Jacob Starke Loves the Dark by Peta Rainford

Jacob Starke

My enormous thanks to author and illustrator Peta Rainford for sending me a copy of Jacob Starke Loves the Dark in return for an honest review. I adore Peta’s children’s books and have a review of The Niggle here alongside a smashing guest post from Peta about fitting illustrations to text in her books (although sadly the giveaway has now ended) and another review of Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland here.

Jacob Starke Loves the Dark is available for purchase here.

Jacob Starke Loves the Dark

Jacob Starke

Are you afraid of THE DARK? Jacob Starke is. Jacob Starke is TERRIFIED!

Until, that is, he gets to meet The Dark face-to-face and shares an amazing adventure through the wonders of the night sky.

Jacob Starke Loves The Dark is a charming rhyming picture book about being brave, outer space, loving plants and animals and the importance of Dark Skies. An important environmental issue is tackled with beautiful illustrations, humour and a light touch.

My Review of Jacob Starke Loves the Dark

Jacob is afraid of the dark but learns not to worry.

I don’t know about Jacob learning to love the dark, but I absolutely adored Jacob Starke Loves the Dark. This is the third Peta Rainford children’s book I’ve read and whilst they are all wonderful, this it is her best yet. It’s absolutely brilliant and a must read with any child who is afraid of the dark.

The quality of illustration in Jacob Starke Loves the Dark is outstanding. Even though many of the images need to be dark to support the text, they are still vibrant, beautiful and stunning. I loved the way so many animals feature, from domestic cats to turtles, especially as there fantastic messages about caring for the environment and the need to allow nature to experience darkness to thrive. Indeed, I think adults should read this book, never mind children, so that they can appreciate the environment more too.

Obviously, alongside the environmental messages, the main concept of the book is to help children who are afraid of the dark and it is conveyed perfectly. Jacob goes on wonderful adventures with the dark and learns to dispel his fears completely. The way the illustrations personify the dark works flawlessly.

The language in Jacob Starke Loves the Dark is fabulous. Not only does Peta Rainford maintain the rhyme scheme impeccably without straining the language to fit, she balances familiar and challenging language so well, meaning that the book is accessible for independent readers as well as improving their own vocabulary. I’d love to see a copy of this book in every primary school in the UK. I can so so many educational and emotional benefits from reading it with and to children.

It’s difficult to convey what a triumph I think Jacob Starke Loves the Dark is. It’s a wonderful book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just buy it!

About Peta Rainford


Peta grew up on the Isle of Wight so long ago she can remember buying crisps from the school  tuck shop for 2½p. As a child she loved words, and loved drawing too, but she had no idea what she wanted to do when she grew up. She studied English at York University and then worked in London as a business journalist and editor for 14 years. She went to art classes and even studied fine art at St Martins, but she still had no idea what she wanted to do when she grew up.

Peta moved back to the Isle of Wight in 2006, and it was here that Peta, now balancing the roles of freelance writer and mum, decided to write and illustrate her first book for children. It was a revelation: a way of combining picture making with her love of words – not to mention an outlet for her awful jokes. It may have taken more than four decades, but finally, Peta knows what she wants to do when she grows up.

Peta Rainford’s books iclude Hairy FairyIsabella Rotten SpellerIsabella’s Adventures in Numberland, The Niggle and Jamie and the Joke Factory.

You can find out more by following Peta on Twitter @PetaRainford and visiting her website. You’ll aslos find Peta on Facebook.

Discussing None So Blind with Alis Hawkins


I’m so grateful to Emily Glenister at The Dome Press for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for None So Blind by Alis Hawkins and for sending me a copy of the book for review as it looks EXACTLY my kind of read. I had hoped I’d be able to share my review today but sadly life got in the way of my reading but at least I still have the book to look forward to. I am thrilled, however, to be staying in with Alis Hawkins to chat all about None So Blind.

Staying in with Alis Hawkins

Hi Alis and welcome to Linda’s Book Bag.

Thanks so much for having me, Linda!

I have a sneaky feeling we already know the answer to this question, but which of your books have you brought along to share with me and why have you chosen it?


I’ve brought along None So Blind, the first in my new historical crime series, the Teifi Valley Coroner. I’ve brought None So Blind, partly because it’s launching me as a crime author but also because it’s a book I’ve been waiting to write for a long time. Previously, I wrote medieval mystery novels set in the South of England but I’m from Cardiganshire and I’d always wanted to write a book set during a very exciting period of the county’s history. Now, with None So Blind, I’ve finally done it.

(How exciting to have a new series. I’m desperate to read None So Blind.)

What can we expect from an evening in with None So Blind?

You can look forward to an immersive murder mystery in the company of two very different young men – Harry Probert-Lloyd, barrister son of the local squire, who ran away to London seven years before the action starts and has now been driven home by encroaching blindness; and John Davies, orphan son of poor tenant farmers who’s pulled himself up by his bootstraps and is now a solicitor’s clerk with ambitions. John becomes Harry’s sidekick in an investigation into a murder in which Harry is personally involved.

(This sounds like a classic duo.)

But there’s a lot more to None So Blind than a murder mystery. The other treat that people can expect from an evening in with this book is an introduction both to a part of Wales most people have never had the pleasure of getting to know and to a series of unique historical events – the Rebecca Riots.

(Ah! My husband is Welsh, studied the Rebecca Riots at school and is champing at the bit to read None So Blind but I won’t let him until I’ve read it first!)

The riots form the backdrop to Harry’s investigation into the murder of Margaret Jones who disappeared in the spring of 1842 when the riots were at their height. Following the discovery of her remains, in the teeth of almost universal opposition, Harry insists on an inquest. But, in an apparent attempt to stifle any further investigation, the inquest jury returns an anomalous verdict. Everybody assumes that that is the end of the matter, but Harry is not going to let things lie. For reasons which become clear as the book progresses, he feels partly responsible for Margaret’s death; he is determined to find out why she died and what part the riots played in her murder.

(This sounds utterly brilliant Alis.)

When I’m talking to people about the book, as soon as I mention the riots, they always ask the same thing. ‘And Rebecca? Who was she?’

In the book, Harry’s friend, Gus, asks the same thing and, though Harry gives him an answer, at a deeper level the question remains ‘live’ throughout the book. During the Rebecca Riots, when men rode out after dark, dressed in women’s clothing, their faces blacked, to destroy tollgates, many different individuals took the role of ‘Rebecca’. And, to begin with, they rode at the head of bands of men who felt they were simply standing up for themselves and seeking the justice which an inequitable system had denied them.

But, to quote Harry, ‘as anybody who has lived through a period of insurrection knows, once people unaccustomed to power have felt its potency, they are apt to begin wielding it indiscriminately…’ and it is that indiscriminate wielding of power that, Harry and John suspect, resulted in Margaret Jones’s death.

(Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!)

We watch as the two young men risk public ridicule, their reputation and, possibly, their lives, to uncover the truth. But readers of None So Blind are always one step ahead of either John or Harry as they are privy to the thoughts – and, crucially, the memories – of both young men. Because both of them know more than they are prepared to tell each other about the events of spring 1842.

(None So Blind sounds so intriguing. No wonder you wanted to write this narrative Alis.)

What else have you brought along and why?


The first thing I’ve brought along is an iconic contemporary cartoon from Punch magazine. The Rebecca rioters probably looked nothing like this but it captures something of the ferocity of their actions as well as illustrating some of the social and political factors that led to the riots.

I’m not entirely sure whose heads are represented on the gateposts, but the name Robert Peel over the gatehouse door refers to the then prime minister while the head on the right looks a lot like the leader of the opposition, Lord Melbourne.

(Maybe blog readers can tell us!)


The second thing I’ve brought along is something whose use is described in the book. I’d like readers of Linda’s Book Bag to see if they can guess what it is. Gus Gelyot was clueless, but Harry knew very well because Margaret Jones had owned one. Just in case the scale isn’t clear, its height is somewhere between 20 and 30 cm.


No idea?

(Not really – looks like something I could hang necklaces on or a door stop to me!)

It’s a rushlight holder. Rushlights and they way they’re made feature in None So Blind and they’re a very powerful symbol of the poverty people in West Wales experienced at the time.

(I’d never have come up with that Alis.)

And the last thing I’d like to share with the readers of Linda’s Book Bag is a website which is very important to me. It’s the website of Crime Cymru – the Welsh crime writing collective which I and other crime writers with connections to Wales set up in 2017. Most crime readers are familiar with ‘Tartan Noir’ as the Scottish crime fiction scene is known, but there’s so much wonderful, vibrant crime writing coming from Wales that is relatively unknown, as yet, and we are determined to change that.

If you’re a crime fiction lover, do pop over to http://crime.cymru/ and have a look – I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

(Now that does sound like a good idea.)

Alis, thank you so much for staying in with me to tell us all about None So Blind. I’m totally intrigued by the whole concept of the book and am off to bump it up my TBR right now. Congratulations and good luck!

Thanks so much, Linda, for having me on Linda’s Book Bag – it’s been such a pleasure!

None So Blind


When an old tree root is dug up, the remains of a young woman are found. Harry Probert-Lloyd, a young barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has been dreading this discovery.

He knows exactly whose bones they are.

Working with his clerk, John Davies, Harry is determined to expose the guilty, but the investigation turns up more questions than answers.

The search for the truth will prove costly. Will Harry and John be the ones to pay the highest price?

None So Blind is available for purchase here and directly from The Dome Press.

About Alis Hawkins

Alis Hawkins Headshot

Alis Hawkins grew up on a dairy farm in Cardiganshire. She left to read English at Oxford and has done various things with her life, including bringing up two amazing sons, selling burgers, working with homeless people and helping families to understand their autistic children. And writing, always. Radio plays (unloved by anybody but her), nonfiction (autism related), plays (commissioned by heritage projects) and of course, novels.

Her current historical crime series featuring blind investigator Harry Probert-Lloyd and his chippy assistant John Davies, is set in her childhood home, the Teifi Valley. As a side effect, instead of making research trips to sunny climes, like some of her writer friends, she just drives up the M4 to see her folks.

Alis speaks Welsh, collects rucksacks and can’t resist an interesting fact.

You can find out more by following Alis on Twitter @Alis_Hawkins and visiting her website. You’ll also find Alis on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

None So Blind Blog Tour Poster (1)

Three Things We Could ALL Learn from Time Out in an Ashram: A Guest Post by Susan Shumsky, Author of Maharishi & Me


I’m always on the lookout for something a little bit different to the usual here on Linda’s Book Bag so I was delighted to be asked to participate in the blog tour for Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru by Susan Shumsky. Today Susan reflects on her experience and suggests three things we could all learn from a similar experience ourselves.

Published by Skyhorse, Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru is available for purchase here.

Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru


Susan Shumsky is a successful author in the human potential field. But in the 1970s, in India, the Swiss Alps, and elsewhere, she served on the personal staff of the most famous guru of the 20th century―Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Maharishi died in 2008 at age ninety, but his influence endures through the spiritual movement he founded: TM (Transcendental Meditation). Other books have been written about him, but this spellbinding page-turner offers a rare insider’s view of life with the guru, including the time the Beatles studied at his feet in Rishikesh, India, and wrote dozens of songs under his influence.

Both inspirational and disturbing, Maharishi and Me illuminates Susan’s two decades living in Maharishi’s ashrams, where she grew from a painfully shy teenage seeker into a spiritually aware teacher and author. It features behind-the-scenes, myth-busting stories, and over 100 photos of Maharishi and his celebrity disciples (the Beatles, Deepak Chopra, Mia Farrow, Beach Boys, and many more).

Susan’s candid, honest portrayal draws back the curtain on her shattering, extreme emotional seesaws of heaven and hell at her guru’s hands. This compelling, haunting memoir will continue to challenge readers long after they turn its last page. It dismantles all previous beliefs about the spiritual path and how spiritual masters are supposed to behave.

Susan shares: “Merely by being in his presence, we disciples entered an utterly timeless place and rapturous feeling, and, at the same time, realized the utter futility and insanity of the mundane world.”

Susan’s heartfelt masterwork blends her experiences, exacting research, artistically descriptive and humorous writing, emotional intelligence, and intensely personal inner exploration into a feast for thought and contemplation. Neither starry-eyed nor antagonistic, it captures, from a balanced viewpoint, the essence of life in an ashram.

Three Things We Could ALL Learn from Time Out in an Ashram

A Guest Post by Susan Shumsky

After 22 years living in the ashrams and 6 years on the personal staff of the Beatles’ spiritual guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, I would say we could all learn a lot by disconnecting from the busyness of our mundane life and taking time for spiritual growth. Whether that’s in an ashram or our own home, everyone can benefit from meditation.

When Maharishi first arrived in the West in 1959 to teach his method of Transcendental Meditation (A.K.A. TM), there was no “yoga,” no “meditation,” and no “mantra.” Within 10 years he made these into household words, “with a little help from his friends”—the Beatles.

In the mid-1960s,we hippies sought higher states of consciousness through psychedelic drugs. But, just as the Beatles discovered, LSD was not the answer. After a few horrifying trips down the rabbit hole with Owsley’s sugar cubes, I never came down from the drug and suffered a perpetual LSD flashback.

Learning TM in early August 1967 changed all that. The Beatles also learned in late August 1967, and they studied with Maharishi in Rishikesh for a few weeks in 1968. I spent six months there in 1970.

The atmosphere and idyllic setting in the jungle on a high cliff overlooking the Ganges River in the holy area of Rishikesh was ideal for meditation. That’s where the Beatles enjoyed one of their most creative periods and composed the songs for the “White Album.”

So what are three things we could all learn at an ashram?

  1. Every moment is precious.

Maharishi urged us to make the best use of our time on earth. That means it’s vital to focus on seeking and finding the ultimate reality. Since meditation is a powerful way to do this, practicing meditation and helping others to learn meditation are top priorities.

During the two decades I lived in Maharishi’s ashrams, I found meditation could bring clarity of mind, physical health, emotional balance, spiritual awakening, and ultimate freedom. It can heal all kinds of disturbances and create a more meaningful life.

It’s essential to take time in our busy lives for meditation, affirmation, prayer, and/or other spiritual practices that are suitable for us.

  1. The spiritual path is not what we expect it to be.

People might think living in an ashram is thrilling and romantic. But it isn’t what we expect, and it isn’t a fantasy. During their stay in Rishikesh, the Beatles’ towering expectations included the secret of life, astral magic, supernormal powers, and global peace—all in one month.

We tend to judge others based on personal bias and clouded ego projections. With gurus, our projections are extreme—skewed by notions of how holy people are “supposed” to behave. We fantasize spiritual masters possess no emotions or failings and never make mistakes. They must be self-effacing, austere, chaste, pious (whatever that means), and, above all—poor.

What we don’t realize is enlightened beings are human beings. Absurd expectations of anyone, enlightened or otherwise, surely bring disillusionment. The Beatles left Rishikesh in a huff because Maharishi didn’t measure up to the ridiculous pipe dream they’d invented in their heads.

3.The guru must ultimately be left behind.

Maharishi was known for walking up to people out of the blue and saying stunning, life-changing statements. One day he handed me a flower and said, “Don’t look to anyone. When you don’t look to anyone, then everyone will look to you.”

Though I wanted to stay with Maharishi forever, he knew that wasn’t the best path for me. After I’d worked on his staff in Europe for six years, from 1971 to 1976, he called me into this room and said, “You are too dependent on me as a person. I won’t always be here.” He told me to return to the States and make a lot of money. This was the last thing I expected to hear from him, and the last thing I ever wanted to do. However, by getting kicked out of the nest, I discovered that either God would catch me, or I would have to learn how to fly—real fast.

I continued to live in Maharishi’s ashrams in the States for another 12 years, until 1989. Then I had to leave him behind altogether. It was tough, but what I found was much greater than I ever expected. What I found was myself.

(What a remarkable journey Susan. Thanks so much for a fascinating guest post.)

About Susan Shumsky

image004 (1)

Dr. Susan Shumsky has dedicated her life to helping people take command of their lives in highly effective, powerful, positive ways. She is the multiple award-winning, best-selling author of 14 books. A pioneer in the human potential field, she has spent 50 years teaching thousands of people meditation, prayer, affirmation, and intuition. Her book titles include Miracle Prayer, Divine Revelation, Exploring Meditation, Exploring Auras, Exploring Chakras, How to Hear the Voice of God, Ascension, Instant Healing, Awaken Your Third Eye, Awaken Your Divine Intuition, Color Your Chakras, and Maharishi & Me.

You can find out more by following Susan on Twitter @SusanShumsky and visiting her website. You’ll also find Susan on Facebook and there’s more with these other bloggers:

Blogger Tour Poster Maharishi

Staying in with Angela Panayotopulos

The Wake Up

I began these staying in posts for 2018 with a view to showcasing as many authors as I could because I simply can’t read all the books I have for review. What I hadn’t realised was that I would find my TBR increasing as new to me authors stayed in with me! Today I welcome Angela Panayotopulos to stay in with me.

Staying in with Angela Panayotopulos

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Angela. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

The Wake Up

The Wake Up, my most recently released novel. The Wake Up was six years in the making, primarily based on personal experiences, and it has since emerged as a dark fantasy novel interwoven with socio-political satire and rich with fairy tale allusions. It is set in an alternate U.S. where mirrors sometimes reflect the content of people’s character, terrifying the nation’s leaders and plunging society into a dystopia of fear.The Wake Up is meant to serve as a surreal modern-day fable of loss and love, examining how our choices determine the manner in which we live before we die, reframing the question of whether monsters make war or whether war makes monsters.

(Oo. Good question! What an interesting book The Wake Up sounds.)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Wake Up

Hopefully, a book that will — to paraphrase the words of John Updike — help unblock the traffic jams in people’s heads, whether they’re grappling with a life-altering decision regarding their relationship with themselves, their loved ones, their enemies, their communities, or society as a whole. It’s about illuminating and breaking through stages of denial and grief, and about choosing love and truth over everything else. I use writing as an avenue for expression in the hopes of connecting with others and leaving the world a tad more thoughtful and happier than as I found it. I hope this book helps accomplish just that.

(I think this sounds wonderful. My TBR pile is going to get bigger again I can see!)

What else have you brought along and why?

hug mug

It’s evening, so I’m going with a mug of tea instead of my beloved cup of coffee; still a hug in a mug, so I’m happy! I’ve brought some tea packets to go around; a bit of green tea with raspberry undertones and a spoonful of honey goes a very long way. And if a background soundtrack is doable while we read, just know that these three tracks were my top loops while I was writing the majority of the scenes: Paint it Black by Ciara, Talking in Your Sleep by The Civil Wars, and Bones by MS MR.

Now you’ve intrigued me further Angela as I want to know how that music links with the writing. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me about The Wake Up. It sounds fascinating.

The Wake Up

The Wake Up

For years, Lexi has repressed her secret gift: a rare ability to glimpse the angelic or demonic manifestations of people’s personalities in their mirror image. With her family’s glass-blowing studio as her playground and her mirror-making grandfather as her mentor, Lexi comes of age when the nation’s president—an undisclosed Seer who demonizes his gift as fiercely as Lexi treasures hers—bans man-made reflective surfaces, plunging the nation into a dystopia where government agencies annihilate families like Lexi’s.

As her family breaks apart, Lexi falls for a man who comes to stand for everything she despises. Betrayal and deceit ignite a domino effect of dangerous consequences in a world of blurring boundaries between the worldly and otherworldly. Caught up in a battle as old as time itself, the last mirror-maker must revamp a breakup into the greatest wake up of her life, embracing her forbidden capabilities in an attempt to rouse her world out of darkness.

The Wake Up is available for purchase here.

About Angela Panayotopulos

author photo

Angela Panayotopulos first tasted the magic of wordsmithing when she penned and illustrated her debut stories The Horse and His Baby Horse and The Wolf and the Monkey as a five-year-old. These did not become international bestsellers. However, Flint Hill Publishing Center stamped her books and contaminated her with the dangerous notion that she could write. She will be forever grateful.

At 22, Angela earned her Creative Writing M.F.A. from George Mason University, emerging as a full-time freelancer and part-time novelist. Her passion for storytelling is rivaled only by her love of dancing, adventuring with her beloved partner-in-crime, and savoring steaming cups of coffee (preferably while reading something by Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, or Laini Taylor). Her prior publications include The Art of War: a Novel, inspired by her grandparents’ ordeals during WWII, and The Cardiology of Broken Things, coauthored with the wonderful Dr. Lars J. Østergaard.

You can find Angela on Goodreads and Facebook.

Mavis and Dot by Angela Petch

Mavis and Dot

As life is rather busy, I’ve been turning down about 90% of the blog tours I’ve been asked to participate in over the last few months, but I’m so glad I agreed to take part in this one organised by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for Mavis and Dot by Angela Petch, not least because all profits from sales of the book will go towards research into a cure for cancer and with my sister-in-law currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer this feels like a personal post. I have my review to share with you today.

Mavis and Dot is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Mavis and Dot

Mavis and Dot Front Cover in RGB mode for screens jpg

A warm slice of life, funny, feel-good, yet poignant.

Introducing two eccentric ladies who form an unlikely friendship. Meet Mavis and Dot – two colourful, retired ladies who live in Worthington-on-Sea, where there are charity shops galore. Apart from bargain hunting, they manage to tangle themselves in escapades involving illegal immigrants, night clubs, nude modelling, errant toupees and more. And then there’s Mal, the lovable dog who nobody else wants.

A gently humorous, often side-splitting, heart-warming snapshot of two memorable characters with past secrets and passions.

Escape for a couple of hours into this snapshot of a faded, British seaside town. You’ll laugh and cry but probably laugh more. “This book is quirky and individual, and has great pathos…[it] will resonate with a lot of readers.” Gill Kaye – Editor of Ingenu(e).

Written with a light touch in memory of a dear friend who passed away from ovarian cancer, Angela Petch’s seaside tale is a departure from her successful Tuscan novels.

All profits from the sale of the books will go towards research into the cure for cancer.

My Review of Mavis and Dot

A chance meeting at a bridge club will lead to friendship for Mavis and Dot.

Mavis and Dot is a delightful book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I’m always cynically sceptical of claims about books in their advertising and when I saw ‘A warm slice of life, funny, feel-good, yet poignant’ I wasn’t quite prepared for how accurate a description this is. It sums up Mavis and Dot perfectly.

There’s fast paced action and so much packed into Mavis and Dot that I’d defy any reader not to be able to find an aspect that resonates with them. I particularly liked the concept that a larger sized, older woman like Mavis could still enjoy a sexual relationship. I was also very touched by the details of Dot’s past as they are gradually uncovered. There’s the potential for many more adventures for Mavis and Dot and I’d love to read them.

Both the main characters are very well developed so that they feel like real and vibrant women, warts and all. Neither is perfect and their flaws add to the realism and pleasure in the book. It’s so refreshing to read about a developing friendship between older protagonists as I feel they are underrepresented in fiction. Mavis’s outrageous outfits and Dot’s haphazard approach to housework and cooking give a brilliant message that we don’t have to be confined by convention.

I loved the balance of humour and pathos in the storytelling because the realities of life are so well balanced by quirkier and entertaining aspects. Mavis’s malapropisms had me chuckling and her early encounters with Lance were a real hoot. I don’t often laugh aloud when reading so-called humorous books but I certainly did here. That said, Angela Petch is not afraid to tackle big social issues head on so that there’s actually quite a bit to think about at the same time as being royally entertained.

Mavis and Dot is a warm-hearted exploration of life and friendship that I found beguiling and engaging. It’s a super read.

About Angela Petch

Mavis and Dot Author Photo

A prize-winning author, Angela Petch lives half the year in West Sussex and the summer months in a remote valley in the Tuscan Apennines. She recently signed a two-book deal with Bookouture for her Tuscan novels and Mavis and Dot is a temporary departure from her usual genre. She has travelled all her life: born in Germany, she spent six years as a child living in Rome, worked in Amsterdam after finishing her degree in Italian, moved to Italy for her job, then to Tanzania for three years. Her head is full of stories and she always carries a pen and note-book to capture more ideas.

In May 2017, Angela Petch won PRIMA’S monthly short story competition and recently had a dozen stories published by The People’s Friend magazine.

Mavis and Dot was written in memory of a dear friend who lost her battle with ovarian cancer. All profits from sales of the book will go towards research into a cure for cancer.

You can follow Angela on Twitter @Angela_Petch, visit her website and find her on Facebook. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Mavis and Dot Full Tour Banner

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.


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?


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.