Staying in with Bear Lawrence

It gives me enormous pleasure today to welcome Bear Lawrence to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me to tell me all about a book I think will resonate with many of us. Let’s find out more:

Staying in with Bear Lawrence

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Bear and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought along my first book published on Amazon, Bear with ME. It’s actually the third book that I have written, but the others wouldn’t be of interest to most people.

What makes you say that?

The other two books include my Biomedical Engineering PhD thesis and a novel I co-wrote with a friend years ago, which even I don’t like!

Hmm. Fair point!

I’ve chosen Bear with ME because it’s been written to raise awareness of Long Covid, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS.

That sounds extremely important. So, what can we expect from an evening in with Bear with ME?

Bear with ME will make you laugh and it will make you cry. It’s a collection of humorous, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories based on my own experiences. Fortunately, and unfortunately in some cases, I’ve a lot of stories to draw on from jobs as varied as being a gardener to a university lecturer. I’ve also lived in various parts of the world from as warm as the Caribbean to as cold as Norway.

It sounds like you’ve had quite a life. Tell me more.

When I was diagnosed with the chronic illness, ME/CFS, my life was turned upside down. Once a dynamic, hard-working person, I now had a debilitating and hidden disability. Frustrated with difficulties in explaining my illness to friends and family, I decided to write an article, ‘me and my ME’ for the local parish newsletter to raise awareness in the local community.

When the editor of the parish newsletter told me it would be a few weeks before I saw his finished article in print, I decided to put it on a Facebook ME/CFS page. The response was astonishing with a ‘love’, ‘care’ or ‘like’ being clicked from all over the world. The article was read thousands of times within a couple of weeks.

Buoyed by this success, I decided to write a second article to raise awareness but outside of the ME/CFS community. ‘Motorbikes, Helicopters, PTSD and ME’ was the result and it was also read thousands of times online.

After writing three more articles to raise awareness, I hoped that I might also be able to help those touched by Long Covid, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS. I wrote five more articles with this aim in mind.

With ten articles written, I realised that writing the back to story to each of these articles would make a book. Understanding the importance of editing and book cover design, I worked with illustrators, designers and an experienced editor to produce the best book that I could. The cover has a drawing of a Bear holding hands with a small blue monster. The monster represents ME and it is blue after the colour of the ribbons used to raise awareness of ME. Blue and purple are used for the text on the cover, purple ribbons being used to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia. The illustration and book cover has struck a chord amongst people with chronic illness and poor mental health.

I feel very privileged to be featuring you here Bear. I had no idea about the significance of the colours and if we can raise awareness of chronic illnesses in ways that will help I’m more than happy to do so.

I hope that after reading even one article that reader would have more understanding of some of these chronic conditions. My big hope is that like himself, you too will become an ‘Awarenessist’ after reading Bear with ME!

I’m going to have to read Bear with ME soon to find out! 

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought a little bit of advice. One of my articles is titled, ‘Has ME changed me?’ Whilst it has unquestionably physically changed me, it has not changed me fundamentally as a person. I remain kind and empathetic. I also remain daring, although not in the sense of daring such as snow-boarding, sky-diving or snake charming. My daring is writing with such honesty and openness that it can make a person weep. People with chronic illnesses are often grieving for their old selves and depressed. My advice is to sit or lie down with your favourite snacks and drinks, and let the furball cuddle in and enjoy life!

I think that’s wonderful advice regardless of the experience you’re going through Bear. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your story with me. It’s been a real pleasure to chat with you about Bear with ME.

Bear with ME

Bear With ME is a collection of humorous, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories and articles. All were inspired by true events experienced by the author, Bear Lawrence, who has led a quite remarkable life. ‘Bread, Biscuits and Murder’, ‘Motorbikes, Helicopters, PTSD and ME’, ‘me and my ME’ and other astonishing, inspiring, educating stories will leave you both laughing and crying as Bear reveals his soul.

These stories and articles were written to raise awareness and help those touched by Long Covid, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS. The back story to each of these makes for compelling reading in a book you’ll struggle to put down. Bear hopes that like himself, you too will become an ‘Awarenessist’.

Bear with ME is available for purchase here.

About Bear Lawrence

Bear Lawrence has enjoyed an interesting life. He’s worked as a delivery driver in Norway, a helicopter tour pilot in the Caribbean and a helicopter flight instructor in Oregon. In the UK, he’s been a sales assistant, gardener, landlord, biomedical engineer, university lecturer and award-winning inventor. He’s even found time to race motorbikes, yachts and karts.

Diagnosed with ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia, Bear now writes articles and books to raise awareness of chronic illnesses and hidden disabilities. These are also intended to help those touched by Long Covid, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS in particular. He wants people to join him in being an Awarenessist!

For more information, find Bear on Twitter @BearLawrence1, Facebook and Instagram.

An Extract from A Killer Strikes by Georgia Rose

Despite never having met Georgia Rose in real life, I feel she has become a friend over the time I’ve been blogging – not least because she has supported me tirelessly, sharing my posts unselfishly on her social media. When I realised that Georgia hadn’t featured on Linda’s Book Bag since we stayed in together to chat about Parallel Lies (here) and that she has a new book, A Killer Strikes, coming out on 1st January 2023, I simply had to feature her again. Luckily Georgia has allowed me to share a snippet from the book and I think you’ll agree, it is brilliant!

Let’s find out more about A Killer Strikes.

A Killer Strikes will be published on 1st January 2023 and is available for pre-order here.

A Killer Strikes

The perfect family… The perfect murders…

A family massacred. A village in mourning. Can anyone sleep safely while a killer is on the loose?

Laura Percival, owner of The Stables, notices something wrong at her friend’s house when out on her morning ride. Further investigation reveals scenes she’ll never forget.

While the police are quick to accuse, Laura is less so, defending those around her as she struggles to make sense of the deaths. And all the time she wonders if she really knew her friends at all.

A chance encounter opens up a line of investigation that uncovers a secret life. One that Laura is much closer to than she ever realised.

A Killer Strikes is a gripping domestic thriller. If you like character-driven action, suspenseful storytelling and dark revelations then you’ll love this exciting novel.

An Extract from A Killer Strikes

At the beginning of the third week of January, I’m riding Fifty back up School Lane towards home when, in the distance, I see a girl standing on the opposite verge to Number 9 staring at the property. She’s on the skinny side of slim, shoulders slightly hunched as if she’s not strong enough to square them, long dark hair that hangs like curtains, and she’s transfixed on something about the house. The police tape is still in place but, now broken in a couple of places, the tatty ends hang down on this still day. I get closer. The noise of us approaching does nothing to distract her from her focus. Until, that is, I call out to her.

‘Hey, are you okay?’ Then I immediately regret it.

She jumps like a startled rabbit at my voice, as though it’s broken her trance, and turns away from me scrabbling for her car door.

I stop, hoping she might too. ‘Don’t go. Did you know Jenny?’ She looks about her age.

She ignores me, climbing quickly into the car before slamming the door and driving off in a hurry. I haven’t seen her around here before and wonder why she’s come now. I curse myself for scaring her off. She could, of course, simply have been a friend leaving flowers, but there was something about the fact she couldn’t get away from me fast enough that I found curious.

Like I had caught her out.

Or she knew something.

****

Doesn’t that make you want to dive right in to A Killer Strikes? I’m so thrilled to be able to share that with you today. Oh, and it says something about Georgia as a person too that she asked me to add the following:

Many thanks for inviting me onto your super blog, Linda. I appreciate the support.

Isn’t that just lovely?

About Georgia Rose

Georgia Rose is a writer and the author of the romantic and suspenseful Grayson Trilogy books: A Single Step, Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water. Following completion of the trilogy she was asked for more and so wrote a short story, The Joker, which is based on a favourite character from the series and the eBook is available to download for free here.

Her fourth novel, Parallel Lies, encompasses crime along with Georgia’s usual blending of genre and its sequel, Loving Vengeance, has now completed The Ross Duology.

Georgia’s background in countryside living, riding, instructing and working with horses has provided the knowledge needed for some of her storylines; the others are a product of her passion for people watching and her overactive imagination.

She has also recently started running workshops and providing one-to-one support for those wishing to learn how to independently publish and you can find her, under her real name, at www.threeshirespublishing.com.

Following a long stint working in the law Georgia set up her own business providing administration services for other companies which she does to this day managing to entwine that work along with her writing.

Her busy life is set in a tranquil part of rural Cambridgeshire in the UK where she lives with her much neglected husband and dog.

You can find out more about Georgia Rose on her web site and on Facebook. You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter @georgiarosebook. You’ll also find all about Georgia on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Single in the Snow by Helen Whitaker

My enormous thanks to the publicists at Team Bookends for sending me a copy of Single in the Snow by Helen Whitaker in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published in paperback by Hodder on 29th December 2022, Single in the Snow is available to order through the links here.

Single in the Snow

Jen is turning thirty and has spent her entire life jumping from man to man. So, when her latest relationship ends in disaster, she decides she needs to stop pleasing others and focus on herself. And where better to start afresh than the beautiful Canadian ski resort of Whistler?

Okay, she’s broke, unemployed, and has never so much as strapped on a pair of skis – but Jen is determined to make it on her own. She just has one rule: to stay single for the entire ski season.

When a new job forces Jen into contact with snowboarding instructor Art, the two of them are set on keeping their distance. It shouldn’t be hard, since they hate one another on sight – and Art knows better than anyone how to keep other people at arm’s length.

The problem is, the more time they are forced to spend together, the clearer it seems that Jen’s promise to stay single might not be quite so simple . . .

My Review of Single in the Snow

Jen’s making a fresh start in life.

What a fabulous book! Single in the Snow is funny and sad in equal measure and is a really wonderful read.

The plot is so important to today’s world. Certainly there is romance in the background, but Helen Whitaker explores love in many forms, including that in families and between friends, the most important of all being self-love. She illustrates to perfection the way so often we mould ourselves to fit in with others, or how we suppress our true feelings so that we don’t get hurt or display our real emotions. Both Jen and Art have demons to overcome and their development through the narrative is just brilliantly done.

Indeed, I adored the way that Helen Whitaker links the similarities between Jen’s physical efforts and Art’s mental health in a way that acts as a catalyst for the reader’s emotions and makes Single in the Snow absolutely belie the opinions that romantic fiction is ‘fluffy’ or meaningless in any way. This is a book that has lightness of touch, romance and humour but which thrums with mature emotion too, making it highly effective and affecting.

The characters have depth and attraction – often because of, rather than in spite of, their flaws. The one exception for me was Eduardo. Much as I abhor violence, if I ever met Eduardo in real life, I really would have to punch him! Jen is a triumph. She is a kind of Everywoman who embodies traits that all readers can appreciate and Art’s realistic struggles to come to terms with what has happened in his past are simply heart rending.

Aside from the developing, and repairing, relationships in the story, the themes are wonderfully explored. Workplace harassment and bullying, taking a chance, being true to yourself, mental and physical health, happiness and how we find it and so much more fill the pages of Single in the Snow to the extent that I laughed and cried reading this story and thought it was fabulous.

With a gorgeous snowy setting, romance and reality woven together with consummate skill and characters to fall in love with, Single in the Snow is the perfect winter read. I loved it.

About Helen Whitaker

Helen Whitaker is a journalist and author living in London. Formerly the Entertainment Director of Glamour UK, her day job is currently Editor of High Life magazine and she writes books in her lunch hour, in the evenings and in any free time she has around parenting. She has been published in Grazia, The Telegraph, Fabulous, Stella, Red and BBC Three. She lives in Walthamstow with her husband and son. Her first novel, The School Run, came out in 2019, and I Give it a Year came out in 2021.

For further information, visit Helen’s website, find her on Instagram, or follow Helen on Twitter @helbobwhitaker.

The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley

A short while ago I was privileged to share an extract from The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley in a post you’ll find here. Today, over on the My Weekly website, I’m thrilled to share my review. I also reviewed A Special Cornish Christmas by Phillipa Ashley on the My Weekly website here.

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Avon on 10th November 2022, The Christmas Holiday is available for purchase through the links here.

The Christmas Holiday

She’s planned the perfect Christmas. But fate might have other ideas…

Krystle didn’t have a normal childhood and longed for warm family Christmases with presents under the tree. Now she makes sure everyone else has the perfect Christmas she never had, bringing beautiful decorations to cheer as many people as possible.

With her festive business booming, she decides to celebrate by renting a secluded house in the Lakes, with a plan to make this the ultimate yuletide getaway.

But fate immediately throws a spanner in the works in the form of a broken-down car, a flooded river and Max; a man who despises Christmas.

Krystle becomes determined to show Max the joys of the holiday. She won’t take no for an answer.

Can she melt Max’s Grinch-like heart? And can he show her that life doesn’t need to go to plan to take you somewhere magical…

Let Sunday Times bestseller Phillipa Ashley whisk you away to the Lakes this Christmas, with a story full of unexpected romance, second chances, snowflakes and starlight! Perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Karen Swan and Heidi Swain.

My Review of The Christmas Holiday

My full review of The Christmas Holiday can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, what I can say here is that The Christmas Holiday absolutely brims with the true meaning of Christmas in an exciting, engaging and emotional story that I adored.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Phillipa Ashley

Philippa Ashley

Phillipa Ashley writes warm, funny romantic fiction for a variety of international publishers. The first two books in her best-selling Cornish Café series made the Amazon Top 20 and Top 10 chart in 2016.

Phillipa lives in a Staffordshire village with her husband and has a grown-up daughter.

For more information about Phillipa, visit her website or find her on Instagram or Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @PhillipaAshley.

Giveaway: Two @bbcmaestro Writing Courses

As we come to the end of NaNoWriMo when many of us will have been turning our hands to writing rather than reading for a change, I could not be more excited by today’s blog post. Thanks to Siobhan McDermott I have two fabulous vouchers to give away for the BBC Maestro writing courses worth £80 each. As I’ve been lucky enough to trial one of the courses I can assure you that they are simply wonderful.

I chose to follow Lee Child’s Writing Popular Fiction which gave me access to a set of course notes that included advice from Lee Child, summarising his video classes, with exercises to complete and bullet take-aways that get right to the heart of being a writer.

However, what was so wonderful about Writing Popular Fiction was the videos. In this particular course there are over 30 video clips with Lee Child exploring all manner of aspects about writing, but in an intimate manner that feels as if he’s speaking directly to the learner in their own sitting room. This makes the course feel personal and tailored to the individual. The course is a fascinating insight into the writing process and world, even if you think you don’t want to write, but for those who do, Lee Child is interesting, inspirational and educational. He’s also a fantastic communicator who draws you in and gives you confidence.

If you’re not familiar with BBC Maestro writing courses, simply click on the italicised links to find out more about them and then enter further down this blog post on Linda’s Book Bag for your chance to win a voucher for one of the courses to either keep for yourself or maybe give as a Christmas gift:

Writing Children’s Picture Books with Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson has written some of the world’s best-loved children’s books, including modern classics The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, which together have sold over 25 million copies worldwide and have been translated into over one hundred languages. Her other books include Room on the Broom, Stick Man and Zogillustrated by Axel Scheffler, The Hospital Dog, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie and the hugely successful What the Ladybird Heard adventures, illustrated by Lydia Monks. Julia also writes fiction, including the Princess Mirror-Belle series, illustrated by Lydia Monks, as well as poems, plays and songs – and her brilliant live shows are always in demand. She was the UK Children’s Laureate 2011–13 and has been honoured with a CBE for Services to Literature. Julia and her husband Malcolm divide their time between West Sussex and Edinburgh.

Julia Donaldson – Writing Children’s Picture Books

Writing Books for Children with David Walliams

David Walliams – comedian, actor and author – continues to take the children’s literary world by storm. His tenth novel, Bad Dad, was an immediate number one, following the triumph of The Midnight Gang, the biggest-selling children’s book of 2016. World’s Worst Children 2, which published in early 2017, spent four weeks at industry number one and eight weeks at the top of the children’s chart. They have achieved unprecedented critical acclaim – and Ratburger, Demon Dentist and Awful Auntie have all won the National Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year.

David’s books have now exceeded 100 non-consecutive weeks in the children’s number-one spot, and have been translated into 53 languages, selling more than 35 million copies worldwide.

David Walliams – Writing Books for Children

Writing for Young Adults with Malorie Blackman

Malorie Blackman has written over seventy books for children and young adults, including the Noughts & Crosses series, Thief and a science-fiction thriller, Chasing the Stars. Many of her books have also been adapted for stage and television, including a BAFTA-award-winning BBC production of Pig-Heart Boy and a Pilot Theatre stage adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz of Noughts & Crosses. There is also a major BBC production of Noughts & Crosses, with Roc Nation (Jay-Z’s entertainment company) curating the soundtrack as executive music producer. In 2005 Malorie was honoured with the Eleanor Farjeon Award in recognition of her distinguished contribution to the world of children’s books. In 2008 she received an OBE for her services to children’s literature, and between 2013 and 2015 she was the Children’s Laureate. Most recently Malorie wrote for the Doctor Who series on BBC One, and the fifth novel in her Noughts & Crosses series, Crossfire, was published by Penguin Random House Children’s in summer 2019.

Malorie Blackman – Writing for Young Adults

Storytelling with Alan Moore

Alan Moore is an English writer most famous for his influential work in comics, including the acclaimed graphic novels Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell. He has also written a novel, Voice of the Fire, and performs “workings” (one-off performance art/spoken word pieces) with The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels, some of which have been released on CD.

Alan Moore – Storytelling

Writing Popular Fiction with Lee Child

Lee Child is one of the world’s leading thriller writers. He was born in Coventry, raised in Birmingham, and now lives in New York. It is said one of his novels featuring his hero Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every nine seconds. His books consistently achieve the number-one slot on bestseller lists around the world and have sold over one hundred million copies. Two blockbusting Jack Reacher movies have been made so far. He is the recipient of many awards, most recently Author of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards. He was appointed CBE in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Lee Child – Writing Popular Fiction

Writing Drama for Television with Jed Mercurio

Jed Mercurio is one of Britain’s most successful television writers. He is the award-winning creator of Bodyguard, Trigger Point and Line of Duty. His first novel, Bodies, published by Jonathan Cape, was chosen by the Guardian as one of the five best debuts of 2002. He adapted the novel for the BBC, winning the Royal Television Society Award for Best Drama Series of 2005. Jed grew up in England and currently splits his work between London and Los Angeles.

Jed Mercurio – Writing Drama for Television

For more about BBC Maestro, visit the website, follow them on Twitter @bbcmaestro and find them on Instagram, Youtube and Facebook.

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Giveaway – Two BBC Maestro Writing Courses

Click here for your chance to win one of two vouchers worth £80 giving access to your choice of course from the following:

Julia Donaldson – Writing Children’s Picture Books
David Walliams – Writing Books for Children
Malorie Blackman – Writing for Young Adults
Alan Moore – Storytelling
Lee Child – Writing Popular Fiction
Jed Mercurio – Writing Drama for Television

Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Monday 5th December 2022. Open to those in the following countries: United Kingdom, Isle of Mann, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, Australia, South Africa, Canada, India, Brazil, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, UAE and USA as these are the places that can access the BBC Maestro Writing Course.

The Sanctuary by Emma

It’s over a year since I reviewed Emma Haughton’s debut crime thriller The Dark in a post you’ll find here. With huge thanks to Jenny Platt for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Emma’s latest book, The Sanctuary, I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 24th November 2022, The Sanctuary is available for purchase through these links.

The Sanctuary

Zoey doesn’t remember anything about last night. But she knows something went badly wrong. For she is no longer in New York. She’s woken up in the desert, in a white building she doesn’t recognise, and she’s alone.

When she discovers she’s been admitted to The Sanctuary, a discreet, mysterious, isolated refuge from normal life, to avoid jail, she is stunned. She knows she has secrets, troubles, but she thought she had everything under control. But as she spends more time with other residents, she begins to open up about what she’s running from. Until she realises that not everyone in The Sanctuary has her best interests at heart, and someone might even be a killer . . .

My Review of The Sanctuary

Zoey’s in a spot of bother!

I’ll be absolutely honest and say that, in order to enjoy The Sanctuary fully, a reader needs willingly to suspend their disbelief. That said, The Sanctuary thrums with menace from the very first page. It’s a pressure cooker of simmering tension that keeps the reader hooked throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The locked-room style plot is suffused with suspicion that makes the reader feel edgy, and the Mexican desert heat adds to the intense atmosphere. It feels as if there’s danger lurking and it’s only a matter of time before something awful happens. Indeed, the nearer to the end of the story, the more dramatic the narrative becomes so that the pace in the second half of The Sanctuary, fittingly after the pivotal ‘ceremony’, feels changed in the same way some of the characters are different and altered. 

With a reduced cast of characters in The Sanctuary I found myself suspecting everyone of some ulterior motive for being in the sanctuary which added to my enjoyment as I strove to categorise the people in my head. Emma Haughton knows exactly how to create unreliable people. For the majority of the story I loathed Zoey because she’s rash, making impulsive, thoughtless decisions that make her her own worst enemy. However, I was also completely compelled by her character. I found Zoey not knowing the reason for her arrival at the Sanctuary and who had paid for her to be there, frustrated and annoyed me. This was a brilliant technique because it meant I experienced Zoey’s own puzzlement and frustration just as she did and it built the tension in the narrative still further. 

As well as the people, the setting is every bit as much a character. Like the people, it can be benevolent, providing food or it can be a danger, supplying life threatening heat, situations and creatures. I thought the way Emma Haughton wove these aspects into The Sanctuary was incredibly skilful. I could feel the heat as I read.

The Sanctuary embodies mature and thought-provoking themes too. There’s mental health, addiction and morality right at the heart of the story that illustrates just how we can become welded to negative behaviours. I actually found reading parts of the story surprisingly helpful and cathartic and I loved the development of the characters over time as relationships fractured and shifted.

The Sanctuary is a compelling, atmospheric thriller that builds slowly to a dramatic conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Emma Haughton

Emma Haughton grew up in Sussex, studied English at Oxford and worked as a journalist for several national newspapers, including The Times Travel section. Emma has written several non-fiction books for schools as well as YA thrillers. This is her first crime novel.

For further information, follow Emma on Twitter @Emma_Haughton and visit her website. You’ll also find Emma on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

An Extract from Disobedient Women by Sangeeta Mulay

When lovely Isabelle Kenyon from Fly on the Wall got in touch about Disobedient Women by Sangeeta Mulay I was devastated that I simply couldn’t fit in a review as it sounds exactly my kind of read. However, I was thrilled to be able to host an extract for the blog tour and it’s my pleasure to share that with you today.

Disobedient Women was published by Fly on the Wall on 25th November 2022 and is available for purchase here.

Disobedient Women

Set in contemporary India, Sangeeta Mulay’s unforgettable debut novel is a compelling story of four unforgettable characters:

Aparna – a courageous campaigner of rationality and freedom of expression. Will the patriarchal grip of a religious society manage to silence her?

Hari –the passionate founder of a religious organisation. As Hari becomes a rising star for the local Hindu right-wing, will he lose himself?

Naseem – Aparna’s wise daughter who is discovering her sexuality. Will she have the strength to stand up for her mother against societal stigma?

Kashi – Hari’s daughter who is in love with science and…girls? Confused about her sexuality, will she be able to lead life on her own terms?

Confronting issues of religion, bigotry, sex and politics, DISOBEDIENT WOMEN tells the interwoven stories of two families and their battle of ideologies.

A novel of the choices women make under pressure, where to be disobedient is the only option that offers change.

An Extract from Disobedient Women

Chapter Thirty-Three

6th May 2014. Time: 12:00

 

Two years after his daughter’s birth, Hari hoped for a son, but despite his best efforts (he made Lata narrate thirteen different shlokas), Lata could not conceive. Kashi would remain their only child.

When Kashi was five, she was besotted with a stray dog loitering in the neighbourhood. After feeding him scraps of bhakri for two consecutive days, the dog parked himself permanently outside their house waiting for Kashi, and then followed her everywhere after she emerged. He was a scruffy, skinny creature, but Kashi was smitten.

“Don’t bring that dirty mongrel inside the house,” Lata shouted.

“Aai, he wants to be a part of the family too. I’ve named him Ganu, short for Ganesha.”

“You cannot name him after a god, you little fool,” hissed Lata.

“But why? I love him,” protested Kashi, hugging the dog.

“You can’t. Dogs are dirty. They don’t wash their bums. Call him something else. If your father finds out, he will be very angry.”

Kashi, held onto Lata’s sari, refusing to let go. “He won’t. Ganu is such a nice name.”

“Ugh! Don’t touch me after you’ve touched that dirty beast. Go and wash your hands at once. You don’t know what diseases he is carrying.”

That afternoon at lunch, Kashi hollered, “Baba, why can’t I have a tail?”

Hari looked up, speechless. Lata, worried about an eruption, muttered inconsequential words which made no sense but softened the sudden silence. Then Hari laughed, and the room became happier.

“Why do you want a tail? Yuck! Dirty little things hanging off bums.”

Kashi giggled. “Tails are not dirty, Baba. I so want one. Please can you get one for me?”

The family laughed and thought that was the end of it, but Kashi kept up a constant refrain of wanting a tail. Finally, Hari fashioned one out of a towel for her. She stuck it in her knickers and frolicked with Ganu.

“She will forget about it tomorrow,” Hari said, in a low voice.

“Thank God for that,” Lata sighed.

Kashi did not forget. The tail, tightly tucked in her knickers, mocked them again the next day.

What’s with the child? Is she going to carry the tail for the rest of her life? Lata worried about her daughter.That afternoon, she spotted Kashi lifting Ganu’s tail and peering underneath. Lata caught hold of Kashi by her frock and dragged her away from the dog.

“I was just looking at the attachment. His tail is attached differently to mine,” said Kashi.

That night, Lata narrated the incident to Hari. “Her behaviour is abnormal. Instead of playing with dolls, she is interested in mongrels and their tails!”

Hari grunted. “Don’t worry. I will teach her shlokas. The act of memorisation will help her.”

The next morning, after Kashi had her bath and was about to go out to play, Hari stopped her. “Today, I’m going to teach you something new.”

“What?”

“A new shloka. If you chant this shloka every time you have a bath, you will feel refreshed and have more energy.”

“I don’t want to,” said Kashi, the tail hanging resolutely behind her. “I already have lots of energy. See.” She flexed her arm muscles to show him.

“Kashi. Wait. You will find this interesting.” He led her by the hand and made her sit in front of him. As he chanted, a glazed look appeared on her face and then she nodded off despite the morning hour.

Hari got up in disgust. Lata did not have the same fondness for shlokas that Hari did, so Kashi was left alone.

****

About Sangeeta Mulay

Sangeeta Mulay was born in Pune in India and now currently works in London as a UX writer. She received an honourable mention in the 2021 NYC midnight micro-fiction challenge. Her book for young adults, Savitribai Phule and I was a notable book of 2020 for The Bombay Review. She has also had a short story highly commended in the Sydney Hammond short story competition. Another of Mulay’s short stories will be published in a 2022 Fox and Windmill anthology.

To find out more about Sangeeta, follow her on Twitter @groggy_eyes and find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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A Mother’s Christmas Wish by Glenda Young

It’s far too long since I have read a saga and so I simply couldn’t resist A Mother’s Christmas Wish by Glenda Young. My grateful thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blog tour by sharing my review today.

Published in paperback yesterday by Headline, A Mother’s Christmas Wish is available for purchase in all formats through the links here.

A Mother’s Christmas Wish

‘I hope this Christmas is better than last year’s.’

Following a scandalous affair, wayward Emma Devaney is sent in disgrace from her home in Ireland to Ryhope, where she will live with her widowed aunt, Bessie Brogan, and help run her pub. Bessie is kind but firm, and at first Emma rebels against her lack of freedom. Struggling to fit in, she turns to the wrong person for comfort, and becomes pregnant.

Accepting she must embrace her new life for the sake of her baby, Emma pours her energy into making the pub thrive and helping heal the fractured relationship between Bessie and her daughters. She catches the attention of Robert, a gruff but sincere farmer, who means to win her heart.

As December approaches, thankful for the home and acceptance she’s found, Emma is determined to bring not just her family, but the whole Ryhope community, together to celebrate – and to make one very special mother’s Christmas dreams come true.

My Review of A Mother’s Christmas Wish

Emma needs a fresh start.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Mother’s Christmas Wish. In this story Glenda Young has created a vivid and authentic 1920s world that is filled with a realism that completely engages the reader. The small town prejudices, rivalries and gossip feel absolutely authentic as Emma begins her new life. The Ryhope setting is described very effectively, providing the reader with a clear impression of the place without dominating or overpowering the narrative so that the story races along.

I thought the plot was really well constructed, being unsentimental and compelling, and I loved the way the women in Ryhope are the lynchpin of the narrative. At the heart of A Mother’s Christmas Wish is a sense of family and community that makes the reader feel they belong every bit as much as Emma and Bessie.

Emma is a triumph of a character. She can be her own worst enemy and at times at the beginning of the story I wanted to shake some common sense into her and yet I found myself admiring her in spite of myself. She’s feisty, loyal, and hardworking, even when she’s rash, rude and ill-disciplined, giving her interesting layers and complexity. Emma also develops completely convincingly through A Mother’s Christmas Wish so that she feels warm and real. 

I loved the themes here too. What Glenda Young does so entertainingly is to provide an insight into the lives of ordinary people, their relationships, their attitudes, triumphs and setbacks. She explores loyalty and trust, reputation and society, poverty and employment, crime and marriage, weaving these concepts into a thoroughly engaging story. 

Add in some lovely extras such as a short story, a recipe for apple cakes and background information about Ryhope and A Mother’s Christmas Wish is an absolute treat of a book. I thought it was smashing and through A Mother’s Christmas Wish Glenda Young has reignited my enjoyment of the genre. What more could a reader ask? 

About Glenda Young

Glenda Young credits her local library in the village of Ryhope, where she grew up, for giving her a love of books. She still lives close by in Sunderland and often gets her ideas for her stories on long bike rides along the coast. A life-long fan of Coronation Street, she runs two hugely popular fan websites.

For further information, visit Glenda’s website, find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @flaming_nora.

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Staying in with Jessie Wells

Life has been a bit of a trial of late so what better than to invite lovely Jessie Wells to stay in with me to chat about her debut book that will lift our spirits? Let’s find out more.

Staying in with Jessie Wells.

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Jessie and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

These days, there’s nothing I love more than staying in! With two young primary school-aged children with a very active social life, I spend most of my time in the driving seat of a car, on the side of a football pitch, or in a dance school car park. These days, staying in is an absolute joy.

The more I hear about parenthood, the more pleased I am I don’t have children – though it would be grand children for me now I suppose. I’m at the opposite end of the scale with an 89 year old to run about after! 

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

It’s the eve of publication of my debut novel, THE GOOD NEWS GAZETTE, and I’m so excited about it.

Ooh! Happy publication day for tomorrow Jessie. You must be very excited.

I read vociferously as a child and always dreamt of writing my own book, but as I grew into adulthood with a full-time career and became a mum, it seemed less and less likely it would ever happen. Ironically, if it hadn’t been for the unexpected amount of time we all found ourselves with during lockdown, I’m not sure it ever would have.

How wonderful to have achieved something positive in difficult times. Congratulations. So, what can we expect from an evening in with The Good News Gazette?

Good news! The last few years have been tough, and we’re all more than due an injection of the feel-good factor. Fortunately, our trusty heroine Zoe Taylor is on hand to track down those upbeat news stories to make you smile.

That sounds perfect. So is The Good News Gazette all positive?

That said, it’s not all fun, fun, fun! This single parent is juggling trying to cheer up an entire community with bringing in enough money to support her and her son. And with a sexy football coach and a mean and moody property developer on hand to challenge her, not to mention the upstanding and not-so-upstanding residents of Westholme, she certainly has a battle on her hands.

I love the sound of that!

Fortunately, there’s plenty of giggles along the way as Zoe single-handedly takes on Westholme’s finest and fights for the very future of the town.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

Face masks, pasta and toilet roll. As the bulk of this book was written during lockdown, these three things sum up perfectly to me a time when, for a short period, the world seemed upside down and items we never particularly valued suddenly became some of the most wanted products in the country.

I think that’s no bad thing actually. It made us realise what is important in life!

I’d also bring a massive cake and a good coffee – both of which feature heavily in The Good News Gazette – on the basis that the introduction of one or preferably both of them can turn a miserable day into a great one.

I’ll have tea with mine as coffee doesn’t suit me, but whilst you put the kettle on Jessie, I just wanted to say thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about The Good News Gazette, to say congratulations and to give readers a few more details:

The Good News Gazette

Because we all need something to smile about!

She may be down but don’t count this determined single mum out just yet…

Nine years ago, Zoe Taylor returned from London to the quiet hamlet of Westholme with her tail between her legs and a bun in the oven. Where once her job as a journalist saw her tearing off to Paris at a moment’s notice after a lead, now the single mum covers the local news desk. At least, she did…until she’s unceremoniously let go.

When Zoe invites her friends over to commiserate, wine and whining soon turns into something more… and before the night is out she’s plotted her next step: The Good News Gazette.

Now, as a developer threatens to force Westholme into the twenty-first century, Zoe’s good news movement finds her leading a covert campaign as a community crusader. She may have started The Good News Gazette as a way to save herself, but she might just be able to save Westholme in the process…

Published by Harper Collins imprint One More Chapter tomorrow, 25th November 2022, The Good News Gazette is available for purchase through the links here.

About Jessie Wells

Jessie Wells is the pseudonym of Rachael Tinniswood. Jessie lives with her husband and two children in Merseyside. She has always written in some form, and previously worked as a journalist on the Liverpool Echo and Sunday Mirror and as a freelancer for various national women’s magazines and newspapers before moving into finance. She loves nothing more than getting lost in her imaginary worlds, which are largely filled with romance, communities bursting with character and a large dose of positivity.

For further information, follow Rachel/Jessie on Twitter @JessieWells22, find Jessie on Instagram or Facebook.

The Coming Darkness by Greg Mosse

My thanks to the team at Midas for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Greg Mosse’s debut novel The Coming Darkness. I’m delighted to share my review today.

The Coming Darkness was published by Moonflower on 10th November 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Coming Darkness

Paris, 2037. Alexandre Lamarque of the French external security service is hunting for eco-terrorists. Experience has taught him there is no one he can trust – not his secretive lover Mariam, not even his old mentor, Professor Fayard, the man at the centre of the web. He is ready to give up. But he can’t.

In search of the truth, Alex must follow the trail through an ominous spiral of events, from a string of brutal child murders to a chaotic coup in North Africa. He rapidly finds himself in a heart-thumping race against chaos and destruction. He could be the world’s only hope of preventing THE COMING DARKNESS . . .

My Review of The Coming Darkness

Alex has a new mission.

The Coming Darkness is quite a book and I’m not certain my limited intellect coped with every facet of this rich, engaging and absolutely blistering narrative!

Intricately plotted, I found I had to concentrate hard on retaining who was who and how the various aspects were interrelated in the story. I’d say The Coming Darkness is not a book to read in short blasts. It needs, and deserves, sustained concentration fully to appreciate how interconnected the different strands are and I think it best for readers to immerse themselves completely. Greg Mosse’s style is skilfully eloquent and I loved the balance of exposition to short pithy dialogue because it drives the narrative forward with rapidity and tension. This is intelligent writing.

Short chapters create a fast paced, episodic style. Indeed, the seemingly fragmentary, and yet totally interconnected, plotting has all the hallmarks of a film or television series that would garner cult status. It’s so difficult to define, but I found The Coming Darkness thrums with menace so that I felt unnerved and tense most of the time I was reading it.

I thought the near future setting was pitch perfect. With reference to aspects like viruses, reliance on technology, cultish terrorism and the unsettling desire for some to control and dominate others, Greg Mosse has put his finger right on the pulse of modern life in an authentic manner. I found the Parisian setting particularly effective because it was simultaneously familiar and unusual. This means that although The Coming Darkness is slightly futuristic, it is entirely plausible and disturbing.

In amongst the big themes and global aspects, what resonated so beautifully was Alex’s relationship with his mother and with Mariam. Through this strand the author gives hope and humanity, illustrating the human ability to love and to care in amongst the greed, the desire for power, and the need to for dominance. I’m hoping The Coming Darkness will not be the last we see of Alexandre Lamarque.

Terrifying, taut and prescient The Coming Darkness might be one of the most disturbing thrillers I’ve read in years because Greg Mosse manages to blend all the potential terrors of the world into an enthralling and convincing story that could just happen very, very soon.

About Greg Mosse

A theatre director, playwright and actor Greg Mosse is the founder and director of the Criterion New Writing programme at the Criterion Theatre in London, running workshops in script development to a diverse community of writers, actors and directors. In addition, since 2015, Greg has written, produced and stage 25 plays and musicals.

Greg set up both the Southbank Centre Creative Writing School – an open access program of evening classes delivering MA level workshops – and the University of Sussex MA in Creative Writing at West Dean College which he taught for 4 years.

The husband of the bestselling novelist Kate Mosse, Kate’s hit novel Labyrinth was inspired by a house that Greg and his mother bought together in the French medieval city of Carcassonne, where the couple and their children spent many happy summers. Following the success of Labyrinth, Greg created the innovative readers-and-writers website mosselabyrinth.co.uk MosseLabyrinth. The first of its kind MosseLabrynth was the world’s first online accessible 3D world, and the inspiration for Pottermore – the popular Harry Potter website.

A multilinguist, Greg has lived and worked in Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Madrid and has worked as both an interpreter at a variety of international institutions and a teacher in the UK.

Greg and Kate live in Chichester, where Kate’s parents founded the Chichester Festival Theatre, they have two grown up children.

The Coming Darkness was written during lockdown and is Greg’s debut novel.

For further information, visit Greg’s website, or follow him on Twitter @GregMosse. You’ll also find him on Instagram and Facebook.

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