Staying in with Jo Lambert

It’s far too long since lovely Jo Lambert has appeared on Linda’s Book Bag. Last time I was reviewing her novel Watercolours in the Rain in a post you’ll find here. Jo has also previously written a super guest post, telling us about writing in the first person and you can read that blog post here. Another of Jo’s books, The Other Side of the Morning, featured here. Today I’m delighted to stay in with Jo to find out what she’s been writing of late.

Staying in with Jo Lambert

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Jo. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me on this occasion.

Thank you for inviting me. It’s lovely to take a break from writing…

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

I’m currently writing a trilogy set on the south Cornish coast. The first book, Shadows on the Water, has just been published and it’s the one I’ve decided to bring with me today.

Congratulations on a new series. What can we expect from an evening in with Shadows on the Water?

Love, loss, family, friendship and suspense – all the usual ingredients you’ll find in my books. The icing on the cake for me was writing the story set against such a wonderful backdrop. The fictitious estuary towns of East and West Kingswater were created from a mix of Dartmouth and Fowey. They are places I’ve been to many times and made it much easier to give my characters a ‘home’  and create the scenes for the book.

That sounds wonderful Jo. I think we could all do with a trip to Cornwall! 

What else have you brought along and why?

A cream tea for us to share. An absolute must if you visit Cornwall isn’t it? I know there’s this thing about which comes first, jam or cream but on the Cornish side of the border it’s definitely jam first! Will you pour or shall I?

You pour Jo. I can’t hold myself back from those scones. A cream tea is one of my very favourite things and it always makes sense to me to put the jam on first even all the way up here in Lincolnshire! Did you bring anything else?

I always create a playlist for my books. Mood music which helps me write some of the scenes. If I had to choose one track from the list it would be Maggie Reilly’s Every Time We Touch which is  the theme for Ava and Alex my central characters.

And finally I’ve brought along a couple of photos. One of Dartmouth and one of Fowey. Without photographic memories like these it would not have been possible to create the feel of my fictitious estuary town of Kingswater.  We’re hoping to go back to Fowey in early October – more research for book 3!

I can quite understand why you want to return as soon as you can Jo. Let’s hope you get there! Shadows on the Water seems to fit the setting perfectly. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about it. Now, pass me another scone please whilst I add a few more details for blog readers about Shadows on the Water.

Shadows on the Water

After the tragic death of her fiancé, Ava Warren is slowly rebuilding her life.  She has a supportive family, great friends and a job she loves, managing holiday letting company Estuary Escapes in her home town of Kingswater. Another relationship is the last thing she wants or needs. Until one evening she meets Alex Penhaligon.

Alex’s father Sam owns Heron’s Gate Vineyard and Alex has recently returned from California, where he has been working for the past five years.  A case of mistaken identity gets them off to a bad start. But discovering his error, Alex is anxious to make amends and soon persuades Ava that he’s not quite as arrogant as she thinks he is. As their friendship begins to turn into something much deeper, Ava wonders whether she can at last put the past behind her and make a new future with Alex.

But someone is watching.  A man who not only thinks Ava should be his but also holds a long term grudge against Alex. And he’s determined to get his own way irrespective of the lengths he has to go to or who gets hurt in the process.

Set in Cornwall Shadows on the Water is a story of family ties, lost love and tangled loyalties.

Shadows on the Water is available for purchase here.

About Jo Lambert

Jo Lambert lives on the eastern edge of the city of Bath. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors.  She has been writing since 2008. Her first five books, a set of linked romantic sagas following the lives of several families in rural West Somerset, were followed in 2015 by Summer Moved On, a contemporary romance set in South Devon. A sequel, Watercolours in the Rain was published 2017,

In June 2018 Jo signed to Choc Lit and her debut A Cornish Affair, set in North Cornwall was published in 2019 under their Ruby Fiction imprint.

Her latest novel Shadows on the Water is due for publication on 26th July. It is the first in a three book series. She is currently busy working on the second which will be published next year.

When she isn’t writing she reads and reviews. She also has an active blog.  Jo loves travel, red wine and music and long as it has a great melody and lyrics. Oh and she often takes the odd photograph or two…

For more information you can find Jo Lambert on Facebook, Instagram and her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @Jolambertwriter and read her blog.

A Year of Living Simply by Kate Humble

My grateful thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to participate in the publication celebrations for Kate Humble’s A Year of Living Simply: My Journey From Complexity To Contentment. It’s a real honour to be sharing my review on publication day and to help start the tour.

A Year of Living Simply is published today, 17th September 2020, by Octopus imprint Aster and is available for purchase through the links here.

A Year of Living Simply

If there is one thing that most of us aspire to, it is, simply, to be happy.  And yet attaining happiness has become, it appears, anything but simple. Having stuff – The Latest, The Newest, The Best Yet – is all too often peddled as the sure fire route to happiness.  So why then, in our consumer-driven society, is depression, stress and anxiety ever more common, affecting every strata of society and every age, even, worryingly, the very young?  Why is it, when we have so much, that many of us still feel we are missing something and the rush of pleasure when we buy something new turns so quickly into a feeling of emptiness, or purposelessness, or guilt?

So what is the route to real, deep, long lasting happiness?  Could it be that our lives have just become overly crowded, that we’ve lost sight of the things – the simple things – that give a sense of achievement, a feeling of joy or excitement? That make us happy.  Do we need to take a step back, reprioritise?  Do we need to make our lives more simple?

Kate Humble’s fresh and frank exploration of a stripped-back approach to life is uplifting, engaging and inspiring – and will help us all find balance and happiness every day.

My Review of A Year of Living Simply

An investigation into making life simpler.

I loved A Year of Living Simply totally unreservedly. I loved meeting the people between its pages, I loved being chatted to by Kate Humble’s gloriously conversational style, I loved seeing nature and discovering Kate’s successes and failures so that when I was away from the book I was thinking about it and I loved the sense of belonging I found when I picked it up again.

I’d defy anyone to read A Year of Living Simply and not be inspired to change something in their life. It may be something as simple as sorting a shelf (and I have) to a more life altering action as deciding to live off grid, but Kate Humble’s honest, beautifully written book feels like a true catalyst for change at the most personal of levels. This isn’t a self-help book but my word it delivers food for thought and ideas to enhance any reader’s life. It also affords a glimpse into the life of the author that feels a privilege to see.

It took me a long time to read A Year of Living Simply because I had a considerable amount going on in my life but every time I returned to it I found it complete balm for the soul. It was akin to meeting up with an old friend you haven’t seen for years and yet it’s as if you only saw them a couple of hours ago. And In the same way Kate Humble discovers new skills, I learnt all manner of things from her warm, conversational, humane style. I’m usually sceptical of celebrity endorsements for books, but the comments attached to A Year of Living Simply are absolutely right. It is a treat of a read.

As well as the warm, witty and frequently self-deprecating style that makes Kate Humble’s writing so engaging, there’s so much that educates and informs the reader. The accompanying monochrome illustrations have no right to evoke such beauty and emotion, but they do. And they fit the writing perfectly, especially as Kate Humble writes with painterly prose when she is describing landscape so that A Year of Living Simply transports the reader into nature from the comfort of their own home. I didn’t have to be buffeted by wind and rain on a long walk as Kate Humble does it for me, but equally her words made me want to get outside, made me appreciate what I have and made me behave slightly differently as a result.

Although I’ve always admired her public persona, I’ve now fallen head over heels in love with Kate Humble – and her writing, which is joyful, entertaining and fascinating. Don’t miss A Year of Living Simply. In a world where’s been considerable ugliness recently, A Year of Living of Living Simply is a thing of beauty. At the very least it will provide you with joy and a sense of belonging and community, but it also might just change your life. It’s wonderful.

About Kate Humble

Kate Humble is a farmer, writer, conservationist, entrepreneur and one of the UK’s best-known TV presenters. She started her television career as a researcher, later presenting programmes such as ‘Animal Park’, ‘Springwatch & Autumnwatch’, ‘Lambing Live’, ‘Living with Nomads’, ‘A Country Life for Half the Price’ and ‘Back to the Land’. Her last book, Thinking On My Feetwas shortlisted for The Wainwright Prize and The Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award.

For more information, follow Kate on Twitter @katehumble, or visit her website. You’ll also find Kate on Instagram and there’s more with these other bloggers:

The Suspects by Katharine Johnson

You know, there are both pleasures and problems in being a blogger. A pleasure is being offered and sent fabulous books on a regular basis. A problem is getting round to reading them all. Lovely Katharine Johnson sent me a copy of The Suspects in return for an honest review almost 18 months ago and it is only now that I have managed to fit in reading it. My enormous thanks to Katy for a copy of her book.

The Suspects is available for purchase here.

The Suspects

Shallow Grave meets The Secret History in this quirky psychological thriller

When you’re bound together by secrets and lies who do you trust?

Bristol, 1988.

Five young graduates on the threshold of their careers buy a house together in order to get a foot on the property ladder before prices spiral out of their reach. But it soon becomes the house share from hell.

After their New Year’s Eve party, they discover a body – and it’s clear they’ll be the first suspects. As each of them has a good reason from their past not to trust the police, they come up with a solution – one which forces them into a life of secrets and lies.

But can they trust each other?

My Review of The Suspects

A house share leads to more than might be expected…

What a cracking book! I can’t decide if I wish I’d read The Suspects sooner or I’m pleased to have been able to read it for the first time now. Either way, it’s a super, fast paced thriller that kept me guessing right to the last page and I thought it was excellent. I have to comment on the cover too. The balance of light and shade reflects the balance of good and evil, light and shade, in the characters’ lives. There’s a sense of always looking over your shoulder, of wondering when or if you might be found out that is such an important aspect of the story. I loved the creation of time in The Suspects too. The era is clear and authentic with board games, music and television adding to the picture without ever dominating.

The plot is tautly constructed so that Katharine Johnson kept me guessing about who had done precisely what throughout. Whilst all the characters are implicated in actions that are at best foolish and at times illegal, I believed in them completely. I can see how easy it would be to be sucked into their lives and I found it fascinating. Reading The Suspects made me wonder how I might have responded as the events unfolded. The pace is breathless and although it’s a short book it did take me a while to read because I had to give myself a break to allow my pulse to slow at times. I found it incredibly exciting.

Told from Emily’s first person point of view The Suspects has a claustrophobic, dangerous, intimacy that creates a brilliant atmosphere of menace. It’s the interplay between the characters, their rationale for their behaviour and the way Katherine Johnson explores how our actions have repercussions across the decades that I found so compelling. Back stories and truths are gradually uncovered through such skilled writing that the reader has a thorough understanding of every one of the housemates. Each of these young people has a flawed and very realistic character. Selfish, ambitious, foolish, insecure, duplicitous – they are all at fault and yet I didn’t blame any one of them. I felt as much part of their story, because of the excellent writing, as they are themselves. The Suspects is as much about friendship and identity as it is about crime and I loved that element.

It’s so hard to review The Suspects without revealing something that might spoil the read for others. Let’s just say I thought it was a superb story that held me entranced throughout and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Katharine Johnson

Katharine Johnson is the author of gripping psychological and historical suspense stories set in the UK and Italy. It’s always the whydunit that intrigues her most. Katharine’s characters are flawed but not evil – they’re ordinary people who through a bad decision find themselves in nightmarish situations.

Born in Bristol, she currently lives in Berkshire. As a journalist she’s written for a variety of magazines, mostly about home and lifestyle. She has a passion for crime novels. old buildings and all things Italian (except tiramisu.)

When not writing you’ll often find her drinking coffee, exploring cities, restoring her house in Italy or out walking with her partner in crime-writing, Monty the spaniel, while thinking up plots.

For further information, follow Katy on Twitter @kjohnsonwrites, visit her blog or find her on Instagram and Facebook.

Staying in with Billy Moran

With the kind of year 2020 has been, I think Billy Moran’s Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing might be just the book we all need! I was so sorry I couldn’t squeeze in reading it in time for the blog tour, but I am thrilled that Billy has agreed to stay in with me to tell me all about it instead. My grateful thanks to Howard Davidson at Sauce Materials Books for inviting me to participate in this tour.

Staying in with Billy Moran

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Billy.

Thanks for having me – nice place.

Thanks – bit dusty though as I haven’t bothered much over lockdown! Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

 

I’ve brought along a copy of my debut novel Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing because it’s out today!

Oh! How exciting. Happy publication day. Congratulations.

It’s got a nice, bright retro rave flyer front cover (by an amazing designer called Alex Kirby), with some kind quotes from writers I really look up to on the back, and 349 pages of fun and drama in between!

Sounds great. So, what can we expect from an evening in with Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing?

Expect a bit of a rollercoaster ride – Eleanor Oliphant meets Agatha Christie at a rave!

I love that description!

There’s a quirky, naughty, lovable group of characters to hang out with, a crime mystery to keep you hooked, some family tragedy to pluck on the heart strings, some 90s nostalgia to turn back the clock with, and as I’m a writer on Horrible Histories by day, hopefully I’ll make you laugh once or twice along the way too. It’s a bit of a paean to and parody of self-help books as well and there’s a concept in there – can you find happiness by following a set of rules?

I think Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing sounds absolutely brilliant. I know your Horrible Histories well so I imagine I’m in for a treat with this book. 

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

Well I’m always the one that DJ’s at parties. I’ll usually play anything from Taylor Swift to Chic, and Wham to David Bowie, but today I’ve brought along a party playlist not everyone’s going to like, because it’s all rave music from 1992.

Ah. Let me just nip and get some earplugs…

I’m sorry Linda – but it will usually make someone get up and dance you didn’t expect to. If no-one else is coming round, maybe it will be you?

Well I must admit, I do like a bit of a bop! Maybe you’ll join me?

Plus I’m in the party mood of course – it’s a big day. My book isn’t about rave, and the rave scenes are in fact described as being totally silent for our main character, as if he is already re-living them, even as he experiences them for the first time – but this was my writing playlist, which helped me recapture the extraordinary feeling of 1992.

I do think music can be incredibly evocative Billy.

I’ve also brought along a cocktail called a Rosemary Gimlet. I believe every party should start with a strong cocktail, except perhaps a Christening. This one has gin, lemon and rosemary syrup – you’re going to love it, and then fall over. Have three and you’ll change your mind about the playlist I promise.

I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to drinking but I do like a cocktail and if it helps drown out some of that music, I’m in!

Finally, I have brought along my hangover pre-cure. This is a winner: one Berocca; one Dioralyte sachet; two soluble aspirin; one Nytol; a few drops of Echinacea; all mixed up in a pint of tap water. You’ll thank me on the morning.

I have a feeling I might just need it! Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing Billy. Happy publication day again. Now, if you could just turn that music down a fraction, and mix me a Rosemary Gimlet, I’ll give blog readers all the information they need about Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing:

Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing

Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing

Chris Pringle: simpleton, casualty or local hero?

Propped up by biscuits, benefits and a baffling faith in his plan, he lives in a world where every day is obsessively the same: wedged in his recliner, watching murder mysteries, taking notes. Until the day a serious and peculiar crime stumps the local police – and Chris announces he can solve it.

Accompanied by a loyal crew of chancers, committed to making amends, and pursued by a depressed Detective Inspector, trying to join the dots, Chris heads back to the raves of his past, where a heartbreaking personal tragedy lies abandoned. But what exactly is Chris Pringle looking for? Has he really worked out the way to find it? And what will happen if he does?

A quirky, nostalgic, heart-warming mystery for fans of Gail Honeyman, Agatha Christie, Jennifer Egan, Ian Rankin, Matt Haig, Irvine Welsh, Ben Aaronovitch, Dave Eggers, Jon Niven, John Kennedy Toole, Belinda Bauer and Harland Miller.

Published by

Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing… is available for purchase from Amazon, Waterstones and Bookbub.

About Billy Moran

Billy Moran is an award-winning television writer for shows including Horrible Histories. He grew up in the West Country, where his teenage years were rudely interrupted by the Second Summer of Love. Since then he has been embracing mysteries, craving solutions and writing lots of lists. He lives in London and has two children, two cats, one football team and several favourite detectives. Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing is his debut novel.

You can find Billy on Goodreads.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

 

The Diver and the Lover by Jeremy Vine

My grateful thanks to Jenny Platt at Hodder and Stoughton for sending me a copy of The Diver and the Lover by Jeremy Vine in return for an honest review.

Published by Coronet on 3rd September 2020, The Diver and the Lover is available for purchase through the links here.

The Diver and the Lover

Soaked in sunlight, love and the mysteries surrounding a famous artist The Diver and the Lover is a novel inspired by true events.

It is 1951 and sisters Ginny and Meredith have travelled from England to Spain in search of distraction and respite. The two wars have wreaked loss and deprivation upon the family and the spectre of Meredith’s troubled childhood continues to haunt them. Their journey to the rugged peninsula of Catalonia promises hope and renewal.

While there they discover the artist Salvador Dali is staying in nearby Port Lligat. Meredith is fascinated by modern art and longs to meet the famous surrealist.

Dali is embarking on an ambitious new work, but his headstrong male model has refused to pose. A replacement is found, a young American waiter with whom Ginny has struck up a tentative acquaintance.

The lives of the characters become entangled as family secrets, ego and the dangerous politics of Franco’s Spain threaten to undo the fragile bonds that have been forged.

A powerful story of love, sacrifice and the lengths we will go to for who – or what – we love.

My Review of The Diver and the Lover

Meredith and Ginny need one another for very different reasons.

I had seen a few mixed comments about The Diver and the Lover so I was intrigued to read it for myself. I very much enjoyed it, not least because of the sweeping scope of the narrative which draws in the reader beautifully.

Jeremy Vine has meticulously researched Dali’s painting Christ of St John on the Cross that has been the catalyst for the story, and blended factual detail, events and real people with character and fiction in an entertaining, intriguing and absorbing read. I confess my ignorance of many elements of this story, so that I found my pleasure in reading The Diver and the Lover extended beyond the confines of the smashing narrative as I looked up various aspects, having been interested by their inclusion in the book. I’m desperate to see the painting for myself now too.

I found the title intriguing. Certainly there are several divers and lovers within the narrative, but the title could refer entirely to Adam, or someone like Meredith might be the lover through her love of Dali, art and family or perhaps The Diver and the Lover could represent a more allegorical concept with characters diving into relationships and free-falling from sanity, from their usual lives and from normality. I loved this almost contradictory aspect to contemplating the story. I think The Diver and the Lover rewards a contemplative approach to reading it as the more I thought about the narrative, the more I found.

And it’s a cracking narrative. With Ginny and Meredith at its heart, The Diver and the Lover spans geographical location from Scotland to Spain and delves into the history of Franco as well as Dali and Hollywood film so that there really is something for any reader here. From a relatively quiet beginning that reminded me of Elizabeth Buchan’s writing, the narrative builds until there are dramatic moments that I simply wasn’t expecting. I thought the balance between national and personal drama was very well achieved, and with the factual detail cleverly woven into the story I believed in the plot completely.

I found the characters fascinating. Meredith’s mental health condition, Ginny’s transition from child to woman, the arrogance of Dali and the diffidence of Adam spiced with Siobhan’s scheming jealousy, all created a cast of believable people. Indeed, I would have loved to tell Siobhan what I thought of her in person!

However, plot and character aside, once again it was theme that made The Diver and the Lover such a compelling read for me. Jeremy Vine explores passion and obsession so that his own interest in the painting shines through alongside the characters’ emotional, sexual, monetary and artistic desire, making for an intense atmosphere that I found captivating. I so enjoyed the way love is presented too. What touched me most was Meredith’s desperate desire to find family love and the overall message that fame and fortune pale into insignificance when place alongside friendship, acceptance and belonging felt very moving. There’s a brilliantly depicted picture of both avarice and altruism and when these themes are placed alongside real world events as they are here in The Diver and the Lover they make for a super read.

I thought Jeremy Vine’s blend of history, fiction and theme made The Diver and the Lover an interesting, engaging and actually very moving story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Jeremy Vine

Jeremy Vine is one of the UK’s best-known broadcasters. He presents a weekday show on Radio 2, radio’s most popular news programme. He also presents Jeremy Vine on Channel 5, a daily current affairs programme, and he fronts Eggheads, one of the longest-running quiz shows in British TV history.

Jeremy is an accomplished journalist and writer and has previously published two works of non-fiction.

He lives in Chiswick with his wife and their two daughters.

For more information, follow Jeremy on Twitter @theJeremyVine and find him on Facebook.

It’s here! @CapitalCrime1 Book Club

capital crime logo

Earlier this week postie arrived with a very special packet – the first monthly posting from Capital Crime’s Book Club. I previously told you about this fantastic new initiative from Adam Hamdy and David Headley in a post you can read here. Now that the book club is up and running, you’ll find FAQs answered here, but one of the most brilliant aspects is the premise that subscribers will receive two carefully chosen books (postage free) once a month with prices starting from £10 a month – the cost of a couple of coffees in many places.

My parcel arrived bearing a very familiar logo and immediately I knew I was in for a treat. Opening up this first month’s book club I was thrilled to find a hardback signed copy of Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club with a paperback of Mark Edwards’ The House Guest coupled with a fabulous branded The House Guest pen – one of those with a torch and screen nib included.

With the hardback RRP for The Thursday Murder Club at £14.99 and the paperback The House Guest at £8.99 I think you can see that paying £10 a month for a 12 month subscription to have two books delivered straight to your home is a real bargain! Three and six month subscriptions are also available.

Let me tell you a bit about this month’s books:

The Thursday Murder Club

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In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

You can read my review of The Thursday Murder Club here.

The House Guest

A perfect summer. A perfect stranger. A perfect nightmare.

When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers—let alone invite them into your home—but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…

*

Now, don’t you think that’s an absolute treat for a tenner?

You can sign up to the Capital Crime Book Club here. What are you waiting for?

A Guest Post by Elizabeth Suggs to Celebrate Collective Darkness

I have a certain amount of admiration for those who write and read horror as it’s a genre I tend to avoid because it disturbs me too much. Consequently, when Elizabeth Suggs, one of the authors of Collective Darkness, got in touch to tell me about this new anthology my interest was stimulated and I simply had to invite Elizabeth on to Linda’s Book Bag to explain a bit more about why I might be responding to the thought of reading horror as I do!

Collective Darkness was published on 5th September 2020 and is available in bookshops and your local Amazon.

Collective Darkness

As a child, did you hide under your blankets when you were scared of the dark?
After reading some of the scariest stories from new and up-and-coming authors, we won’t blame you if you start hiding again. Take a journey with us into the twisted mind of horror.
“The Fallout” travels through the unknown, while “Feast” will make you never want to love again.

Read these and many more stories to know what it truly means to be afraid of the dark.

Collective Darkness is the first anthology published by Editing.mee. For more information visit the website.

Darkness, Horror, and the Presumption of Malevolence

A Guest Post by Elizabeth Suggs

Rod Serling famously dubbed the expanse between our greatest fears and the apex of human knowledge the dimension of imagination, the Twilight Zone. The reference to twilight (half-light, half dark) is not lost on astute readers of speculative fiction, well-acquainted with the moral symbolism of light and dark. It is the darker edge of twilight merging with night that concerns us because this is where nightmares dwell. Delving deeper into the darkness is what fuels the fearful mind.

As the narrator of “Padua’s Eyes” (by Jonathan Reddoch) wisely observed, “In the dark, anything is possible.” In theory, what we don’t see could actually be anything: the good, the bad, and the ugly, and maybe the deformed, and malnourished, beyond gruesome, starving for human flesh with deranged eyes and protruding masses of putrid exterior teeth, and bulging pink membranes, giant leech tentacles that stretch forth to suckle, drooling maws craving your skin and your sinews and your yellowed toenails… or perhaps what is unseen is glorious and beautiful or totally mundane and boring. Yawn!

We admit that the fear excites us. This is because an underlying assumption of fear is that darkness prevails where evil lurks. Angels hide not in the shadows. Demons do. But why do we believe so?

Darkness is often defined by what it isn’t: light. Light reveals all. Darkness is clandestine. Darkness thrives in the night, the woods, a secluded castle, a murky black pond (“Pond Scum” by Alex child),the abandoned structures far from the bright lights of secured society. These poorly-lit scenes are the realm of the unseen. Fear of the unknown is formed by ignorance, blindness, and mystery.

The creaking floorboard in the old attic, what caused it? It could be a horrendous beast with razor-sharp claws. Or simply a harmless tabby cat. Until the curtain is pulled, it is both tabby and tiger. Yet it is only the possibility of the tiger that raises the hairs on our arms.

Point of fact: if Schrödinger’s Cat were a short story written by a horror author, we might foolishly predict that a blissful cat remains warmly nestled within the rigid dimensions of the experimental container, very much alive. Instead, our scientifically-minded protagonist would open the box to find the feline subject missing, unexpectantly neither alive nor dead! The scientist stands sheepishly, mouth agape, only for the mutated creature to spring upon us all from the rafters, consuming all with its irradiated mandibles. Meow!

Darkness is often conceived of as cold, or in scientific terms, it represents the lack of heat (or motion/energy). Unfeeling, uncaring, and unfriendly are just a few ways to describe coldness. This only lends additional negative connotation to our perceptions.

The presumption of malevolence of the unknown is precisely what makes darkness an integral element of the horror genre, or rather what darkness represents as the undefined variable. We fear, they say, what we don’t understand, precisely because we assume the worst. If fantasy represents naïve nostalgia, and science fiction responsible if hesitant optimism, horror is the pessimistic know-it-all triplet of the group, solemnly/gleefully whispering “I told you so” to the devoured sibling reckless enough to venture down the basement while mother is away.

*

Eek Elizabeth. Thank you so much for a fascinating guest post. I’m not sure how far you’ve allayed my reluctance to read horror, but I’ll be checking under the bed before I go to sleep tonight!

About Editing.Mee

Elizabeth Suggs

You’ll find Editing.Mee and Collective Darkness on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @CollectiveDark1. Follow and like them to receive a free digital copy of Little Darkness bonus content with a purchase of Collective Darkness. Share one of their posts and tag two friends and Collective Darkness to enter a $25 giveaway.

Jonathan Reddoch is a father, a copy editor, a test developer, an academic, and a lifelong learner. He rarely dabbles in writing horror but loves to read it and watch it and occasionally live it. He is the Associate editor in the anthology.

September 5 – ericarobynreads

September 7 – mybookaday    

September 8  – bookreviewsandmorebyKathy 

September 9 – communitybookstop

September 10 –  wishfulendings

September 11 – linda’sbookbag

September 14 – biblioleviosa

September 15 – editingmee

September 16 – crossroadreview

September 17 – taffyscandy

September 18 –  bonnieharris

September 19 –  utahgrafffamily

Staying in with Sue Clark

I can’t believe it’s almost two years since Sue Clark appeared on Linda’s Book Bag with a guest post all about the swinging sixties that you can read here. At that point Sue was involved in a very special project to launch the book she’s staying in with me today to chat about. Let’s find out more!

Staying in with Sue Clark

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag Sue. 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?

My debut novel, the comic fiction, Note to Boy, just out in July 2020.

Congratulations! What can we expect from an evening in with Note to Boy?

Humour! Note to Boy is an unashamed comedy and comes at a time when I reckon we need all the laughs we can get.

You’re absolutely right Sue. We certainly need humour with all that’s been happening in the world. What is Note to Boy about?

It’s about the mayhem that follows when the worlds of an outrageous fashion diva and a downtrodden modern teenager collide. She wants her celebrity life back. He just wants a life.

Though this is my debut novel, I’m not new to comedy. Over the years I’ve written scripts for comedians including Lenny Henry, Tracey Ullman, David Jason and Roy Hudd and contributed to BBC radio and TV shows such as Weekending, News Huddlines and Alas Smith and Jones.

You sound perfectly placed to write humour Sue!

And Note to Boy seems to be tickling some funny bones, judging by the reviews:

‘A fabulous read.’

‘Stayed up to 3.30 am to finish it.’

‘A comic novel that’s actually funny.’

‘Definitely an ‘odd couple’ – definitely a good book.’

‘Had me smiling from the first page.’

‘A seriously funny book.’

Those are great reviews! 

Having said that, I hope the novel also has poignant and thought-provoking moments. It touches on some deeper themes, like the destructive nature of celebrity, and how both the elderly and the underprivileged young can be marginalised and underestimated. But mostly it’s about entertaining the reader.

I think Note to Boy sounds fabulous Sue. I must put it on my towering TBR!

What else have you brought along and why?

That’s easy! Throughout Note to Boy, one of the two main characters, Eloise, demands that Bradley (the Boy of the title) keeps her supplied with three ‘staples’: gin, biscuits and cake. In the spirit of literary authenticity, I’m giving them a go.

That suits me Sue – as long as you’re going to share!

Also, since part of the book is set in the crazy days of London in the Swinging Sixties, I’ve brought along fab and groovy music from the Archies, the Fifth Dimension, and Tommy James and the Shondells. You must remember them!

Er  – I was born at the start of the sixties but I was more aware of Herman’s Hermits…

As a guest, I’ve invited Molly Parkin, an outrageous fashion celebrity of the 1960s who inspired some of Eloise’s fictional excesses. Though she won’t come.

Maybe the gin will entice her.

And lastly, I’m wearing – I use the term loosely – an indecently short minidress from the bottom of my wardrobe. For I was – just – old enough to experience Swinging London for myself. But the dress won’t do up at the back and now the zip and I are both stuck.

I wondered why you were dressed like that but was too polite to mention it. I’ll give you a hand with the zip in a minute Sue. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Note to Boy. Crack open the gin and I’ll give blog readers a few more details.

Note to Boy

Eloise is an erratic, faded fashionista. Bradley is a glum but wily teenager. In need of help to write her racy 1960s memoirs, the former ‘shock frock’ fashion guru tolerates his common ways. Unable to remember his name, she calls him Boy.

Desperate to escape a brutal home life, he puts up with her bossiness and confusing notes.

Both guard secrets. How did she lose her fame and fortune? What is he scheming – beyond getting his hands on her bank card? And just what’s hidden in that mysterious locked room?

Note to Boy is available for purchase here.

About Sue Clark

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In a varied career Sue Clark has been a scriptwriter, journalist and PR copywriter. She’s worked for BBC radio and TV, local newspapers, and no end of corporates. Her TV and radio credits include: Alas Smith and Jones, Weekending, and The News Huddlines.

She’s interviewed John Humphreys and Ronnie Corbett and penned funny lines for Lenny Henry, June Whitfield, Tracy Ullman, Roy Hudd and David Jason, among others.

Although the comic fiction Note to Boy is billed as her debut novel, there are others lurking in desk drawers that may one day see the light. And there will be more to come!

She lives in an Oxfordshire market town much like the fictional setting of Midsomer Murders with her long-suffering husband.

You can follow Sue on Twitter @SueClarkAuthor and visit her website or find her on Facebook for more information.

Staying in with Maggie Richell-Davies

I love historical fiction and I love crime dramas too so what could be better than to have Maggie Richell-Davies here on the blog today to tell me all about her debut novel which blends both elements?

Staying in with Maggie Richell-Davies

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Maggie. Thanks so much for agreeing to stay in with me. Which of your books have you brought to share this evening and why have you brought it?

You are virtually confined to the house. Forced to spend your days and nights in close proximity with people you suspect might drive you mad. In a climate of uncertainty, and fear.

Sound familiar? But this is not the corona virus lockdown. This is Georgian London.

The background of uncertainty in my debut novel – which won the Historical Writers’ Association 2020 Unpublished Novel Award this spring – explains why it feels appropriate to bring The Servant to share with you this evening.

Oh yes indeed. Tell me more. What can we expect from an evening in with The Servant?

My heroine is a fifteen-year-old servant who is sent to work in the shuttered house of a disgraced aristocrat. Hannah has known herself to be “an object to be disposed of” since, at the age of 10, she was orphaned and dumped in the poorhouse. But as her life unravels, in addition to hard work and cruelty, she encounters mystery, villainy and terrible danger.

I rather like Hannah already. What inspired you to create her?

Hannah’s story was inspired by a visit I made to London’s Foundling Museum, with its heart-breaking tokens of ribbon or lace or coins left by desperate mothers in the hope they might, one day, be able to reclaim their precious child. It holds a glass up to the struggles of the vulnerable female servant classes in the days before the safety net of social services.

Eighteenth-century London was a place of great wealth, but also desperate poverty. Historians estimate that as many as a thousand babies a year were abandoned on its streets. A retired sea captain of the time, Thomas Coram, was so affected by their plight that he spent seventeen long years campaigning to set up Britain’s first ever home for such unwanted children. Crucial to his success was the support of sixteen ladies of rank, headed by the Duchess of Somerset, whose signatures on The Ladies Petition presented to George III in 1735 finally made his dream a reality.

Gosh. I’d never heard of Thomas Coram. The Foundling Museum sounds fascinating.

The Museum is a place I would urge everyone to visit now that it is open again.

I’d love to. So, what else have you brought along this evening and why have you brought it?

The other book I have brought with me is, appropriately,a copy of London’s Forgotten Children by Gilliam Pugh, chief executive of Coram (the Foundling Hospital’s present-day incarnation) from 1997-2005, which tells the story of Thomas Coram and his quest to give a future to infants whose mothers were unable to do so through extreme poverty or an unwanted pregnancy.

Thomas Coram sounds an amazing man.

Since we are in the realms of fantasy, it is the tenacious Captain Coram that I would love to bring along with me looking, as he does in Hogarth’s famous portrait, like everyone’s dream grandfather.

I think we can allow you that Maggie!

Our refreshment should be hot chocolate, the fashionable drink of the day, infused with pepper, cardamom and cinnamon. There will also be a plate of gingerbread men, since Gilliam Pugh writes of the soft-hearted Thomas Coram, in his later years, being “a familiar sight, sitting in his red coat, in the arcade in the grounds of the Hospital handing out gingerbread men to the children with tears in his eyes”.

I adore gingerbread!

Finally, my choice of music. The tenor, Aled Jones, has recorded a poignant adaptation of a Handel aria about love and constancy – a theme also explored in The Servant.

Did you not hear My Lady

Go down the garden singing?

Blackbird and thrush were silent

To hear the alleys ringing.

 

Oh, saw you not My Lady

Out in the garden there?

Shaming the rose and lily

For she is twice as fair.

 

Though I am nothing to her

Though she must rarely look at me

And though I could never woo her

I love her till I die.

 

Surely you heard My Lady

Go down the garden singing?

Silencing all the songbirds

And setting the alleys ringing.

But surely you see My Lady

Out in the gardens there

Rivalling the glittering sunshine

In a glory of golden hair.

That sounds glorious Maggie. It seems as if you’ve lived and breathed The Servant. What do readers think about it? 

This is what people are saying about The Servant:

You are dropped straight into a scene of gothic darkness.” CMP, Amazon Review

“I fell in love with Hannah immediately. Her pain, her humiliation, her desperation reached through the pages of this beautiful book and grabbed my heart.” Jeanie Thornton, The Books Delight.

“I am not in the habit of writing to authors, but read The Servant yesterday – all in one go. I couldn’t put it down! It was a joy to read and such a good story.” Thelma H. via email.

“Hannah is an admirable heroine, brave, strong and entirely credible, while the love story is an uplifting thread running through the book. It is also beautifully written with such elegant language. I found this a compelling read that I continued to think about long after I had finished.” Nicola C. Goodreads

 “A brilliant mix of intrigue, history and romance.” Connie G, Amazon Review

Ooh. Those are such good responses Maggie. I’m delighted I have a copy of The Servant on my towering TBR!

Since, in these difficult days, we have been advised that reading is just about the best thing to relieve both stress and anxiety, why not step out of the twenty-first century and into Hannah’s intriguing world of 1765?

That sounds very good advice indeed. Thank you for staying in with me to chat about The Servant Maggie. You share out the gingerbread men and I’ll give blog readers more details:

The Servant

1765.

London.

Young Hannah Hubert may be the granddaughter of a French merchant and the daughter of a Spitalfields silk weaver, but she has come down in the world.

Sent one spring day as maidservant to a disgraced aristocrat, she finds herself in a house full of mysteries – with a locked room and strange auctions being held behind closed doors.

As a servant, she has little power but – unknown to her employers – she can read. And it is only when she uses her education to uncover the secrets of the house, that she realises the peril she is in.

Hannah is unable to turn to the other servant, Peg, who is clearly terrified of their employers and keeps warning her to find alternative work.

But help might come from Thomas, the taciturn farmer delivering milk to the neighbourhood, or from Jack Twyford, a friendly young man apprenticed to his uncle’s bookselling business. Yet Thomas is still grieving for his late wife – and can she trust Jack, since his uncle is one of her master’s associates?

Hannah soon discovers damning evidence she cannot ignore.

She must act alone, but at what price?

The Servant is available for purchase here.

About Maggie Richell-Davies

Love historical thrillers? Unsurprised that someone who lived for 20 years in a timbered house, built during the English Civil War has written one?

Maggie was born in Northumberland and has a first-class honours degree from the Open University.

Her debut novel, The Servant, won the Historical Writers’ Association 2020 Unpublished Novel Award, together with a publishing contract from Sharpe Books.

The thriller was inspired by a visit to London’s Foundling Hospital Museum, with its heart-breaking stories about the tokens desperate women left there in the hope that they might, one day, be able to reclaim their child.

Maggie has had short stories published, been shortlisted for Bridport Flash and the Olga Sinclair Award and longlisted for the Exeter Novel Award. She is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Royal Tunbridge Wells with husband, Mike, but also spent a number of years in Peru, Africa and the United States.

You can follow Maggie on Twitter @maggiedavieswr1 and visit her website for more information.

Only Human by Diane Chandler

It’s a real treat to be reviewing Diane Chandler’s Only Human on publication day as I close the launch celebrations. My enormous thanks to Stephanie Zia at Blackbird Books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for sending me a copy of Only Human in return for an honest review.

Published today, 8th September 2020 by Blackbird, Only Human is available for purchase through the links here.

Only Human

Every betrayal has a consequence… one family… one summer… one woman.

The Bonds are, seemingly, a tight family unit, until one fateful summer when the temptations of lust and love come for them all…

Tiger mum Anna, who gave up her career to build the perfect home life in London’s leafy Chiswick, is shocked to the core when she discovers that her husband of 20 years is having an affair.

Her daughter meanwhile is transforming into a tricky teen chopping at the apron strings.

Then Jack walks into their lives. Sophie’s first boyfriend is a breath of fresh air for the whole family, and Anna gradually discovers new purpose for herself.

But when more deceit creeps in, tensions soar, and Anna is propelled through a tangled web of secrets and lies towards a devastating climax.

My Review of Only Human

Anna’s life is about to undergo some momentous changes.

If you’re looking for a fast paced twisty thriller that writhes its way from implausible beginning to end then Only Human is not for you. However, if you want an intelligent, highly charged and pitch perfect portrait of middle class life and marriage, look no further. I found Only Human absolutely fascinating. Without wishing to be disrespectful to younger readers, I have a feeling that Only Human is the kind of narrative that more mature readers will fully appreciate because it deals with the mid-life events many will recognise.

Other than Fred, whom I adored, I loathed most of the other characters, but I simultaneously found them mesmerising and felt I had been given a privileged insight into their innermost thoughts. The excellent quality of Diane Chandler’s writing wrought physical responses in me as a reader because she made Anna, Ollie and Sophie in particular so vivid, complex, flawed and, indeed, only human. I wanted to shake Sophie, scream at Anna and slap Ollie. Anna’s first person account is so intimate and revealing that it was as if I had become complicit in her behaviour and the events that happen. I may not have liked her, but my goodness I understood her completely.

The plot is so clever because much of it is typical of many families, where real drama elicits calmer responses in the characters, and trivial events ignite words and actions that are disproportionate, so that Only Human becomes a modern parable of family life. I found it both sophisticated and primordial in equal measure.

I loved the themes of family and relationships, fidelity and guilt, love and sexuality, identity and challenge that are so much a part of real life and upon which Diane Chandler shines a laser light that leaves the reader wondering how they might have behaved in similar circumstances. It’s as if Only Human is a kind of ‘what if’ version of your own life and I ended the book feeling incredibly grateful for the life I have in contrast to Anna’s.

I found Only Human the kind of book that I couldn’t tear myself from because I wanted to know what the outcomes would be for these misguided, selfish and compelling people. Only Human is a sophisticated, intense and urbane narrative that I thoroughly enjoyed and I really recommend it.

About Diane Chandler

Diane Chandler was a political lobbyist in Brussels and then worked at the European Commission for several years, where she managed overseas aid programmes in Ukraine just after the fall of communism. Back in London, she joined the Department for International Development (DFID) on the Ukraine and then Africa desks. Her first novel, The Road to Donetsk, draws on her experience of managing overseas aid programmes, and won the People’s Book Prize. Her second, Moondance, tackles the emotional impact of IVF fertility treatment on a loving couple. Only Human, her third novel, is about a woman struggling to find meaning in life after her husband cheats on her and her only daughter is about to fly the nest. Published 8th September 2020. Diane co-runs Creative Writing Workshops London with Stephanie Zia of Blackbird Digital Books, and also coaches aspiring writers. She is the host of chiswickbuzz TV Book Club, Words with Wine in W4.

You can follow Diane on Twitter @Dchandlerauthor and Facebook and visit her website for further information. There’s more with these other bloggers too: