A Guest Post by Karina Evans, author of Volcano

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In order to make sure her recognition won’t be posthumous, I’m delighted to welcome Karina Evans to Linda’s Book Bag today! Karina’s book Volcano is available in e-book and paperback here. Dealing as Volcano does with domestic violence I was fascinated by how Karina created her characters – even the abusive Paul – and luckily she agreed to tell me more about it.

Volcano

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It is the 22nd of July, 2001. Eloise Katherine Bennett, a devoted mother of two, has died after falling down the stairs at her home.

On the face of it, Eloise led an unenviable life. Her husband, Paul, was a violent bully, and her mother, Sandra, a control freak. Eloise and her children suffered at their uncompromising hands for many years.
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Via flashbacks and through the voices of Eloise and those who have influenced her in life, we learn the truth behind her death.

Live. Love. Leave. Life. Death.

A story of vulnerability, in even the hardest of hearts.

Creating a Talking Point

A Guest Post by Karina Evans

I love reading. Not necessarily for escapism; I have CBeebies for that, but for emotion. I love a book that ties me up in knots, makes me feel, then spits me out. I was a little fed up with happy endings; life isn’t always like that and I wanted Volcano to feel as real as possible. I needed Volcano to have true perspective and I desperately wanted all my characters to speak and be heard, which is why I gave them all voices.

Domestic violence happens everywhere, every day. Behind closed doors. It isn’t always obvious. It’s a sneaky parasite and it eats lives, happiness and relationships. It was easy to choose to write from the perspective of Eloise (the wife) and Jessica (the daughter) because they were the characters a reader would naturally side with. Choosing to write from the perspective of Paul (the husband) was a little more difficult. I had to demonstrate that this awful man carried some positive traits, and that was tricky. The non-obvious needed to be vocalised –  the little kindnesses that you wouldn’t expect him to have. The nuances and the variables. People are three-dimensional; even if they are rotten there are then two other facets to consider.

Each character has three main elements that I felt could only be portrayed through their thoughts: an element of control, an element of fear and an element of love. These elements make them multi-faceted, and I hope that the reader feels that they know them, even if the emotion they induce is negative. I want readers to shout at the book, to question the characters’ judgement, to beg (the wife) Eloise not to go back to Paul, yet understand why she does. I want domestic violence to be addressed in fiction, because that evil, sometimes misunderstood merry-go-round needs to be spoken about, shouted about.

The victim is not weak if she returns; she has very real, very legitimate reasons. The perpetrator does not carry a sign, nor does he scowl and beat up everyone in sight. The little girl is loved, deeply and desperately, but that doesn’t mean she escapes unhurt. There’s no harm in feeling sorry for Paul at times; like everyone he has good facets and vulnerabilities, but they don’t make him a good person.

Ultimately, Volcano is a novel about behaviour. About how we react to other people’s behaviour, depending on our emotional distance from them; about how friends and family react; about how strangers react; about how the reader reacts. Although you can’t see the characters’ faces, you can read their minds and their thoughts will (hopefully) frustrate, enlighten, anger and occasionally please. I wanted Volcano to be a talking point, to spark passion and debate, to feel real and raw. I very much hope that I managed to achieve this.

About Karina Evans

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Karina Evans, born 1978 in East Sussex, doesn’t much like writing biographies in the third person. She will, however, do it this once. Author, writer, editor, social media manager, living by the sea, hoping that recognition won’t be posthumous.

You can follow Karina on Twitter.

Sunshine on a Rainy Day by Bryony Fraser

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I am very pleased to be part of the launch celebrations for Sunshine on a Rainy Day by Bryony Fraser. Sunshine on a Rainy Day was published by Avon Books on 8th September 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback from Amazon, directly from the publisher and from all good booksellers.

As well as my review of Sunshine on a Rainy Day, I’m thrilled to be bringing you an extract from early on in the story.

Sunshine on a Rainy Day

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It’s Zoe and Jack’s first wedding anniversary party. They’ve got an announcement! They’re getting divorced.

Marriage isn’t for everyone – something that Zoe and Jack discovered only after they’d walked down the aisle. Bad timing, huh?

So now they’re stuck together in their once harmonious marital home, neither one of them willing to move out of their lovely house.

With Zoe’s three sisters always wanting a say, and Jack’s best friend trying his best to fix things between them, misunderstandings arise. Tempers flare. ‘Accidents’ happen…

Zoe and Jack are going to be lucky if they’re still alive when the twelve months are up. But maybe things aren’t quite as final as they seem?

An Extract from Sunshine on a Rainy Day

Two weeks later, Zoe stood waiting outside a workshop at the design college with a tote bag over one arm. After a quarter of an hour, the doors opened and the students streamed out.

‘Hey!’ she called. Half the class looked around. ‘Barman!’

He joined the half of the class who were looking, and smiled. ‘It’s Jack, actually,’ he called back.

She nodded. ‘Jack. Ok. Bit out there, but I can work with it.’

He walked over, stood in front of her. ‘Zoe.’

‘You remembered.’

‘I did.’ He smiled a little more. ‘I remembered where you were at uni, too, and your course, and I was actually going to come and find you there, but I thought how would I actually find you—’

‘There are literally three black students on my whole course.’

‘And I didn’t know if it would be a bit weird, me just pitching up at your lectures—’

‘In front of my whole class? Like this?’

‘Yeah – oh, no, I mean – this is different. It’s charming when you do it. But it’s a bit weird if this barman you just had a one-night stand with turns up, even if he’s brought flowers—’

‘You were going to buy me flowers?’

‘Yeah, of course. I mean, I had such a great time with you. And then you’d bolted, and I didn’t really know how to find you.’

‘Again. Literally three black students on my whole course.’

‘But here you are!’

‘Ruining our romantic reunion.’

Jack laughed. ‘A little bit. And I don’t even have your flowers.’

Zoe opened her tote bag. ‘But I have shoes. Can you fix them, please?’

He took the bag and offered his arm. ‘But first. A drink?’

My Review of Sunshine on a Rainy Day

There is such a good premise to this story; marriage isn’t necessarily the inevitable outcome for two people in love and neither is it a panacea for all life.

I found Sunshine on a Rainy Day an entertaining read as Zoe and Jack deal with the aftermath of their wedding, and not the chick-lit I was expecting. There is far greater depth to it. I thought the passages set in the past and leading up to the wedding were more engaging and humorous than the present day ones and they provide a good antedote to the sadness of a relationship gone wrong in Zoe’s first person accounts.

There are really interesting themes explored in Sunshine on a Rainy Day and I could easily picture how a couple might implode despite being in love with one another. What real love is, comes across incredibly strongly, as do family relationships, fidelity and convention. I think many readers will find a lot to relate to and empathise with, especially if they are themselves under pressure to conform by their families and by society.

I liked the characterisation very much and thought the escalating arguments between Jack and Zoe were realistic and plausible. It was so refreshing to have a non-Caucasian lead character and a lesbian boss as I felt this better represents the society we live in. Zoe isn’t always an easy individual, but she is realistic and human and I think we all know a Zoe (or perhaps have traits just like her ourselves!)

Sunshine on a Rainy Day is entertaining, very well written and I enjoyed the read. It made me think far more than I anticipated.

You can follow Bryony on Twitter and find out more about Sunshine on a rainy Day with these other bloggers:

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Spotlight on Her Last Breath by J.A.Schneider

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With lovely Joyce Schneider heading to Linda’s Book Bag on October 27th to celebrate the release of Her Last Breath what better way to whet your appetite than a spotlight on the book and an extract for you to read. Her Last Breath, the second psychological thriller by J.A. Schneider, after Fear Dreams – featuring highly intuitive NYPD detective Kerri Blasco, and will be published in e-book on October 21st and is available for pre-order here.

Her Last Breath

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A chilling psychological thriller about a woman caught between two men…
Mari Gill wakes to horror in a strange apartment next to a murdered man, and can’t remember the night before. Accused of murder, she feels torn between her husband, a successful defense attorney, and a mysterious, kind man who wants to help. Can she trust either of them – or even her friends? Detective Kerri Blasco battles her police bosses believing Mari is innocent…but is she?

An Extract From Her Last Breath

It begins in horror…

Mari Gill’s hand felt sticky.

That was the first thing to trouble her, still clinging to the safe, solid darkness of sleep. Next came pain in her head, a different kind of pain from the other thing, so she squeezed her eyes shut, dreading the day…

…but the stickiness bothered.

Involuntarily, she felt her fingers open and close.

Something was wrong there, in her hand. She squinted open; peered at it.

Red.

Her palm was smeared dark red.

She blinked. Saw more red smear on her forearm, then the torn cap sleeve of last night’s black dress, then the sheet under her arm, stained with…

“Huh?” Her eyes grew wide before her mind processed it.

Thrashing onto her back, Mari saw bloodied sheet reaching halfway up the torn front of her dress, and then saw an arm. A man’s arm, faintly blue and blood-smeared – and with a cry her whole body practically flipped from the bed. “Oh God!”

She hit the floor hard and then scrabbled back up, gaped wildly and saw him. Her shocked vision jumped and saw two then one then two of him on his back, eyes closed, mouth open dribbling caked blood. She froze; gasped. Couldn’t take in air seeing his black hair, his chest hidden under a tent of bloodied sheet.

“Mister?”

A high, involuntary whisper. Mari’s heart rocketed but she felt compelled; jerked out a hand and pulled away the sheet.

Under it a knife, its handle long and black, protruding from his chest.

“Oh God!” Her scream got it out but used up breath as she spun on her knees, recognizing the new trouble. Where was her handbag? What was this place? Who was that guy?

Her bag, her bag…she crawled over hardwood and a man’s flung jacket and hit a cold, metal pole. Something crashed down on her, crashed to the floor but she crawled more, over broken shards with her breath coming harder, wheezing high like a small, dying animal.

Where, where…? She gasped and scrabbled.

There.

Her bag, way under a desk. How could it be under a desk? She was always so careful to keep it close but no time to think, she was upon it, fingers fluttering getting it open, her cries a child’s high mewling as she dug past her phone – no time to call – found her inhaler, got her fingers around it then saw it fly from her and skitter through an open doorway.

“No…”

Wheezing harder she crawled toward it, the little white plastic thing that meant life or death to her. Her chest heaved, and heaved again. Her vision blurred and she couldn’t pull in air. She made it through the door onto a wider floor, was inches away with her hand reaching desperately.

Then her vision darkened and she collapsed, crying; lay her cheek down on the polished cold hardwood. From far away she heard a crash. Her eyes closed. She lay, her fingers stretched futilely toward the inhaler. Her desperate wheezing stopped.

Running feet. Someone’s hands on her, strong hands. “Lady! Omigod, lady!”

From deepest, dying sleep she felt herself raised up; heard a voice, urgent, telling her to breathe, breathe – “Please, lady!”

She felt hard plastic pushed through her lips. Felt the little blast of life, then a man’s warm stubble press his lips on hers. He was breathing her. Two good breaths and then holding her, rocking her.

Her eyes stayed closed as she heard him call 9-1-1…

About Joyce Scneider

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J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature – wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means there’ll often be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

You can find out more about J.A. Schneider on her website, on Goodreads, by following her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Five Changes with a Book Deal, a Guest Post from Laurie Ellingham

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A chance meeting can lead to real friendship and I bumped into lovely Laurie Ellingham at a book event just over a year ago, since when we have become firm friends. Consequently I was delighted when Laurie signed a two book deal with Carina UK, an imprint of Harper Collins. I invited Laurie back to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me what has changed since signing her book deal and you can read that guest post below.

Laurie already has two books out, The Reluctant Celebrity and How To Throw Your Life Away, both of which can be purchased here.

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You will find my review of The Reluctant Celebrity here and of How To Throw Your Life Away here.

Three Months to Live

Here’s a sneak peak at Laurie’s upcoming novel Three Months to Live which will be published by Carina in April 2017. It’s so new there isn’t even a cover yet!

Twenty-nine year old Lizzie Appleton is dying of a brain tumour, but is she hiding something? Jaddi has a secret life not even her best friends know about. If the truth comes out, she’ll lose everything. Samantha’s in trouble, but she hasn’t told a soul. Would anyone believe her if she did?

When three best friends are offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel the world, they jump at the chance, but there’s a catch – they have to take part in a TV documentary following the final months of Lizzie’s life.

With the world watching, Lizzie, Jaddi, Samantha, and cameraman Ben, embark on a journey which will push their friendship to the brink.

Three friends…Three secrets…Three months to live

5 things that changed when I finally signed a two book deal

A Guest Post by Laurie Ellingham

I truly believe that anyone willing to be patient, to learn, to persevere through the hard times when the words just don’t flow; who can brush themselves off after every rejection and keep going, will make their dream a reality. And I believe this because for the past decade I have been that person. But six months ago I got my break. A two book publishing deal with Carina (Harlequin/Harper Collins imprint). Much of my life has remained the same. I’m still trying to build my author brand and promote my first two novels (one self-published and one with a small independent publisher). I’m still drinking copious cups of coffee and scoffing Twix’s, and I’m still running around after my two children, our dog, and my husband. But not everything is the same. Here are 5 things that have changed for me since I signed with Carina six months ago:

  1. There are deadlines. Not the fluid self-imposed deadlines that wobble or disappear completely the moment there is a new episode of Game of Thrones calling my name from the Sky planner. These deadlines are real. So regardless of how creative I feel (or don’t feel), or how tired, it’s bum on chair time (my dad’s expression) no matter what.
  2. I have a new person on my side – an editor. An awesome new team member who is 100% in my corner offering great advice, listening to my ideas, and who is as passionate about my novel as I am. This has translated to a little confidence boost and less evenings spent crying into a glass of wine/bag of chocolate/tub of ice cream agonising over the chapter I’ve written, whilst asking anyone who’ll listen (including the dog) “Am I ever going to make it?”
  3. No more pouring over submissions guidelines or the panicky heart-thundering 4-12 weeks that follow every single submission, or jumping every time my phone chimes an incoming email. The contract has been signed and my copy is tucked in the top drawer of my writing desk, waiting for me to pull it out and ogle it whenever I like. This frees up much needed space in my head for the panicky I’m-never-going-to-hit-this-deadline thoughts instead.
  4. I’m learning the art of literary juggling. There’s another book to write and deliver, and another deadline. I no longer have the luxury of editing, proofing and polishing one novel before moving on to the next. Yesterday I was wading knee deep into the emotional turmoil of a character in my new book, today I’m adding more humour to the last book. It’s stop start, but rather than hinder me I’ve found a new perspective on both novels which is making me a better writer.
  5. I have something to say to all the well-meaning people who ask, “How’s the writing going? When can I read your book?” I don’t mean family members and good friends who have my back and understand what I’m doing. I mean the odd acquaintances, the playground mums, the ones who just don’t get it when I try to explain how difficult (and long) the publication process is, and tell me about their best friend’s sister-in-law (who’s also a writer) who tried… Now I can smile and I can say, “actually it’s going well. I’ve signed with a great publisher.” Of course they’ll likely ask if it’ll be out next month before their next holiday and I’ll probably want to bang my head against the nearest wall or netball pole at this point, but the ball is rolling at last. It’ll be another six months before my publication date arrives, but it’s happening.

So keep believing and keep going. It will happen. And if you want to find out how it happened for me, pop over to the Carina website and read what I did when I got The Call  – http://www.carinauk.com/news/

About Laurie Ellingham

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Laurie starting writing stories when she was eight years old, and after gaining a first class honours degree in Psychology and a brief stint working in public relations, Laurie followed her passion and her dream to become a writer and now spends her days writing contemporary women’s fiction. Last year she self-published her second novel, How to Throw Your Life Away.

You can follow Laurie on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

Spotlight on Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant

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As someone who comes from a family that begins planning the next Christmas on Boxing Day, I’m delighted to be spotlighting Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant today. Published by Bookouture, Christmas at the Little Village Bakery is available for purchase in e-book and paperback on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

You can read the opening of the story below and join me in getting into the festive spirit!

Christmas at the Little Village Bakery

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It’s time to get toasty by the fire with a glass of mulled wine and a slice of chocolate yule log sprinkled with a little romance. Welcome to Christmas at the Little Village Bakery.

Snow is falling in Honeybourne and Spencer is bringing home his American fiancée Tori for a traditional English Christmas with all the trimmings. But when his hippie mum and dad meet her high-maintenance parents, sparks of the wrong sort start to fly. Then Spencer bumps into his first love Jasmine and unexpected feelings come flooding back.

Millie is run off her feet with Christmas orders at the Little Village Bakery and new baby Oscar. Thank goodness her cousin Darcie is here to help her. Although she does seem to be rather flirty with Millie’s boyfriend Dylan.

Will Darcie ever find true love of her own? And is marrying Tori a terrible mistake for Spencer if his heart is with someone else?

An Extract From 

Christmas at the Little Village Bakery 

Chapter One

It felt like the world had been muffled. Their breath rose in plumes into the air against a landscape that was white as far as the eye could see. Gentle feathers of snow fell silently, frosting their coats and hair.

Tori gripped Spencer’s hand tighter and he looked down at her with a broad grin as they trudged along the path that led to the Old Bakery, his unruly black hair peeking out from beneath a woolly hat and his startling blue eyes alive with humour. Her tiny frame was bundled up in a huge padded coat, and he could barely see her flame‑red hair beneath the hat and scarf wrapped around it, but the perfect nose that turned up a little at the end, and the blue eyes set in a face that looked a good deal younger than her twenty-eight years, peeked out at him from the layers, and he couldn’t think of a time when she had looked lovelier.

As he drew in a lungful of frosty air, he was filled with joy to see the paths and fields of Honeybourne that meant they were home – at least, his home; though, in time, he hoped that it might become hers too. He had enjoyed his time in Colorado teaching on the exchange programme at a school in Boulder – aside from being the place where he had found Tori it was a beautiful part of the world – but he had been away for over a year, apart from the one brief visit in the spring for the opening of the Old Bakery, and a year was a long time to be parted from the place he felt rooted to.

‘I bet you didn’t expect to go from snow in Boulder to more snow here,’ he said.

‘You get snow in England too.’

‘Yeah, but usually at Easter, not Christmas,’ Spencer laughed. ‘One of the supreme ironies of all those songs about white Christmases is that in real life you don’t get a flake of the stuff until at least March.’

‘I can deal with snow. It’ll shake the jet lag off a bit.’

‘Maybe we should have had another snooze at home before venturing out to meet everyone,’ Spencer said thoughtfully. ‘I’m sure they would have understood if we’d put off the reunions until we were feeling right.’

‘Best way to deal with jet lag is to battle through it,’ Tori announced stoically. ‘When you’re exhausted, your body won’t care whether it thinks it’s bedtime or not.’

‘If you say so. And is the jet lag being shook off?’

‘Not really,’ Tori grinned. ‘I never said it was a foolproof plan.’

‘Maybe it’s the wrong sort of snow… How’s our English snow holding up against your American stuff?’

‘It’s a bit wet.’

‘Don’t you dare add anything to that about it being like the English people…’

‘I would never say that,’ Tori smiled. ‘I love the English people. One in particular I love more than anyone in the world…’

Spencer’s grin widened, and he gave her hand a squeeze. He’d waited so long to hear those words. ‘I love you too,’ he said.

She turned to him with an impish gleam in her eye. ‘Oh, did you think I meant you? I was talking about your friend, Millie, obviously. After all, anyone who can make chocolate cake like she does has to be worthy of my love.’

Spencer bent to kiss her lightly on the lips. They were cold, but yielded and warmed beneath his own. ‘That’s exactly why I love you, chocolate cake or no. And you’re really getting the hang of the British sarcasm thing.’

‘I’m not sure that’s a compliment.’

‘Of course it is.’

Tori raised her eyebrows. The action was just about visible below the rim of her red and blue reindeer-motif bobble-hat. ‘Is that the British sarcasm thing?’

‘I’m afraid so.’

‘Then you’d better watch it, buster. We may not have sarcasm in Boulder but we do have fists.’

Spencer threw back his head and laughed. The sound echoed down the frozen lane. Then he scooped Tori into his arms and planted another kiss on her lips, this one more passionate than the last. ‘I really do love you, Tori Annabelle Dempsey.’

‘Hey…’ She smiled as she pulled away, catching her breath. ‘If you do that again we might not make it to the bakery.’

‘I’m sure they won’t mind if we’re late.’

‘That’s rude. Didn’t your parents teach you anything?’

‘You can ask them in a couple of days when they arrive back from Spain.’

Tori’s smile faded. ‘You think they’ll like me?’

‘Of course they’ll like you. Quite frankly, I don’t care anyway. I love you, and that’s the only thing that matters.’

‘You didn’t say that when you were stressing about meeting my parents.’

‘That’s different.’

‘How?’

‘It just is. Your parents are… Well, let’s just say they take a lot more impressing than mine will. And fathers are always more protective of daughters, aren’t they?’

‘Are they?’

Spencer nodded as he set her on the path again.

‘I don’t buy it,’ Tori said. ‘Your parents will be just as tough to crack as mine were.’

‘Ah, so you do admit that your parents are tough!’

‘Maybe a little.’

Spencer grinned. But then it disappeared. It was bad enough that his parents were going to meet Tori and her parents for the first time, but his anxieties weren’t helped by the fact that Tori’s parents had met Spencer once before and made it quite clear they hated him. But he tried not to dwell on that. Tori had told him not to worry, and briefly explained that it was all to do with some guy named Hunter that they had earmarked as a potential husband for her. It wasn’t Spencer’s fault that he wasn’t Hunter, she’d told him, but in time they would get over that. Maybe he could salvage things over Christmas, when people were feeling a little more charitable and disposed to love their fellow men?

‘Maybe we should have done all this before we set a date for the wedding,’ he said. ‘What if our parents don’t like each other?’

‘Well, at least they won’t have to see much of each other as yours live in Spain and mine live in Colorado.’

‘That will certainly put paid to a life of weekend bridge tournaments.’

‘Never mind that, what if they hate each other and it ruins Christmas for everyone?’ Tori asked, anxiety creeping into her tone for the first time. ‘We can always “forget” to ask them to the wedding, but they’re already on their way for Christmas so there’s no saving that.’

‘My mum would never speak to me again if we didn’t ask them to the wedding and Dad always takes her side over everything.’

‘Neither would my mom but I’m still prepared to risk it if you are.’

Spencer tried to smile but he couldn’t. He wanted to believe it was just because his face was so cold. ‘I’m sure it will be fine.’

‘No, you’re not. You’re chewing your lip.’

He clamped his mouth shut and pulled her close. ‘This is our first Christmas together – at least officially – and I won’t let anyone spoil that, parents or otherwise.’

About Tilly Tennant

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From a young age, Tilly Tennant was convinced that she was destined for the stage.  Once she realised she wasn’t actually very good at anything that would put her on the stage, she started to write stories instead. There were lots of terrible ones, like The Pet Rescue Gang (aged eight), which definitely should not see the light of day ever again. Thankfully, her debut novel, Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn was not one of those, and since it hit the Amazon best seller lists she hasn’t looked back. Born in Dorset, she currently lives in Staffordshire with her husband, two daughters, three guitars, four ukuleles, two violins and a kazoo.

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

Publication Day Spotlight on Speak Gigantular by Irenosn Okoljie

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I don’t feature enough short stories on Linda’s Book Bag so it gives me great pleasure to spotlight Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okojie. Speak Gigantular is published today 15th September 2016 by Jacaranda and is available for purchase here.

Speak Gigantular

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Speak Gigantular is a startling short story collection from one of Britain’s rising literary stars. These stories are captivating, erotic, enigmatic and disturbing. Irenosen Okojie’s gift is in her understated humour, her light touch, her razor-sharp assessment of the best and worst of humankind, and her unflinching gaze into the darkest corners of the human experience.

In these stories Irenosen Okojie creates worlds where lovelorn aliens abduct innocent coffee shop waitresses, where the London Underground is inhabited by the ghosts of errant Londoners caught between here and the hereafter, where insensitive men cheat on their mistresses and can only muster enough interest to fall for one- dimensional poster girls and where brave young women attempt to be erotically empowered at their own peril.

Sexy, serious and at times downright disturbing, this brilliant debut collection sizzles with originality.

About Irenoson Okojie

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Irenosen Okojie is a Nigerian-British writer and Arts Project Manager. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask Award in 2016 and she was selected by Ben Okri as an emerging writer to watch during the London Short Story Festival 2015.

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Her writing has been featured in the Guardian and the Observer and her short stories have been published internationally, including Kwani 07 and Phatitude.

Irenosen has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Southbank Centre and the Caine Prize. She was a selected writer by Theatre Royal Stratford East and Writer in Residence for TEDx East End. She is the Prize Advocate for the SI Leeds Literary Prize and was a mentor for the Pen to Print project supported by publisher Constable & Robinson. She lives in east London.

You can find out more about Irenosen by following her on Twitter and visiting her website.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

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My enormous thanks to Emma Knight at Hodder for an advance reader copy of First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. First Comes Love will be published by Hodder on 22nd September 2016 and is available for purchase from your local Amazon site and all good book sellers including Barnes and Noble and Waterstones.

First Comes Love

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What happens when love, marriage and children don’t come in the expected order?

Fifteen years after the tragic death of their older brother splintered Josie and Meredith’s already fragile relationship, the two sisters are following very different paths.

Hardworking, reserved Meredith thought she’d done it all the right way round – married the perfect man, had the perfect daughter – but now she’s wondering if she got the love part wrong.

Impulsive and spirited Josie has been single for years. She wants a child so much that she’s preparing to head straight for the baby carriage all on her own.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and secrets from the past surface, Josie and Meredith must come to terms with their own choices. Perhaps they’ll find that they need each other more than they know…

My Review of First Comes Love

Daniel’s death fifteen years previously has affected his sisters, Meredith and Josie, far more than they have confessed to one another – or to those around them.

Those expecting a fast paced chick lit read from Emily Giffin suggested by the title First Comes Love will be disappointed. Those hoping for a mature and deftly written exploration of grief, family relationships and what it is to be a woman will be richly rewarded.

First Comes Love was my first Emily Giffin read and I thought it was so good. She writes with a richness and assured style that I thoroughly enjoyed. The two sisters Josie and Meredith are not especially attractive characters initially, Josie being selfish and impulsive, Meredith being dour and controlling, but as the narrative progresses different layers are revealed so that I felt proper empathy towards them by the end of the book and came to think of them as real people. I thought this was so clever. Emily Giffin has drawn in the reader to the family dynamics so that they experience the relationships in tandem with the characters. I think it is the excellent quality of the dialogue that adds to this effect.

After the initial setting up, the plot is minimal as this is a book more about delving into relationships and feelings, but what there is is convincing and entertaining. I loved the dynamics between Pete and Josie, and Gabe and Josie, which are a lighter foil to the more intense partnership of Meredith and Nolan. There is hope, but there is also realism which I thoroughly appreciated.

First Comes Love is a book that, in a sense, belies its title. No quick, fluffy, insubstantial read here, but a frequently intense, intelligently written and compelling exploration of family, relationships and, yes, real love.

About Emily Giffin

emily-giffin

Emily Giffin is the author of seven New York Times bestselling novels. She practiced litigation at a Manhattan firm for several years before writing full term.  She lives in Atlanta with her husband and three children.

You can follow Emily on Twitter and visit her website. You will also find Emily on Facebook.