassy verge. It was impossible in the gloom to work out just how far from the ground it ended. She would have to let go and hope she did not break a bone when she landed.

A sudden laugh shook her. What was she thinking? It was most likely she would lose her grip while climbing down and tumble to her death. She should worry about the final drop if and when she reached it. And even if she did survive the fall, she could not swim. She would have to make her way over the jagged rocks and hope the water was not too deep for her to wade through it and reach land. Another problem that must wait until it arose.

Hitching up her skirts, she scrambled on to the window ledge.

You can’t just stop there Sarah. I need to know what happens next. Thank goodness I have a copy of Forbidden to the Highland Laird waiting to be read.

What else have you brought along and why?

I thought I’d treat you to some of the food my characters might have eaten. First there is Caboc, reputed to be Scotland’s oldest form of cheese. It is a rich cream cheese, formed into a log shape and rolled in oatmeal. I’ve also brought oatmeal bannocks to eat with it. Afterwards there is a favourite of mine, Cranachan – Scottish raspberries gently folded into whipped cream and honey, along with toasted oatmeal that has been steeped in, what else, whisky.

And to wash it down? Well for those who aren’t driving I have brought Uisge Beatha, which is the Gaelic for whisky. Slàinte mhath!

I’m not a big drinker of spirits Sarah but I am VERY fond of cheese and Cranachan. You get the plates and serve up some of the food and I’ll tell everyone a bit more about Forbidden to the Highland Laird. Thanks so much for staying in with me tonight to chat all about it.

Thanks for having me Linda.

Forbidden to the Highland Laird

A Scottish beauty…

Lures the Laird to sin!

Exchanging elegant Society balls for clan wars, Logan Rathmore has returned to Scotland as the new Laird of Ardvarrick. Peace is within grasp when he meets musician Ailsa McInnis from a rival clan. Her stubborn pride and innocence fascinate him – but with her now under his protection, he must do nothing to abuse her trust. The fragile peace is dependent on his being able to resist the forbidden temptation she presents…

Published in ebook by Mills and Boon on 26th November 2020, Forbidden to the Highland Laird is available for purchase through these links.

About Sarah Mallory

Sarah Mallory writes Historical romantic adventures. She lives high on the moors in West Yorkshire, England, where she finds inspiration in the spectacular scenery. She has written over 20 books for Harlequin and won the Romantic Novelist Association’s RoNA Rose award in 2012 and 2013 for her Sarah Mallory novels.

Sarah is also the award-winning author Melinda Hammond.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMRomance. You can also visit her excellent website and find her on Facebook.

Monster Dance from @madeleine_tales

My grateful thanks to Hannah Svensson at Madeleine Editions for sending me a copy of the children’s book Monster Dance in return for an honest review. I was intrigued by a book for children that indirectly references Covid 19, some of the profits from which go towards purchasing PPE for health workers around the world, and that has a range of interactive resources to accompany it.

Monster Dance is published by Madeleine Editions. There’s an interactive app to accompany Monster Dance here too.

Monster Dance

Meet Maurice, an endearingly melodramatic dog, and Charlie, an artistic little girl, as they take on a world that’s suddenly gone topsy-turvy.

This picture books app for kids with read-aloud, music and moving pictures is available on Apple and Android.

English, Mandarin (and other languages on the way).

For every book sold through July 20, 2021, Madeleine Editions will donate 3 PPE masks to be purchased and distributed by DonatePPE.org to arm healthcare heroes around the world. Madeleine Editions has also donated copies of the book to children’s hospitals around the world.

My Review of Monster Dance

Maurice the dog is finding life has changed.

Initially I was uncertain of the concept of a monster lurking in the background, wondering if children might find it too scary a concept, but actually, Monster Dance is a positive and helpful story that both reassures and teaches children how to cope in these difficult times. This concept is enhanced by the delightful illustrations from Guy Gilchrist (of Muppet illustration fame) that have a style accessible for young children. You’ll find sample Monster Dance pages here. The physical book is beautifully presented with a perfect balance of text to illustration and a very robust cover that will endure much handling and use.

With Maurice scared and frustrated by a monster that has left him more confined to home, it is Charlie who helps him realise this is a small monster that can be fought and controlled by some simple steps like proper hand washing and keeping your distance. Charlie explains how taking such precautions isn’t being scared but is brave instead.

The beauty of Monster Dance is the range of alternative activities children might try instead of being in large groups in the park. There are foreign languages to explore, dressing up to do and artistic activities to carry out for example.

However, even better with Monster Dance is the interactive support material that goes with it. I really recommend heading to the Madeleine Editions Monster Dance website to find out more for yourself. It might be just what you and your child need to cope in these uncertain times.

In the Sweep of the Bay by Cath Barton

My grateful thanks to Emma at Damppebbles Blog Tours for inviting me to participate in the launch celebrations for In the Sweep of the Bay by Cath Barton. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Louise Walters Books on 23rd November 2020, In the Sweep of the Bay is available for purchase directly from the publisher, Amazon UK, Amazon US, Kobo, Foyles and the Book Depository.

In the Sweep of the Bay

This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more…

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?

“A tender and moving study of a marriage” Alison Moore, author of the Booker short listed The Lighthouse.

My Review of In the Sweep of the Bay

Not having read the blurb for In The Sweep of the Bay, I hadn’t realised it is a novella, but I think the length and structure of the book is perfect for its content. I found it a moving and engaging read that drew me in and brought alive the characters between its pages.

Cath Barton has a deft touch in conveying setting. Her descriptions are frequently quite poetic so that the reader can visualise clearly place and detail, and I found the hook of Morecambe and its statue of Eric Morecambe a really clever and effective device, partly because of the underpinning theme that we can indeed choose to bring sunshine into our lives and those of other people – or we can stubbornly refuse to do so. Ted and Rene’s marriage is a bitter-sweet relationship and reading about them had the impact of making me tell my own husband how much I love and appreciate him, because Cath Barton made me question whether I had done so, or had just assumed he knows, in recent times. I think books like In The Sweep of the Bay that affect me personally are some of the most rewarding to read.

In fact, what I enjoyed most about In The Sweep of the Bay was Cath Barton’s wonderful understanding of human lives and relationships. Set against authentic historical eras, she presents the daily lives of Ted and Rene with such compassion that my heart went out to them both as if they were real people. The way their marriage is stretched yet endures is, I feel, reflective if do many post war marriages and I believed every word about their love, their disappointments and their loss of intimacy. I thought this was hugely poignant.

In the Sweep of the Bay is an intimate portrait of a marriage that is incredibly touching, but also an authentic socio-economic history that I found fascinating. So much is packed into this novella that I recommend it most highly. It’s a super read.

About Cath Barton

Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. She also writes short stories and flash fiction and, with her critical writing, is a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review. In the Sweep of the Bay is her second novella.

For more information, visit Cath’s website and follow her on Twitter @CathBarton1.

One Night In Bear Town by Nick Jones and illustrated by Si Clark

It’s over two years since I read and reviewed children’s book Sarah’s Shadow by Nick Jones in a post you can find here, so I was delighted when Nick sent me his latest children’s book One Night In Beartown in return for an honest review. Now, I’m not really accepting new books for review at the moment, but there’s such a lovely background story to One Night In Beartown that I had to feature the book here on Linda’s Book Bag. You can find out more here.

Published by Full Media today, 30th November 2020, there are several places where you can buy One Night In Beartown, including from the publisher, the author, via Kickstarter and on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

One Night in Beartown

From the award-winning duo that brought you Sarah’s Shadow comes another magical adventure…

When bear-mad schoolgirl Sandy Lane has her beloved teddy bear Berisford confiscated at school, she dreads the thought of going a whole night without his cuddles.

Little does she know that a bear-rilliant night awaits her, involving Berisford, a bear statue and many other wonderful friends!

Published by Full Media on 30th November 2020, One Night in Beartown is available for purchase here.

My Review of One Night in Beartown

Sandy’s bear, Berisford, has been confiscated at school!

One Night In Beartown is a glorious book that deserves to be snapped up by a production company and turned into a Christmas tradition along with those well known animations of books by Raymond Briggs or Julia Donaldson. It has everything from bullying to peril, adventure to joy as Sarah prepares to spend her first night without Berisford. Children and adults alike will love the themes, the storytelling and the wonderful illustrations by Si Clark.

I must dwell on the illustrations for a moment as they bring the text alive, and provide so many opportunities to use the book with individual or groups of children. With a style that will appeal to children of all ages, the pictures have a richness and depth. I loved the diversity of the bears, with some being multi-coloured and unusually patterned, because their inclusion will help convey acceptance of difference and understanding of those who don’t always look like us. The small attention to detail affords a lovely opportunity to develop numeracy, perhaps counting the number of bears in Sandy’s bedroom for example, and I could envisage children designing their own bear, so that creativity can be encouraged too.

I thought the language in One Night In Beartown was pitch perfect. Much of the vocabulary is familiar but there is also a smattering of unfamiliar words that are completely understandable in their context, allowing children to expand their vocabulary.

However, educational opportunities aside, what is so lovely about One Night In Beartown is that Nick Jones knows exactly how much children become attached to a particular toy and how they can be devastated by being parted from them. Indeed, I can see One Night In Beartown being a brilliant way for parents to broach a similar loss with their own children, providing comfort if need be as they discover all is not lost when Berisford is away from Sandy. There really is a lovely story here, based around friendship and love with gentle comeuppance for a bully and a happy ending for Sandy and Berisford.

I really enjoyed One Night In Beartown. It’s a delightful tale that children and adults alike will love. I recommend One Night In Beartown most highly.

About Nick Jones

nick jones

Nick Jones is an author based in Congleton, Cheshire, but originally from Bristol. He has written a series of joke books and an illustrated children’s book.

His first joke book, Gagged and Bound, was written during the summer of 2014 and was published by Full Media Ltd later in the year to much critical acclaim, garnering positive reviews from numerous book review websites such as Reader’s Favorite and The Bookbag.

A follow-up, Gagged and Bound 2, was released a year later and received a similarly positive response, and in 2017 Nick returned with the third instalment. Described by one reviewer as a ‘master gagsmith’, Nick’s joke style is heavily pun-based and has been compared to Tim Vine, Milton Jones and Stewart Francis.

Nick has also written an illustrated children’s book called Sarah’s Shadow, which was published in December 2017.

You can follow Nick on Twitter: @nickjonesauthor and find out more on his website.

Hector’s Perfect Cake by Lily Clarke

My enormous thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for children’s book Hector’s Perfect Cake, written and illustrated by Lily Clarke. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Hector’s Perfect Cake is available for purchase on Hector’s website, Etsy and Amazon.

Hector’s Perfect Cake

Hector is baking a cake for his Granny and he’s determined that it’s going to be perfect.

But when he discovers that the peanut butter jar is empty, Hector decides that he must head out to find some more, or else his perfect cake will be ruined.

As time begins to run out, Hector’s luck begins to run out too. He may have to accept that sometimes perfection just isn’t possible…

My Review of Hector’s Perfect Cake

Hector’s cake is missing a vital ingredient.

What a simply lovely children’s book. Hector’s Perfect Cake is just the right length to retain a child’s interest and has fabulous illustrations that enhance the story perfectly. I thought it was wonderful. I like to comment on text, illustration and layout in children’s books, and Hector’s Perfect Cake has the balance beautifully. The illustrations are completely charming and it’s lovely to have a badger as the main character rather than the dog or cat of so many children’s books. The font style and use of ‘white space’ for text means that there is clarity for reading that will support independent readers as well as adults reading the book with or to children. Similarly, the linguistic devices such as the way direct speech is set out, the variety of sentence length and the use of ellipsis and repetition, for example, all contribute to enhancing not just the pleasure in reading the story, but they model great writing for children too, so that children can employ them in their own emergent writing.

Despite the fact that this is a children’s story of under thirty pages, it’s jammed with content making it a story that can be read and enjoyed time and again. In Hector’s Perfect Cake Lily Clarke explores friendship through characters like Artie and Lola who try to help Hector in his quest to find peanut butter, affording the opportunity to discuss with children how they might help and support their friends. The author looks at emotions, from excitement through disappointment to love, with the ultimate message that perfection doesn’t have to be achieved for us to be happy that I think is a fabulous concept for children to learn.

I loved Hector’s Perfect Cake. It is everything a children’s story should be and I recommend it unreservedly.

About Lily Clarke

Lily Clarke is the author and illustrator of Hector’s Perfect Cake.

Lily studied Physics at the University of York and now works as an innovation consultant in Cambridge. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she runs a small business called Lily in Space Designs, where she sells a range of illustrated products inspired by books and nature. Her favourite animals are badgers, birds and bats, (although she also loves animals that don’t begin with the letter B!).

Hector’s Perfect Cake is Lily’s first book, inspired by her own experiences of dealing with perfectionism.

You can follow Lily on Twitter @LilyClarkex, or find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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Cover Reveal: The Girl in the Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite

It’s far too long since I got together with the wonderful Barbara Copperthwaite at the Deepings Literary Festival in 2019 so I’m thrilled to help reveal Barbara’s brand new book The Girl in the Missing Poster this afternoon.

Barbara has featured here on Linda’s Book Bag many times, including in interview here, and again here when Flowers for the Dead had its book birthday. I reviewed Barbara’s The Darkest Lies here and Barbara provided a wonderful letter to herself in a guest post when Her Last Secret was released. You’ll find that letter here.

Today, Barbara’s latest book goes out into the world and here are all the details you need to know about The Girl in the Missing Poster!

The Girl in the Missing Poster

MISSING – Have you seen this girl? Nineteen-year-old Leila Hawkins was last seen on 24 June, 1994, when she left her parents’ anniversary party early and ran into the stormy night wearing her twin sister Stella’s long red coat. She was never seen again.

I wrap my arms around the tree trunk, pressing my cheek against it until the bark digs in and the missing poster is finally secured. I try not to look at the photograph on it. At the features so similar to mine. Perhaps this will be the year someone comes forward.

Were crucial mistakes made by detectives from the very beginning?

Could the pressure of living two lives have led my sister to run away – or even end it?

Or did someone in her tight circle of friends and family have reason to want her gone?

Someone out there must know something.

But the last thing I ever expect is a direct response from the person who took Leila. Wracked with guilt and completely alone in the world without the other half of me, I have no choice but to agree to his strange request: private, intimate details of my life in return for answers.

As the final moments of my sister’s life play out before me, I feel closer to her than I ever dreamed I’d be again. So close, it could almost be happening to me. But when I finally realise who is behind this terrifying tragedy, will I make it out alive?

From the bestselling author of The Perfect Friend, this absolutely gripping psychological thriller will keep you up all night and leave you sleeping with the light on. If you loved Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Wife Between Us this book is for you!

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Doesn’t that sound good? I can’t wait to read The Girl in the Missing Poster.

Published by Bookouture on 23rd February 2021, The Girl in the Missing Poster is available for pre-order here, and on Apple and Kobo.

About Barbara Copperthwaite

Barbara is the Amazon, Kobo and USA Today bestselling author of psychological thrillers Invisible, Flowers for the Dead, The Darkest Lies, Her Last Secret and The Perfect Friend. Barbara’s latest book is The Girl in the Missing Poster.

Her writing career started in journalism, writing for national newspapers and magazines. During a career spanning over twenty years Barbara interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. She is fascinated by creating realistic, complex characters, and taking them apart before the readers’ eyes in order to discover just how much it takes to push a person over a line.

Her first book, Invisible, was ‘totally gripping, and scarily believable’ according to Bella magazine. Its success was followed by Flowers For The Dead, which was the Sunday Mirror’s Choice Read, beating Lee Child’s latest offering. ‘Will have you looking over your shoulder and under your bed… Original, gripping, with a deep psychological impact,’ their review read.

The Darkest Lies came next, published by Bookouture, and became a USA Today bestseller. The follow-up, Her Last Secret, hit the Number 1 spot on Kobo. The Perfect Friend is a No 1 Kobo and Amazon best seller.

When not writing feverishly at her home in Birmingham, Barbara is often found walking her two dogs, Scamp and Buddy, or hiding behind a camera to take wildlife photographs.

For more information about Barbara, visit her website or her blog, find her on Facebook and Instagram or follow her on Twitter @BCoppethwait.

Reblog: The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury

I think reblogs must be like buses. You don’t do any in almost six years of blogging and then two come along in a month for the same author! Today I’m delighted to re-share my review of a book that was one of my books of the year in 2017; The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury. Mark is in the process of rebranding his novels and I shared details of another, You Belong To Me, here.

The Abattoir of Dreams was released yesterday, 26th November 2020, and is available for purchase here.

The Abattoir of Dreams

How do you prove your innocence when you can’t remember the past?

Michael Tate has not had an easy life. With his father in prison, and his mother dead, Michael was sent to Woodside Children’s Home.

Now an adult, Michael wakes up from a coma in hospital suffering from amnesia and paralysis. Confused and terrified, he is charged with the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Becky. He also learns he attempted to end his own life.

Detective Inspector John Carver is determined that Michael is sent to prison. With no way of defending himself, Michael is left in a hospital bed awaiting transfer to remand. But then strange things start to happen, and his childhood comes back to haunt him with a vengeance.

Will Michael ever discover the truth about Becky’s murder?
And why is DI Carver so keen to make him suffer?

The Abattoir of Dreams is a bitter sweet story of murder, innocence and abuse.

My Review of The Abattoir of Dreams

When Michael Tate wakes in hospital without memory, he finds himself accused of his girlfriend Becky’s murder.

Let me just say, that had I not been asked to be part of the launch celebrations for The Abattoir of Dreams I would never have read it because it’s so far out of my comfort zone even the Hubble telescope wouldn’t be able to find it!

Abattoir of Dreams was so brilliantly written I could hardly bear to read it. Covering terrible themes of sexual, physical, emotional and verbal abuse The Abattoir of Dreams makes for very uncomfortable and sometimes disturbing reading. Having worked in education and inspected child protection, I know just how realistic the scenarios Mark Tilbury presents really are, despite their truly horrific nature. So, regardless of not wanting to read on, I found I couldn’t tear myself away as Mikey’s memories gradually began to reappear.

If you’re easily offended by bad language and disquieting themes then perhaps this isn’t the read for you, but The Abattoir of Dreams was written so effectively and realistically that I found these elements added to the atmosphere and never felt gratuitous. I believe not reading The Abattoir of Dreams would have left me a poorer individual. There’s quite considerable violence too that I found far more affecting than any film I might watch. At times my heart rate was elevated as I read, especially in the denouement which is, ironically, one of the less graphic parts of the story.

The characterisation is so effective. As the layers are peeled back and we find out what happened to put Mikey in hospital, we also understand his background as a child and how he has developed into the young man he is. There are villains aplenty who are startlingly depicted, but it is the victims, like Liam, who impact most on the reader. In fact, one of the characters that appealed to me most was the dog, Oxo.

However, despite the gritty, disturbing and frequently horrifying aspects of Abattoir of Dreams, it is not entirely bleak and unremitting. There is real love and friendship exemplified and the supernatural element gives us all hope too.

I can’t say I enjoyed reading The Abattoir of Dreams because it disturbed me, but it’s a book I won’t forget in a hurry as it engendered a range of emotions in me from rage to horror, sadness to hope and pity to murderous thoughts. I thought it was brilliant.

About Mark Tilbury

mark tilbury

Mark lives in a small village in the lovely county of Cumbria, although his books are set in Oxfordshire where he was born and raised.

After being widowed and raising his two daughters, Mark finally took the plunge and self-published two books on Amazon, The Revelation Room and The Eyes of the Accused.

He’s always had a keen interest in writing, and having had seven books published by an indie publisher, has decided to return to self publishing. After successfully publishing The Last One To See HerA Prayer For The Broken followed in October 2020.

When he’s not writing, Mark can be found playing guitar, reading and walking.

You can follow Mark on Twitter @MTilburyAuthor, visit his website and find him on Facebook.

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Staying in with Julienne Brouwers

Now, there might be a slight feeling of deja vu with this post as I stayed in briefly with Julienne a short while ago. Sadly we had to remove that post as there was an issue with the cover of the Double Deceit. Since then, the fabulous team at Head of Zeus have collaborated with Julienne to create a cracking new cover and what a cracking cover it is. I still haven’t had time to read Double Deceit, but I’m delighted to welcome (back) Julienne to Linda’s Book Bag today. Let’s find out more:

Staying in with Julienne Brouwers

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Julienne. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Hello Linda. Thank you very much for having me. I did not know your website before. I am from the Netherlands, but I am truly impressed!

That’s very kind. Thank you!

I think I know, but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Double Deceit, which is my first thriller in English. I have written two thrillers in Dutch, my mother tongue and I am very excited I can broaden my horizon now. The story in itself is easily relatable to and I very much hope that readers in the UK will enjoy the book as well.

My goodness. That’s impressive. Writing in another language can’t be easy. I tried to learn Dutch once and gave up!

So, what can we expect from an evening in with Double Deceit?

Expect an evening of curling up on the couch, unexpected plot twists and revelations, and being drawn into a book you won’t want to put down anymore – well that’s what the first readers said about it. It supposedly has a fast and easy flow to it, that I hope will go down well.

That sounds like my kind of book. Tell me more.

The thriller is set in Amsterdam and provides a glimpse of everyday life in the Dutch capital. The lead character is a strong and relatable woman, struggling after the sudden death of her husband as she’s left behind to take care of her toddler. Her determination to carry on though, in the face of everything – and to go far beyond what many would dare to, for the sake of finding answers and justice for her husband’s death – is intended to be inspiring. It’s a thriller at heart, with many twists and turns, but there’s an element of romance as well, and a deeper message touching on the transient nature of life.

I think Double Deceit sounds brilliant. And I like the thought of going back to Amsterdam. I haven’t been there since my tenth wedding anniversary!

What else have you brought along and why?

I have brought with me a pack of stroopwafels, a typical Dutch rich, caramel cookie that people from abroad usually love. Perhaps it would be nice to combine this with a cup of tea of a fine English blend? Tea is one of the favourite drinks of my main character Jennifer as well, however for a large part of the book she’s struggling to stay away from wine, which she has resorted to, in an attempt to drown out her grief over the loss of her husband and the secrets she discovered about him after he suddenly passed away.

Tea and a plate of stroopwafels sounds absolutely perfect to me!

When I started writing this book in Dutch, almost ten years ago, I lived in Amsterdam and found this vibrant city a truly inspiring environment – the canals, the little bridges, all the bikes cycling around like crazy.

I think it would be perfect to visit Amsterdam through Double Deceit Julienne. I still can’t believe you’ve written in a language that isn’t your first one.

I have always had a soft spot for the English language – I lived in the UK for a few years as a child and later in the US for a year – so I felt incredibly blessed when I met editor and translator Sarah Fencott to help me with writing the English version, Double Deceit, further shaping the story along the way as well.

It sounds to me as if Double Deceit would be a fantastic read Julienne. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat all about it. Now, you pour the tea and plate up the stroopwafels whilst I’ll tell readers more about Double Deceit.

Double Deceit

What if you were framed for a murder you didn’t commit? A gripping, addictive thriller for fans of Angela Clarke, Mel Sherratt and Rachel Lynch.

Jennifer Smits is a young mother, married to a hotshot lawyer and living in Amsterdam. Her world explodes when her husband is found dead at a holiday park during a weekend getaway. Convinced that the police have failed in their investigation, she embarks on a desperate quest for the truth – but the deeper she digs, the more she gets enmeshed in a tangled web of lies, spun by a ruthless law firm.

As Jennifer’s search for answers intensifies, her grip on reality weakens. Barely able to manage her patients at the health clinic, or take care of her young son, Jennifer is at risk of losing it all – even her closest friends begin to desert her. And then a chance encounter with a charming stranger sparks a new chain of events that plunges her deeper into a world of threats and corruption. Soon, she begins to fear for her life – but who can she trust, and how far will she go in pursuit of the truth?

This is a gripping, addictive thriller that will make you question everything, including the flaws of forensics. Could we all be framed for a murder we didn’t commit?

Double Deceit is available for purchase here.

About Julienne Brouwers

Julienne Brouwers worked as a pharmaceutical scientist and medical physicist before becoming a writer. She lives in the Netherlands, with her husband and three children, where she has published two successful thrillers, and lived in the UK and US for a total of four years.

You can follow Julienne on Twitter @JulienneAuthor, Instagram and Facebook.

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