The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan

Farm at the Edge

My enormous thanks to Louise Swannell at Hodder for a copy of The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan in return for an honest review. The Farm at the Edge of the World is published today, 30th June 2016, by Hodder and Stoughton and is available for purchase from Amazon, Waterstones, iTunes, W H Smith, all good bookshops and directly from Hodder.

The Farm at the Edge of the World

Farm at the Edge

1939, and Will and Alice are evacuated to a granite farm in north Cornwall, perched on a windswept cliff. There they meet the farmer’s daughter, Maggie, and against fields of shimmering barley and a sky that stretches forever, enjoy a childhood largely protected from the ravages of war.

But in the sweltering summer of 1943 something happens that will have tragic consequences. A small lie escalates. Over 70 years on Alice is determined to atone for her behaviour – but has she left it too late?

2014, and Maggie’s granddaughter Lucy flees to the childhood home she couldn’t wait to leave thirteen years earlier, marriage over; career apparently ended thanks to one terrible mistake. Can she rebuild herself and the family farm? And can she help her grandmother, plagued by a secret, to find some lasting peace?

This is a novel about identity and belonging; guilt, regret and atonement; the unrealistic expectations placed on children and the pain of coming of age. It’s about small lies and dark secrets. But above all it’s about a beautiful, desolate, complex place.

When midwife Lucy almost makes a fatal error at work and her husband Matt doesn’t deny he is having an affair, Lucy returns to her childhood home in Cornwall where huge debts are threatening to destroy the family heritage.

My Review of The Farm at the Edge of the World

The events surrounding Will and Alice in Cornwall in 1939 will have reverberations across the decades.

What a glorious book. Sarah Vaughan has the ability to transport the reader to a different time and place with just a single word. There’s a beauty and an emotional truth to her prose which is enthralling. I loved The Farm at the Edge of the World.

Sarah Vaughan is so skilled in gradually revealing the secrets of the past, weaving a mesmerising tale that draws in the reader without their realising it. There is a poetry to the prose so that settings come alive in vivid colour. Emotions too ripple, ebb and flow like the seas on the beaches of Cornwall so that Cornwall itself becomes like another presence or character. And what a cast of characters there is. Each person, from the harshly disappointed Evelyn to the flawed and complex Maggie plays an important role so that they are as important to the novel as the suggested protagonist Lucy. I believed in every single one of them.

Cleverly constructed narrative so the tenses change and match the times, Sarah Vaughan subtly alters the vocabulary she uses to add an extra layer of authenticity. The passages set Now are subtly different to those set Then. Both captivate the reader.

I was entirely wrapped up in the themes of The Farm at the Edge of the World. Deftly plotted, love, grief and betrayal are emotionally portrayed alongside a realism that means not everyone will get a happy ending. This is such compelling writing. Although I couldn’t draw myself away, neither did I want the read to end, so wonderful was the writing.

The Farm at the Edge of the World is one of those books that has stayed with me long after I closed the covers because of the emotional intensity of reading it. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

About Sarah Vaughan

sarah vaughan

Though Sarah didn’t start writing fiction in earnest before she turned 40, she had put pen to paper – or fingers to a keyboard – every day of her career. Before writing novels, she was a journalist, writing under the by-line Sarah Hall. After journalism college, she trained with the Press Association and then spent 11 years on The Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent.

Long before that, Sarah read English at Brasenose College, Oxford. Reading Beowulf may not have helped her become a novelist but reading and thinking about writing for three years undoubtedly did. Sarah now lives just outside Cambridge with her husband and two young children and when she’s not writing or reading, she loves to swim and bake.

You can find Sarah Vaughan on Facebook, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

Sarah’s first novel The Art of  Baking Blind is available here.

art of baking blind

A Very Distant Affair by Faith Mortimer

a very distant affair

Having met lovely Faith Mortimer in person I’m delighted to be spotlighting and reviewing her latest novel A Very Distant Affair which is published today, 30th June 2016. A Very Distant Affair is available for purchase here.

I was lucky enough to interview Faith previously on Linda’s Book Bag and you can read that interview here. All of Faith’s wonderful books can be found here.

A Very Distant Affair

a very distant affair

A new novel of women’s literature from international bestselling author Faith Mortimer.

Cheryl Taylor, a landscape artist appears to have it all. Apart from fame and fortune, her attentive husband Daniel is brilliant at managing her business matters. Cheryl has allowed him full rule of her affairs from the day they were married…but twenty years later, she wonders whether she shouldn’t be quite so naive. Daniel is controlling and as she learns from one friend during an intimate conversation. “Diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend you know. They are a man’s best friend. They’re great at getting men off the hook, and keeping their women quiet.”

Feeling uncomfortable and troubled over her friend’s warning, Cheryl decides there is more to life than being successful and at the beck and call of a manipulative husband. She sets out to find what she really wants from life, and to her horror, discovers one earth-shattering secret after the next.

Her life in turmoil she visits Australia, where on a previous trip, she found contentment from an unexpected quarter. Michel, a widower, owns a winery and boutique hotel in New South Wales, and is as different from Daniel as chalk is to cheese.

Cheryl is drawn to this gentle Australian of French descent and feels her new-found strong will wavering. She returns to London to offer Daniel an ultimatum, only to discover the final shock which threatens all their lives.

My Review of A Very Distant Affair

Cheryl Taylor has fame and fortune – and a very controlling husband, Dan. A chance meeting with Michael will set off a chain of events to turn her world upside down.

I really enjoyed A Very Distant Affair. It’s a story of friendship, love and relationships that has an underlying resonance of truth and realism. There’s a subtle maturity to the writing that is so pleasing because I felt Faith Mortimer captured the very essence of what it was to be a woman in an unsatisfactory marriage. I thought the concept that money doesn’t buy happiness was brilliantly explored.

A Very Distant Affair doesn’t go off like a firework, but it glows like a warm fire on a winter’s evening and whilst the plot has considerable action, I didn’t feel this was the dominance in the story. It was the development of character, especially of Cheryl, and the exploration of emotions and human interaction that I found so fascinating. I was moved to tears in the second half of the book and, although I can’t say more without spoiling the read, I did wonder what I would have done had I been in Cheryl’s place.

I found it interesting that Cheryl was a landscape painter as Faith Mortimer has a real painter’s eye when it comes to describing setting. She can evoke an image in the reader’s mind that enhances the experience of reading the story and this was an element I enjoyed very much.

A Very Distant Affair is a lovely story that I think will resonate on many levels for so many readers. I really recommend it.

About Faith Mortimer


Faith Mortimer was born in Manchester and educated in Singapore, Malaya and Hampshire, England. A Registered nurse, she then changed careers to oversee a number of travel and sport related companies. Faith is happily married and has two children. Dividing her time between the south of England and Cyprus, she has written three series of books which are all standalone novels.

You can find Faith on FacebookTwitter, her website/blog, on Goodreads and on Amazon US and Amazon UK Author Pages.

Guest Post by Rhoda Baxter, author of Please Release Me

Please Release Me

I’m delighted to be featuring another Choc Lit author today, Rhoda Baxter as I ‘know’ Rhoda through the wonderful author and blogger group Book Connectors on Facebook . Please Release Me by Rhoda Baxter was published on 7th June 2016. Please Release Me is out in paperback and can be ordered from all good book stockists. Click here for more information.

Being married to a man with a Ph.D in Chemistry I was fascinated to find out how Rhoda applies science to her writing as she explains in the guest post below.

Please Release Me

Please Release Me

What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?

Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab opportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.

That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.

In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate.

But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after …

The Science of Writing Fiction

A Guest Post by Rhoda Baxter

I trained as a scientist. I did a DPhil in molecular micro biology and I now work in university technology transfer, which means I get to look at things which are at the cutting edge of science for a large part of my day. At night, like some sort of rubbish anti-superheroine, I sit in bed and write novels. What, you ask, do these two things have in common?

The answer is logic. Things have to make sense. If someone brings me a new invention, I need to be able to follow what’s happening. I may not need to understand why it works (although it helps), but my job is to ask annoying questions until I understand how it works and why it’s new. There are no leaps of faith. Science must make sense. And a novel? Well the same applies. Things must fit together logically. When it comes to coming up with a story, logic is your friend.

Please Release Me started off as a single image of two women sitting on a bench, one was a ghost in a bridal gown, the other was alive, but somehow less noticeable than the ghost. From the way they were sitting, I could tell that they were close, but didn’t totally trust each other. That was all I had.

I sat down and thought about what little I knew. I called the ghost Sally and the live woman Grace. I write romance, so there had to be a man. I called him Peter. Sally was wearing a wedding dress, so she must be married to Peter and killed on their wedding day. I’d never written a book about a ghost before, so I needed some rules on how a ghost would behave in the world. The list looked like this:

  • Sally could only go to places that she’d already seen when she was corporeal.
  • Only Grace could see her.
  • She pulled in energy towards her to keep herself visible to Grace.
  • She could possess people if their defences were down – so drunks, stoned people and a gambling addict hypnotised by a slot machine.

I had some scenes in mind where Sally was in Grace’s house. How did she know the house? So Sally’s job became ‘Estate Agent’. Knowing that gave me the ideal opportunity to set up how Sally and Peter met. This allowed other things to slot in too – the fact that Sally had never been to Peter’s office suggested that she didn’t much care about what he did. I needed Peter to realise that Sally had been somewhere he had been certain she hadn’t. This set up the line of conflict to do with Sally’s gambling addiction.

And then there’s ‘what if’? If Peter was a widower, there was no reason why he couldn’t really be with Grace, but what if Sally wasn’t actually dead? What if she was in a coma? This brought me to the hospice setting, which gave me a good, and logical, way for a devoted husband who spent hours sitting at the bedside of his wife, to meet someone else.

Do you play ‘what if’ in science? Of course! It’s the same ‘but what happens if I do this’ that keeps science and innovation going. If we only did what we already do, we’d never do anything new. It’s just a different sort of creativity.

So there you have it. People ask me if I find it hard to switch from scientist mode to novelist mode. I don’t, because it’s the same creative process. It’s only the medium that is different. Although, if you forced me to choose between them, I’d say making stuff up and writing novels in a marginally more fun. I can do that wearing pyjamas, for a start.

About Rhoda Baxter


As well as being a scientist and a romantic novelist, Rhoda is a member of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society!  For more on Rhoda Baxter, follow her on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

Guest Post by Tracy Rees, author of Florence Grace

Florence Grace

It’s hard to express how thrilled I am to be part of the launch celebrations for Tracy Rees today whose second novel Florence Grace is published by Quercus tomorrow, 30th June 2016, and is available on Amazon and directly from Quercus.

I have been a huge Tracy Rees fan since I read her debut novel Amy Snow last year and you can read my review here. Having also loved Florence Grace (my review is here) I wanted to know what drew Tracy to the 19th Century and she has kindly provided a guest post below to explain.

Florence Grace

Florence Grace

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone. But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth. Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

The Appeal of the 19th Century

A Guest Post by Tracy Rees

When I was little I used to love visiting castles (and pretending I was a princess!). I was entranced by the jagged stone outlines rising out of flower-strewn hills, the same old stones that had been there hundreds of years! Places like that, pockets of the past, are magical, inspiring. What is it about the past that entices and romances us? A sense of escape from our own oh-so-familiar lives? A sense of kinship with folk long-gone? Comfort, that despite the intense heartache of living and loss, the world keeps on turning, generation to generation? For me it is all of these.

As my first two books testify, I’m very drawn to the nineteenth century, probably due to a lifelong love of the old classics. My immersion in nineteenth century literature gave me a head start on my research; it’s amazing how much you absorb through reading without even trying. And I certainly never struggled with dialogue; the cadences and flourishes of those days are as familiar to me as modern speech. That said, when I began writing Amy Snow I did read a lot about the period. I wanted to understand the influences and preoccupations of the Victorians, their context and foibles. I used some excellent books and of course the internet. Then each book has specific demands. Transport is an important theme in Amy Snow, set as it is on the cusp of coach and rail travel. In Florence Grace, food was important, as Florence moves from poverty to the fine dining room of Helicon. For Amy Snow, I took a day trip to Bath, a town where she spends part of her journey. For Florence Grace, I returned to Bath, this time for a study session at the Bath Fashion Museum where I saw outerwear, undergarments and even crinoline hoops. I would love to visit that time if only for the bonnets!

As romantic as the nineteenth century can seem, the lot of women was incredibly difficult. Although we have wonderful, powerful literature written by women of that time, some of those authors, eg Charlotte Bronte and George Elliot, had to masquerade as men in order to be published! I love reading about how women then found ways to circumvent the social system. And I enjoy making it up even more! Amy and Aurelia in Amy Snow, Florence, Old Rilla and Lacey in Florence Grace, all live unconventional lives. Amy’s unusual upbringing in the cracks around mainstream society is ultimately what enables her to travel and to keep Aurelia’s secrets. In short, she has nothing to lose. I’m always fascinated by the times when we decide to step forward and take a risk, the times when we realise that what has more or less worked for us hitherto must now be challenged or changed. These are the moments that define character and that is as true today as it was 150 years ago.

You can follow Tracy Rees on Twitter and find out more with these other bloggers:

Florence Grace Blog Tour Poster

Location, Location, Location – A Guest Post from Emma Salisbury, author of One Bad Turn

Cover 874x1418

I’m utterly thrilled to be featuring another author today whom I’ve met in person, Emma Salisbury. Emma and I were at a blogger and author lunch in Edinburgh organised by fellow blogger Joanne Baird and when I heard Emma’s latest novel, One Bad Turn would be published today, 29th June 2016 I had to invite her on to Linda’s Book BagOne Bad Turn is available in e-book for purchase here.

Emma has kindly provided a brilliant guest blog all about location in her writing.

One Bad Turn

Cover 874x1418

A serial killer is on the loose…

No sooner has Detective Sergeant Kevin Coupland stepped off the plane from a family holiday than he gets the call that a woman’s body has been found on a path beside a recreation park in a smart suburb in Salford. Account Manager Sharon Mathers suffered a brutal blow to the head following a night out with friends from work.

Teamed with DC Ashcroft who has transferred from the Met under a cloud, Coupland struggles to find a motive for the killing when two days later another body is found, this time at the bottom of a footbridge at Salford Station. Could the same person be responsible? While still trying to work out the answer to this Coupland’s personal life spirals into freefall when his daughter Amy introduces him to her new boyfriend – a thug he’d put away for GBH two years before. The relationship puts a strain on the detective’s home life and impacts his judgement at work – putting him under the microscope with the powers that be.

When a third body is found DC Ashcroft makes a startling discovery – the killings are linked to a murder in ’92. Coupland was a probationer back in the nineties – could he be linked in some way to the killer?

Location, location, location.

A Guest Post by Emma Salisbury

So, you’ve got an idea for a novel. The characters in your head take on a life of their own and before you know it you’re asking friends and family to repeat themselves because you’re far too busy tuning into the ‘other’ conversations to notice what’s going on around you. The outline for the plot is taking shape but there’s something significant missing. The setting.

It took me a while to settle on the locations for my two crime fiction series – DS Kevin Coupland, the main protagonist in my police procedural series, patrols the streets of Salford, Greater Manchester, while Davy Johnson, ex jail-bird with a heart of gold in my gangland series pounds the streets of Edinburgh. Yet these weren’t automatic choices.

Probably like most writers the first novel I penned never saw light of day. It was set in the Peak District, where I grew up, the rugged landscape and local superstitions set the scene for a community steeped in secrets. I signed with a literary agent on the back of it – however the first thing she asked me to do was set my novel somewhere else! She already represented Stephen Booth, whose wonderful depictions of the peak district in his novels had kept me up reading through the night for many years, and she didn’t want another crime series based in the same location. For those who haven’t tried changing location in an established story let me tell you it would have been easier to write a new novel from scratch, which is what I ended up doing, as the writing felt clunky, as though I’d cut and paste ‘tower blocks’ for ‘rolling hills’. It just didn’t work. I lived in Scotland yet wasn’t confident about setting my stories there; I didn’t feel I could portray the language with any accuracy, or that I understood the demographic. Little did I know that would be about to change.


I based DS Coupland in Salford because I’d lived there for several years; I’d married into an extended family of three policemen, and their anecdotes, combined with the urban setting provided a perfect backdrop. Salford is a city rich in down to earth northern humour and it doesn’t stand on ceremony for anyone. Fragile Cord was sent to several publishers and one responded that they loved it – but it was a Scottish publisher and they wanted something set in Scotland! This was when I realised you can’t please everyone, and that sometimes you have to have the courage of your own convictions. Besides, I loved Coupland and wasn’t about to change his personality by moving him further up north. Don’t get me wrong, I love Scotland, which is why I went on to develop a series based in Edinburgh,  but moving Coupland would have meant changing his language and his back story, and I wasn’t prepared to do that. It was around this time that a friend sent me a news clipping about an author who had self-published on Amazon, stating one of the benefits was that he felt free to write what he liked, and that really appealed. Once Fragile Cord was released on Amazon, followed by A Place of Safety the feedback was amazing – readers took Coupland into their hearts.

plac of safety

Once my sons were school age I started working for a housing association supporting ex-offenders into work. To say it opened my eyes is an understatement, not at the range of crimes committed, for sadly the story was a familiar one – a substance addiction that needed financing – but rather the way they were treated – cases coming to court so long after the offence that even though they’d turned their lives around they lost jobs because they had to take time off to attend hearings. I wanted to capture some of that frustration – so Davy Johnson was born. The setting had to be Edinburgh – it may have a shortbread tin image for visitors, but it is the drug capital of Europe and the police service in Scotland has undergone a major restructure which provides plenty of scope.

In terms of future locations, I love it when my favourite authors send their characters on holiday, so this is something I am considering further down the line, however for the moment both Coupland and Davy have enough to contend with on their own turf!

About Emma Salisbury


Born in Manchester, I started work selling ladies knickers (5 for a pound) on Grey Mare Lane market. This provided a natural springboard for my next role – selling investments for HSBC (very apt of course, as both are inclined to go down as well as up). It was whilst working at the bank that I met my husband David, pursuing him mercilessly until he agreed to remove the restraining order and marry me, producing two wonderful sons.

Married into a family of Salford cops I became fascinated by society’s change in attitude towards the police – and the impact this has on our reaction to crime. This led to the creation of my Salford police procedural series, introducing DS Kevin Coupland.

Following a move to the East Coast of Scotland I worked with socially excluded young men and ex-offenders, helping them find work and a way to get their lives back on track. This provided me with material for my Edinburgh series featuring Davy Johnson.

Most evenings I can be found walking the family dog on the beach near our home in East Lothian.

I love anything fizzy and sparkly, and have been known to eat my body weight in chocolate.

You can find Emma on Twitter and Facebook. Emma’s website can be found here. All of Emma’s books are available for purchase here. There’s more from Emma with fellow blogger Poppy here too.

Guest Post by Last Kiss author Laurelin Paige


It is my pleasure to be part of the launch celebrations featuring Last Kiss, the latest novel from Laurelin Paige. Last Kiss was published in e-book on June 14th 2016 by Sphere Books and will be released in paperback on 14th July. Last Kiss is available for purchase here.

Today, Laurelin has kindly provided a guest blog all about the elements that make up a person in characterisation.

Last Kiss


Emily Wayborn has made a decision.

She might not fully trust handsome and deadly Reeve Sallis, but he is the one person that gives her what she needs. With Reeve she can finally be herself. Submitting to him is the only thing keeping her grounded as the rest of her life falls apart. But the hotelier is a master at keeping secrets, and as she continues her quest for answers someone is making sure she doesn’t find them.

Time is running out, and she is questioning everything she thought she knew about friendship and love. She must now make an impossible choice that will determine if she will survive with her heart…or at all.

What Makes A Person?

A Guest Post by Laurelin Paige

In a high school communications class, we studied what elements make up a person. One theory broke down these elements into four categories:

  1. The Obvious – this is what everyone can figure out on observation. Your height. Your hair color. The sound of your voice.
  2. The Unknown – these are things that no one knows about you. It generally shrinks the older you get, as you discover more about yourself. Things like, I don’t know whether or not I’ll be a crotchety old woman because I’m not an old woman yet. Or, I don’t know how I’d react to being held at gunpoint. Or, even more basic beliefs that I haven’t explored or decided yet.
  3. The Things Only Self Knows – these are things you don’t tell anyone. Your secrets. What you fantasize about. What worries you. This category becomes smaller with the people you let in.
  4. The Things Others Know – these are things that other people know about you that you don’t realize about yourself. We often forget that these are valid points that make up other people. For example, until recently, I didn’t realize I snored. But anyone who’d shared a room with me knew. It’s a characteristic that makes up who I am even though I wasn’t aware of it. There are deeper traits we might not recognize in ourselves – usually things that we don’t want to know like that we’re selfish or racist or ignorant, perhaps.

So when I’m asked if we can ever really know someone, I immediately think of this theory and my answer is no, we can’t. We can’t even truly know ourselves. But other people can often provide insight on ourselves that we can’t provide ourselves. Maybe we have to have deep relationships with others so that, collaboratively, we can know ourselves as deep as possible.

In First Touch/Last Kiss, Emily doesn’t know a lot about herself or Amber until Reeve comes along. He very much helps illuminate both the categories of Things Others Know and The Unknown.

About Laurelin Paige

Laurelin Paige is the New York Times bestselling author of the Fixed trilogy. She loves a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing or dreaming of Michael Fassbender. She’s also a proud member of Mensa International, although she doesn’t do anything with the organization except use it as material for her bio.

You can follow Laurelin Paige on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website. There’s also more about and from Laurelin with these other bloggers:


#Blogival Doing Life in Paradise


I’m delighted to be taking part in the #Blogival Festival organised by Clink Street and today I have Doing Life in Paradise by Gary N. Lines as my featured book. Doing Life in Paradise was published on 8th February 2016 and is available in e-book and paperback here and can be ordered from all good bookshops.

Gary N. Lines has provided a fabulous guest blog all about Absurdism for inclusion on Linda’s Book Bag today.

Doing Life In Paradise

doing life in paradise

Ruby and Peter were nine years old when they witnessed the death of a classmate in a car accident on the Great Southern Road. Now in her early twenties, Ruby lives alone and craves to love and be loved. She wakes one day and decides to start a new career. She hopes this might be a beginning. Peter is a young successful architect but has already lost two great loves in his life – Ruby was one of them. Tommy drove the car that killed the young girl and now must go through life knowing he is a killer, and that he is at the mercy of the lethal disinterest of life’s coincidences and synchronicity. Despite the many differences in their lives today, Ruby, Peter, Tommy, Steve (Hawkey) and Peter’s mother Madeline, who also witnessed the accident, become inextricably linked by the ripple effect caused by the collision. Their stories become critical to their survival and escape, but how can life in Paradise feel anything but cruelly ironic, how can it not be anything but a life sentence?

What About Absurdism? What Does It Mean?

A Guest Blog by Gary N.Lines

Don’t have a fridge or a sofa. That way, when you drop something it won’t be able to roll under these things.

Before you eat your slice of bread with jam on top, throw it on the floor jam-side down; this will save a lot of time and give you a much-needed sense of control over your destiny.

Equally, always have two crisply laundered white shirts, so that you will have a spare when you spill your spaghetti sauce down the front of the first one, which you will do every time you are eating spaghetti and have a white shirt on.

It is absurd to try to define absurdism, since the essence of absurdism is that life is fundamentally meaningless and chaotic, and as such absurd, and thus undefinable. In my novel, Doing Life in Paradise, absurdism is exercised by suggesting that life is mostly just the disinterested combination of coincidence and synchronicity. Of course it isn’t. Or it might be, either way – which of course is again, absurd and meaningless.

These absurd accidents happen with such frequency that you begin to wonder if there isn’t after all some purpose to life, the purpose being to infuriate you, make your life just that much more difficult than it needs to be. Of course that’s absurd, if it weren’t so frustratingly annoying, it would be comical. I mean can’t the bread land bread side down just once? Can’t the dropped coin just once end up in the middle of the floor? Is it asking too much?

Douglas Adams the great postmodern absurdist in his novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy used the number ‘42’ as the answer to the biggest question of all. There are many elaborate, as well as simple explanations, as to why he came up with this particular number, but perhaps the over-riding reason might be that it is absurd to think you can reduce the ultimate question of the meaning of life to a number and in that regard, he might have thought it is as good an answer as any. Much like you could say ‘brown sauce’ is the answer, no matter what the question is, for all it matters. In Doing Life in Paradise, the number ‘42’ is imbedded throughout the narrative for the postmodern detectives amongst us.

Adams found himself in good company with other famous writers such as Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Martin Amis and Paul Auster to name but a handful who have found a rich vein of absurdism in life to inform their work.

Doing Life in Paradise discusses absurdism in many ways, not the least of which is the human dependence on hope. Many people try to hope their way through life, when this has yet to be shown to achieve anything beyond the emotion of disappointment. The characters in the novel do not in fact find any hope for their lives, until they realise that hoping is fundamentally a waste of time, and taking control of your life is the only way forward, and by and large comes with maturity and having one’s hopes dashed a few times. After a while you stop hoping your bread will land jam-side up, you know it won’t, so when it doesn’t, you laugh and get on with life and accept the absurdity with equanimity – you don’t take it personally, life doesn’t care that much about you, if at all.

About Gary N. Lines

Gary is a regular contributor to the Australian Financial Review, Australia’s premier business daily newspaper. He writes a column for the “Talking Points” section, which allows him to discuss everything from ‘Why we keep our books’ to Celebrity chefs and their proliferation in the world today. This section of the paper is intended to be informative and humorous.

Doing Life in Paradise, Gary’s debut novel, has received strong endorsement from reviewers as being a ‘precise’, ‘thoughtful’, ‘clever’ and ‘intriguing and highly original read’. The novel centres on a group of people all struggling to cope with the absurdity of life. Some make it, some don’t – everyone tries in their own way.

You can find out more by visiting Gary’s website.

The #Blogival festival is running for the whole of June and you can find out more with these other bloggers:

Blogival Calendar

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

lying in wait

My enormous thanks to Sara Darcy at Penguin Random House for an advanced reader copy of Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent in return for an honest review. Lying in Wait will be published by Penguin Ireland, an imprint of Penguin Random House, on 14th July 2016 and is available for purchase from Amazon, W H Smith, Waterstones and from all good bookshops.

Lying in Wait

lying in wait

‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’

The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden.

Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart.

But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own.

My Review of Lying in Wait

From the moment Andrew Fitzsimons’ hands grasp Annie Doyle’s throat the lives of many people are going to change irrevocably.

Just a month after I began blogging, Liz Nugent’s debut novel Unravelling Oliver was one of the first books I reviewed (here) and since then I’ve been desperate to read more from her. It has been worth the wait.

Even before opening the book, Lying in Wait had me intrigued. The jacket cover has a dark and Gothic feel to it and the greys suggested to me that there would be no clear cut black and white presentation in the plot, themes and characters. I was right. The title gives us the hint – there is both physically awaiting and ambushing in Lying in Wait as well as so many characters behaving mendaciously to themselves and others. This is psychological writing at its finest.

From the dramatic opening line to the bleak final sentence Liz Nugent’s plot had me gripped. The events reminded me of one of those fairground halls of mirrors from my childhood where nothing is quite what it seems. Elements shift, distort and fragment with just a word or phrase so that the reader’s perspective alters frequently until they are almost being lied to by the first person narrators as much as the characters are in the story. Small, seemingly throwaway, lines are slipped subtly into the story and I found myself thinking, ‘Hang on. What did they just say?’ or, ‘No! Don’t do that. Don’t say that.’ and my stomach did a little flip with my pulse increasing. The chapter endings are incredible and even if Lying in Wait wasn’t already completely enthralling, those alone would compel any reader to read on.

Narrated in a conversational first person tone from the three perspectives of Lydia, Laurence and Karen, each has a distinct voice that reveals snippets of information. There is an underlying malevolence so that in the end I wasn’t sure at all how I felt about Lydia. I couldn’t decide if she was evil, insane or merely a damaged product of her past who deserved some sympathy. Indeed, I found all the characters made me think hard and change my opinions frequently.

What really played with my mind, however, was trying to decide just what I thought was a crime and just who the guilty people were. It is no secret that a murder has been committed and there is a murderer, but other crimes abound too, from the way society (especially in the 1980s when the book is set) treated those suffering dyslexia, or treated unmarried mothers, or how the police regarded those in prostitution and how society frequently bullies those who are obese or physically different. I was enraged by the behaviour of Declan O’Toole and Lydia’s obsession with Laurence is terrifying.

I consumed Lying in Wait over a weekend as I found it so compelling that I could not stop reading. Lying in Wait is disturbing, enthralling and utterly brilliant.

You can follow Liz Nugent on Twitter and visit her website and I’m delighted that I’ll be interviewing Liz about Lying in Wait nearer to publication day so do call back and see what she has to say.

Guest Post and Giveaway from Adam Maxwell


When I discovered Adam Maxwell has a brand new adult novel, The Dali Deception, that was released on 20th June 2016, but that he is also a children’s author I was intrigued. So I invited him on to the blog to tell me all about the challenges of writing both adult and children’s fiction.

The Dali Deception is available in e-book for purchase here, but Adam is kindly giving away an e-book to one of Linda’s Book Bag readers at the bottom of this blog post.

The Dali Deception


Five criminals. Two forgeries. And one masterpiece of a heist.

Violet Winters—a professional thief born of a good, honest thief-and-con-artist stock— has been offered the heist of a lifetime. Steal a priceless Salvador Dali from the security-obsessed chairman of the Kilchester Bank and replace it with a forgery.

The fact that the “painting” is a signed, blank canvas doesn’t matter. It’s the challenge that gives Violet that familiar, addicting rush of adrenaline. Her quarry rests in a converted underground Cold War bunker. One way in, one way out. No margin for error.

But the reason Violet fled Kilchester is waiting right where she left him—an ex-lover with a murderous method for dumping a girlfriend. If her heist is to be a success, there will have to be a reckoning, or everything could go spinning out of control.

Her team of talented misfits assembled, Violet sets out to re-stake her claim on her reputation, exorcise some demons, and claim the prize. That is, if her masterpiece of a plan isn’t derailed by a pissed-off crime boss—or betrayal from within her own ranks.

“Adam Maxwell is the indie writing scene’s sharpest wit, and the Dali Deception is his slickest, funniest – and surrealist – caper yet.” – Damien Walter, Columnist for The Guardian.

Rising to the Challenge

A Guest Post from Adam Maxwell

“Do any of you know any writers for kids aged 5+ that aren’t complete and utter crap?”

This was the Facebook post that started my foray into writing kids books.

“And I don’t mean Roald Dahl and the classics. I want new stuff. Stuff that kicks arse. I want the attitude of Buffy The Vampire Slayer but for five year olds.  And no princesses and definitely no bloody fairies.”

The response was swift and damning.

“No,” they said.  “You’re supposed to be a writer. Why don’t you do it yourself?”

And so I did.

Of course it wasn’t easy.  Writing for kids requires a whole different mindset to writing for adults and after much research I discovered it requires something even more important and, you must remember this next point, it’s VERY important… You can’t swear.  At all.

I know!  I was as shocked as you.

But I’ve jumped forward a bit.  I’ll rewind.  You see, I’d written a lot for adults.  Flash fiction, short stories, the odd novella.  And at that moment I was in the final stretch of writing what would turn into my first novel for adults (coincidentally the very same I am currently hoping to convince you to buy).

My then 5 year old daughter was a voracious reader and was rapidly moving into chapter books and I wanted to write something that would inspire her but also wouldn’t turn her into an international jewel-thief.

And so The Lost Bookshop was born.  And there was a hidden room in there.  And when the children went inside they were transported into the pages of the book; to the circus, to the wild west, into a Grimm tale.  No princesses and definitely no bloody fairies just kick-butt girls with heaps of attitude and a massive dose of adventure.

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I found that the two things began to inform one another.  Both series had female characters front and centre and in charge.  Both series had a healthy dose of laughs.  But only one series features a dwarf shooting someone’s face off.

Since starting the two series I’ve been a stickler for outlining and I suspect that’s helped to keep focus when it was needed.  Whatever book I’m working on right at any given moment will have an outline I’m working from but any ideas for scenes or stories for the others will just go into a folder on my laptop ready to be examined when I go and visit those characters again.  Keeping them separate is usually just a matter of discipline.  That and having a distinct cover style for each genre I’m writing in.

So I’d definitely recommend it.  Even with a full time job and a family it’s totally worth genre hopping.  And not just because of the reaction I get from my daughter when we’re reading a book written by her Dad with her as the main character.  Although I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a big part.

The book I’m currently working on is the fourth in The Lost Bookshop series and then I’m going to do a sequel for The Dali Deception.  After that maybe I’ll write an Urban Fantasy novel I’ve already outlined but whatever I decide on I can tell you two things…

There won’t be any princesses and there definitely, positively, will not be any bloody fairies.

About Adam Maxwell


Adam Maxwell has written for a plethora of publications including Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s. His first book, a collection of short stories and flash fiction for adults Dial M For Monkey was published in 2006. Most recently he has been working on a series of stories and novellas about a narcoleptic detective called The Defective Detective and has branched out into children’s fiction with The Lost Bookshop.

Adam spends a great deal of his time in the attic on his own and is cultivating a fear of crowds. He has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Northumbria University, and lives in the wilds of Northumberland. If you wave to him he is unlikely to wave back.

If you are a fan of his work he would most likely congratulate you for your impeccable taste and secondly he would suggest that you visit the website where you’ll find that new stories appear on a regular basis as well as a short story podcast and loads of other things that, as a reader or writer, you might be interested in. He is far more likely to wave at you through the internet.

You can find all Adam’s books here. Find out more about Adam on his website and follow him on Twiter. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

Enter to win an e-book copy of The Dali Deception by clicking here. Open internationally until UK midnight on Monday 4th July 2016.

Spotlight on Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne

Learning to Love Tour Banner

I’m delighted to be supporting Brook Cottage Books in spotlighting the gorgeous Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne. Learning to Love has been revised, edited and republished by Choc Lit on 114th June 2016. Learning to Love can be bought here.

I have a super extract and the chance for you to enter to win a paperback copy of the book in the UK or an e-copy open internationally.

Learning to Love

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Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places …

Living in a small village like Hibberton, it’s expected that your neighbours help you in a time of need. But when Andrea Kelly’s house burns down, taking all her earthly possessions with it, it’s the distant and aloof Doctor David Adams – the person she would least expect – who opens his door not just to her, but to her three kids and slightly dotty elderly mother as well.

Andrea needs all the help she can get, dealing with aftermath of the fire and in the suspicious absence of her husband, Jonathan. But, as she gets to know David and his troubled son, Jake, she begins to realise that maybe they need her help as much as she needs theirs …  

Read an extract From Learning to Love

I don’t know how you feel, David, do I? I don’t know you, other than what you’ve told me.’

David looked at her levelly. ‘The truth.’

‘The truth?’ Andrea was really incredulous now. ‘Apart from the one or two inconsequential little things you forgot to tell me? Or was it more than that, David? Three? Four? A hundred?’

‘Two! Twice. Bloody hell, Andrea …’

And that made it all right? She forced back the tears she desperately didn’t want to cry in front of him, again. ‘And I thought Jonathan was being devious. You take the biscuit, David, you really do.’ Shaking her head, Andrea moved to walk past him.

‘I’m nothing like Jonathan, Andrea,’ David said quietly. ‘I care about you.’

Andrea turned back. ‘And Jonathan doesn’t?’ She knew in her heart that her relationship had been floundering long before the fire that had blown her world apart, before David … She didn’t believe Jonathan’s tale about why he hadn’t been able to contact her any more than his claim to have found Dougal in the park. He’d been piling lie on top of lie since that dreadful night, and she would tackle him. Right now, though, she was more interested in what lies this man might concoct to extract himself from his mess.

‘Did he tell you the assessors had been?’

‘I haven’t had a chance to speak to him yet.’ Andrea walked on.

‘He’s hiding something, Andrea,’ David called after her. ‘I’m not sure what, but the fire, his preoccupation with Dee’s mental state, his story … It just doesn’t add up.’

Disbelieving, Andrea whirled around. ‘You’ll stop at nothing, will you? You paint yourself as a poor wounded hero, torn apart by grief and guilt and the havoc you created, and then you have the nerve to point out other people’s failings? Why?’

‘Andrea, I … I don’t know.’ David shrugged hopelessly. ‘I just want you to be careful, that’s—’

‘I mean, I’m no great catch, am I?’ Andrea went on, her fury growing. ‘Was what just happened between us another one of your mistakes, is that it?’

‘No!’ David fixed angry eyes on hers. ‘Dammit, Andrea I do care about you. I—’

‘I’m going.’ Andrea turned away.

‘Andrea, don’t.’ David caught her arm. ‘Please. The kids …’

‘Don’t you dare, David,’ Andrea warned him angrily. ‘Don’t you dare try to manipulate me through my children!’

‘They’re getting ready for bed, Andrea. There’s no point in upsetting them tonight.’

‘Me upsetting them?’ Andrea was flabbergasted.

‘Jake …’ David swallowed. ‘Give me a chance to speak to him, Andrea. Please, I’m begging you.’

Andrea felt her heart break inside her afresh, for Jake, for David, too, who was going to have to live with the devastating consequences of his actions; for Sally, who would surely need her friendship now, but which this man had made impossible. For herself.

‘Stay,’ David implored. ‘Please? For tonight, at least.’

Andrea studied his face, saw the desperation in his eyes; eyes where so many conflicting emotions played out. How little did she really know him? She could have loved him. Did, still. Yet hated him.

‘For Jake’s sake,’ she said, dropping her gaze to his hand still on her arm.

Relief flooding his face, David released his hold. ‘Thank you,’ he said, closing his eyes.

About Sheryl Browne

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Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you sassy, sexy, heart-wrenching fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for the Best Romantic e-book Love Stories Award 2015, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from award winning Choc Lit.

You can find more about and from Sheryl using these links:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Buy | Buy US | Pinterest

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Choc Lit | Romantic Novelists’ Association

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 For your chance to enter to win a print copy of Learning to Love in the UK or an e-copy open internationally click here.