one hundred breaths by Stephanie Shields

One Hundred Breaths

My grateful thanks to James at Cynefin Road for a copy of one hundred breaths by Stephanie Shields in return for an honest review.

one hundred breaths is available for purchase here.

one hundred breaths

One Hundred Breaths

Stephanie Shields breathes life into her debut collection of one hundred, one hundred word stories, creating a book somewhere between poetry and a net cast to harvest the essence of life.

“forgotten

until next Spring

for it will come back

it won’t be this blossom

but it will be blossom…”

Bare, true, and as beautiful as it is heartbreaking, one hundred breaths isn’t so much a body of writing as a soul captured on paper.

one hundred breaths features hand-inked art by Ruby Lilith.

My Review of one hundred breaths

A beautifully illustrated collection of poems.

I’ve actually had this collection some time, but have been returning to it and rereading before writing my review because I enjoyed the poems so much. Before I review the poems themselves, I have to comment on the drawings by Ruby Lilith that illustrate one hundred breaths. They are so well positioned and perfectly linked to the individual poems that I found they enhanced my pleasure in reading this collection.

I loved the references in one hundred breaths to established writers such as Robert Frost in good fences make good neighbours or Emily Dickenson in antihope and actually, I think Stephanie Shields’ writing holds its own in comparison with great poets. Her imagery and lyrical quality is equally as good and I was frequently reminded of poems by Dylan Thomas amongst others, and of course EE Cummings because of the lack of upper case letters and the physical structure of pieces like birthdays. These poems may pay homage to and take inspiration from other writers but they are no pastiche. Stephanie Shields writes with a vibrancy and style that is all her own.

There’s an intensity to Stephanie Shields’ imagery and emotion that I found enormously affecting. The depth of loneliness in a simple task of washing up in one or the activities in friday night for example brought a lump to my throat. I think everyone should read connections as it is a true anthem for so many in today’s society. I was completely undone by dad as reading it coincided with the anniversary of my father’s death and it isn’t an exaggeration to say I found exploring one hundred breaths quite a cathartic activity. Stephanie Shields touches on many aspects of our modern lives from homelessness to love, despair to hope.

The use of the senses is woven in a perfect tapestry throughout one hundred breaths whether it is the scratch of a fingernail or the scent of a bonfire so that each piece is like a jewel of sensuous experience. Each poem is brilliantly structured. Some have a more physical appearance on the page and others look more conventional, but in each the techniques used enhance the meaning. The use of enjambement, repetition and the starkness of a single word mean that there is a truly affecting punch with each. Although I loved them all, I think the poem that most resonated with me was fuck this. The passion and anger, the determination and the references to our obsession with doing the right thing made me feel uplifted and empowered.

I know many readers are put off by poetry, but one hundred breaths is a superb collection. These poems are literary, emotional and beautiful but they are also real and accessible and I think any reader would find something here about which to say ‘Oh, yes!’

one hundred breaths is a stunning collection and I loved it.

About Stephanie Shields

Stephanie Shields grew up in a small village in Derbyshire. Her friends call her Veep. In her thirties she ran away to London to seek her fortune, where she started writing to try and make sense of the world.

You can follow Stephanie on Twitter @PrincessofVP.

Staying in with Samuel Bigglesworth

A beautiful Place to Die

I am delighted to welcome Samuel Bigglesworth to Linda’s Book Bag today. Sam is staying in with me to tell me about one of his books and I won’t be giving too much away if I say it is a collection of short stories. I think we need more short stories in our lives so let’s see what Sam has to say.

Staying in with Samuel Bigglesworth

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Sam. 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?

A beautiful Place to Die

Hi! I have chosen A Beautiful Place to Die: Heart-wrenching tales of human vulnerability, a collection of literary fiction short stories.

(I think we need more short stories in our busy lives Sam so I’m delighted you’ve brought this collection along.)

What can we expect from an evening in with A Beautiful Place to Die: Heart-wrenching tales of human vulnerability?

I chose this collection because I love stories which humanise people, and show their flaws. Many people who appear unremarkable from the outside, have remarkable stories to tell. Pain and growth are common to all our lives.

(You’re absolutely right!)

Many reviewers have applauded the descriptive and succinct writing style. Please find a review below which will give a good idea of what to expect.

A new albeit ominous voice in the vein of Shirley Jackson and Flannery O’Connor, it also delves into a Murakami-like simplicity that pulsates with a wicked undertow. These short stories are full of life, character, manically-distinct description. Realities are established impeccably–so well, in fact, that a lack of plot in several of these vignettes seems just so right, very natural. Bigglesworth develops a slight psychosis in most of his tales that does not paint everything quite black. It manifests itself in the mundane dog walk, in the forgotten homeless. Forest walks or long journeys through adulthood; life is stretched out and then condensed. For our reader’s pleasure.

Also, the illustrations by Henry Boon add a children’s story sadness to the whole collection. It’s a good one!

(That’s quite an endorsement Sam.)

What else have you brought along and why?

tea

Well, I am from Manchester, England, so to eat I have brought along a cup of English breakfast tea with a dash of milk and a slice of Manchester tart!

manchester tart

To play I have brought Definitely Maybe by Oasis. It really gives you a feel for the city!

You’re just my kind of guest! You are welcome back any time if you’re going to bring tea and food! I’m not averse to Oasis either! Thanks so much for staying in with me Sam, to tell me all about A Beautiful Place to Die: Heart-wrenching tales of human vulnerability. Let’s tell everyone a bit more about the book.

A Beautiful Place to Die

A beautiful Place to Die

A pensioner with advancing cancer is kicked out of her home with her dog. She doesn’t want to die on the filthy city streets, so sets about finding a more beautiful place to rest her head.

A lady sick of seeing people act coldly decides to help a man on the street. She later finds out he escaped from prison only twenty-four hours before.

A Beautiful Place to Die is a heart-warming short story collection which will make you laugh and cry. Plunging you into the minds of outsiders of all stripes, from nine to ninety year olds, and from settings as diverse as derelict warehouses and wild woodland, these stories highlight the beauty buried in the most unlikely of places.

A Beautiful Place to Die is available for purchase here.

About Samuel Bigglesworth

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Samuel Bigglesworth’s writing career started in 2014 with a blog; in 2015, he decided to commit to writing fiction long term. Towards the end of the year, after a few online courses and a great deal of time writing, he self-published his first novella, a character based comedy about one man’s love affair with nature, entitled The Woods, The Jungle, The Sea. It was inspired by experiences he had visiting remote parts of Patagonia, Bolivia, and Colombia. It has sold one-hundred copies and received generally positive reviews. From that experience, he decided to wait longer and take each project through more edits before self-publishing it. He wanted to try writing in different voices, from a variety of character’s perspectives, and develop his writing style, so he began writing this short story collection.

You can follow Samuel on Twitter @sambigglesworth and find him on Facebook.

Cover Reveal: The Blameless Dead by Gary Haynes

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As you probably know, I haven’t been able to take on many new items for Linda’s Book Bag of late as life has been a tad tricky. However, when Endeavour Media‘s Hannah Groves got in touch about participating in the cover reveal for Gary Haynes’ The Blameless Dead, I took one look at the blurb and cover and couldn’t resist taking part.

See what you think:

The Blameless Dead

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In the dying days of World War Two, Pavel Romasko and his Red Army colleagues pick their way through the carnage and detritus of  a dying Berlin. Stumbling upon the smoking remains of a Nazi bunker, they find something inside that eclipses the horror of even the worst excesses in the city above them.

As the war ends, retribution begins. But some revenge cannot be taken at once. Some revenge takes years.

And so it is, as post-war Europe tries desperately to drag itself back onto its feet, and soldiers attempt a return to normality, that retribution continues to ferment in the Gulags of the Soviet Union and beneath the surface of apparently ordinary lives.

Which is how, seventy years later, FBI agent Carla Romero and New York lawyer Gabriel Hall are enlisted to investigate a series of blood-chilling crimes that seem to have their roots in the distant past — even though the suffering they cause is all too present. And for one of them, the disappearance of young women is a particularly personal matter.

The Blameless Dead is an epic, compelling, edge-of-the-seat drama that sweeps the reader from twentieth century Europe to modern-day New York, taking in some of the most important events of modern history and exposing them in honest and unflinching terms. Part murder-mystery, part historical novel and shot through with adrenalin-pumping action, this novel superbly demonstrates that, while the hostilities may cease and the peace be signed, the horror that is war is never really over.

There is more about The Blameless Dead on Goodreads.

About Gary Haynes

Gary Haynes author image

Gary Haynes is a bestselling thriller writer, and member of the International Thriller Writers organisation.He studied law at university and passed his post-graduate legal qualifications before becoming a commercial litigator. He is a Freedom of Speech advocate and is interested in history, philosophy and foreign policy. Gary’s previous novels include the popular Tom Dupree series: State of Honour and State of Attack.

You can find out more by visiting Gary’s website or by following him on Facebook and Twitter @GaryHaynesNovel.

Writing Inspiration: A Guest Post by Jo Worgan, Author of Picking Up The Pieces

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I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Jo Worgan today in celebration of her recent publication with Urbane; Picking Up The Pieces. Jo has been such a support to Linda’s Book Bag, always selflessly sharing posts for other authors and I’m delighted to be able to return the favour today, especially as Jo has written a wonderful guest post for us all to enjoy.

Picking Up The Pieces was published by Urbane on 8th November 2018 and is available for purchase here.

Picking Up The Pieces

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A compelling and emotive fiction debut about a mother’s unbreakable love for her autistic son.

Kate has a six-year-old autistic son, Sam. She has started a new life to escape her controlling and abusive boyfriend Jake. She believes that the past is behind her and that she and Sam are safe. But after spotting Jake through a misted-up cafe window, Kate knows that Jake has found her.

Kate confides in her neighbour Matt, a man running from his own past. He seems to offer a genuine chance at happiness for her and son Sam, but Jake is determined to get them back at all costs….

Picking Up The Pieces is an original, moving and gripping page-turner about a woman’s search for happiness as she fights to protect her autistic son’s future.

Why I chose autism as a central theme

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Picking Up The Pieces

A Guest Post by Jo Worgan

I think most writers tend to write from their own experiences, those things that have happened in our life, places that mean something to us or the people who have helped to shape us. Inspiration is all around us, from the people we meet, to the books that we read and what has happened in our past.

Picking Up The Pieces started with the idea of writing about a young boy with autism. My youngest son was diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) at the age of three. From this tiny nugget the story grew to that of a single mum who was running from her past. I wanted to explore the bond between mother and son. To explore how the maternal relationship differed with an autistic child.

Sam is very much inspired by my youngest son. I wanted to write about a little boy who was so much more than autism. I wanted to raise the issues of autism awareness and acceptance in my novel, while dispelling some of the many myths that surround it. For example, many still believe that autistic individuals have no sense of empathy and this upsets me. I know that my little boy feels deeply, in fact I sometimes think that he feels more than other ‘neurotypical’ people. He is deeply caring, an example of which was when a classmate was upset, he was missing his mum and started to cry. My son went and fetched some tissues and sat next to him. This was when he was nine years of age.

I wanted to explore on paper the many challenges that families face on a day to day basis, in getting the right education, help and support for their child. That there are still people out there who believe that autism does not exist, that it is simply an excuse for naughty children. A stranger told me this one day while my son was having an autistic meltdown. Hard to believe, but sadly true.

So, autism is very close to my heart and I wanted to feature a child on the spectrum to dispel some of these myths and to just show that these children are bright, funny and are just so much more than autism.

I was also inspired to write this story from having read countless online accounts, newspaper articles and books about the realities of parenting a child on the spectrum. I wanted to provide a snapshot into one family’s life. To give the reader a small slice of what life can be like.

Ultimately though, I wanted Sam to shine for who he was, for the reader to see so much more than the autism. I hope I have succeeded.

(I’m sure you have Jo. What a wonderful inspiration for Picking Up The Pieces. You must both be so proud of one another.)

About Jo Worgan

Jo 4 Urbane

Jo Worgan is a freelance copywriter, columnist and book blogger. She has published 4 non-fiction works aimed at parenting children on the Autistic spectrum, based upon her experiences as a mother of an autistic son.

Jo has always had a passion for reading, writing and all things books. She began writing short stories in her spare time while studying at University, gaining a BA(Hons) English Literature and Drama with Theatre Studies. Her writing was put on hold while she studied to become a nurse, eventually working as a senior renal nurse, first in Liverpool, then in the rural idyll of the Dorset countryside.

The birth of her first child followed very closely by a move to North Lancashire that allowed Jo to start thinking about writing once more, and the birth of her second child, diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, inspired her to write fully once more. The result was a book aimed towards helping parents of newly diagnosed children on the autism spectrum, Life on the Spectrum, the Preschool Years, Getting the Help and Support You Need. Jo continued to write and a further 3 books were self-published, all about autism. With this new-found thirst for writing, Jo wanted to start writing fiction again, as this is what she truly loves. She also finds it cheaper than therapy. Today Jo lives in Lancashire with her husband of 19 years and their two young sons. When she is not busy writing, she likes to take her boys to the local museums, cafes, cinema, the Lake District and lots of playgrounds. She also drinks a lot of coffee.

You can follow Jo on Twitter @JoanneWorgan and visit her own excellent blog.

Discussing Christmas at Liberty’s with Fiona Ford on Publication Day

Christmas at Libertys

I’m delighted to welcome Fiona Ford back to Linda’s Book Bag as part of the launch celebrations for Christmas at Liberty’s and would like to thank both Fiona and Rachel Kennedy at Penguin Random House for inviting me to participate

Fiona previously wrote a fabulous guest post for the blog about loving the past that you can read here.

Today I’m delighted to be chatting with Fiona all about her latest book Christmas at Liberty’s as she stays in with me. This is the first in Fiona’s new Liberty Girls series.

Staying in with Fiona Ford

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

Thanks so much for having me Linda – it’s really lovely to stay in with you and chat all things delicious about books.

Tell me, (as if I couldn’t guess!) which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

I have brought along my newest release – Christmas at Liberty’s which as you might expect centres around the iconic Liberty’s department store in 1942. I’ve chosen it because at this time of year I genuinely love to visit Liberty’s and see the store as it gets ready for Christmas and I think this book allows readers to bring a little of that Liberty’s sparkle home for a good night in – all with a good dollop of wartime intrigue and suspense thrown in for good measure.

(Now that sounds perfect. I happen to know that congratulations are in order too as today is Christmas at Liberty’s publication day so happy publication day Fiona!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Christmas at Liberty’s?

Well this is a wartime saga, but its a saga with heart, grit and crime all set against the wonderful backdrop of Liberty’s. It centres around Mary – a rather posh girl who has fallen on hard times and needs to reinvent her entire life after she’s thrown out of her family following a scandal. With no sewing experience she finds a new job in the fabric department of Liberty’s – cue heartache, merriment, betrayal,  drama all intertwined with the glamour of London’s most unique department store.

(I can imagine what a lovely story this will be Fiona.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

port and lemon

I wanted to bring in the plaque that I saw on the staircase of Liberty’s that commemorates the lives of those staff members who died in the war which inspired this book.  However that was a bit big, so instead I’ve settled on a good old fashioned glass of port and lemon. As the bombs dropped these girls loved nothing more than a port and lemon to keep the cold out and spirits high. It might be a bit old fashioned now but I think it’s the perfect tipple to enjoy if you’re staying in with a good book.

(Gosh. I haven’t had a port and lemon in years. Just right for us to settle down with and chat a bit more!)

Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about Christmas at Liberty’s Fiona. I think it sounds a perfect read at any time, but especially in the run up to Christmas.

Christmas at Liberty’s

 Christmas at Libertys

September, 1941.

Mary arrives in war-torn London nursing a broken heart and a painful secret.

When she is offered her dream post as an assistant in the fabric department at Liberty store, she knows this is the fresh start she needs. Amid the store’s vibrant prints and sumptuous interiors, Mary finds a new family who can help her to heal.

But not everyone will give Mary such a warm welcome, and the trauma of her past will soon catch up with her.

As Mary and the Liberty Girls endure the heartache and uncertainty of war, it will take a steady heart to keep the magic of Christmas alive.

Published today, 15th November 2018 by Penguin imprint Arrow, Christmas at Liberty’s is available for purchase through the links here.

About Fiona Ford

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Fiona Ford was born in Cornwall and grew up in Bath. As well as having a thirst for books Fiona had a huge interest in history and adored listening to her grandfather talk about his time in the navy during World War Two. Together they spent many a happy afternoon poring over the large collection of photos he had taken travelling the globe, somehow managing to perfectly capture life during wartime. Although Fiona went on to develop a successful career as a journalist, she never forgot her passion for the past.

You can find out more about Fiona by following her on Twitter @fionajourno, finding her on Facebook or visiting her website www.fionaford.co.uk.

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Christmas at Liberty's

Staying in with B R Maycock

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Since I began this ‘staying in’ feature on Linda’s Book Bag as a special item for 2018 I’ve featured scores and scores of authors. Today I have a very welcome guest as fellow blogger B R Maycock has just released her latest novella and I’m thrilled she’s agreed to stay in with me to tell me all about it. Berni has always been such a wonderful support to fellow bloggers and authors and I’m delighted to have her here today.

Staying in with B R Maycock

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

Not at all, Linda, it’s very exciting to be here! (Am loving the décor!)

(Thank you – though I hate this sofa!)

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

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I brought Snowday, basically because it’s November now, people are tired, the heating is properly coming on and so I think it’s time for an easy-going, fun read, hot chocolate and slippers in front of a blazing fire!

(You’re definitely talking my language there Berni. The thought of curling up in front of the fire with Snowday sounds wonderful. Especially if hot chocolate is involved!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Snowday?

In Snowday we can expect a lot of smiles, laughs and aww moments in the town of Riverside, which can be both mesmerisingly beautiful in white when things are going well and sludgily grey when things are falling apart for poor Eloise, who has her hands full with three kids, a David Brent style boss and potential love interests that each have their own issues!

(Ooo. I like the sound of that. I’m delighted I have Snowday on my TBR. Sounds like the perfect Twixtmas read to me when I’m disappearing from blogging for a while and have time to read.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

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Well actually the bulk of this book was written in March and April, funnily enough at a time when Ireland was more snow covered than it has ever been! This photo of my son Paul says it all really!!!

(I love that photo. Paul looks frozen!)

It’s been lovely staying in with you and finding out about Snowday Berni. Thanks for being here and I wish you very success. Congratulations.

Snowday

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Sometimes hot cocoa just isn’t enough to keep you warm in the snow…

Eloise is too busy juggling the chaos of three kids, an ever present ex-husband and a demanding boss to even remember the last time dating crossed her mind.

But as soft snow falls silently all around, romance twinkles with the flakes.

After being single for so long, Eloise suddenly has a lot of choices.  Too many choices.

Will anyone be worthy of melting the guard around her heart to let love in?

A fun-filled, festive read for fans of Christie Barlow, Fiona Gibson and Colleen Coleman

Snowday is available for purchase here.

About B R Maycock

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When Bernadette Maycock isn’t dreaming up vibrant leads for romantic comedies, she’s ingesting books for her blog, in particular chick lit (her first love!) books, romantic comedies and thrillers. She can also be found playing footie or watching Marvel, DC or Star Wars movies and cartoons in Co. Westmeath, Ireland with her brilliantly out there husband, Keith, and their four epic little men.

Her debut It Started With A Snub and Christmas romantic comedy Snowday are available now on Amazon, and Bernadette is currently working on a three part series about AbbeyGlen Village, whose luck is about to change …

She has one goal and that’s simply to make readers smile and/ or laugh (a splutter rates highest;)).

You can visit B A Maycock’s blog, and follow her on Twitter @BRMaycock for more information.

An Extract from Still Lives by Maria Hummel

still lives cover

I’ve been hearing magnificent things about Still Lives by Maria Hummel and am delighted that a copy is on my TBR awaiting reading. I am thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for this Rees Witherspoon selected book club read and have a super extract from Still Lives to share with you today.

Published by Quercus on 1st November 2018, Still Lives is available for purchase through the links here.

Still Lives

still lives cover

Kim Lord’s face looked back at me, disguised in paint and the features of a murdered woman.

Revered artist Kim Lord is about to unveil her most shocking show yet: Still Lives, a series of self-portraits in which she impersonates the female victims of America’s most famous homicides, from Nicole Brown Simpson to the Black Dahlia.

As celebrities and rich patrons pour into L.A.’s Rocque Museum for the opening night, the attendees wait eagerly for Kim’s arrival. All except Maggie Richter, museum editor and ex-girlfriend of Greg Shaw Ferguson, Kim’s new boyfriend. But Kim never shows up to her party and the crowd’s impatience slowly turns to unease.

When Greg is arrested on suspicion of murder, it seems that life is imitating art. Has Kim suffered the same fate as the women in her paintings? As Maggie is drawn into an investigation of her own, she uncovers dark and deadly truths that will change her life forever…

An Extract from Still Lives

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You can read a smashing extract from Still Lives here – Still Lives Extract (1).

About Maria Hummel

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Maria Hummel is a novelist, poet, and essayist, and the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, Pushcart Prize, and Bread Loaf Fellowship. She lives in Vermont.

You can follow Maria on Twitter @MariaHummel2, or visit her website for more information.

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