The Snake Who Baked a Cake by S. Afrough and S.Hough

snake who baked a cake

I love reviewing children’s books on Linda’s Book Bag and I’m delighted to have another to share today; The Snake Who Baked a Cake by S. Afrough and S.Hough, illustrated by S. Goodway.

The Snake Who Baked a Cake was published by Clink Street on 1st August 2017 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here. To celebrate, the authors have kindly told me about a favourite recipe of their own.

The Snake Who Baked a Cake

snake who baked a cake

Join Jake the Snake in his kitchen to find out how he bakes a big chocolate cake!

The Snake who Baked a Cake is the first in a series of illustrated children’s stories by sister writing team Sarah and Simin.

Baking Memories

A Guest Post by Sarah and Simin

Growing up, Simin and Sara’s mother was an avid baker.  She often used baking as a tool to interact with her children in a fun and interactive way. By assigning tasks to each of them, Sara and Simin grew a bond and a creative interests in the kitchen.

One of their favourites bakes was the classic chocolate brownie. Sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla, flour and chopped walnuts were added to melted chocolate and butter and baked for 25 minutes.

Once baked, the tasty treats were devoured by either themselves, family and friends.

Sara and Simin have fond memories of visits to their Grandmother as kids, and she too played a prominent role in their childhood. One activity they were involved with annually was helping with her cherry jam production over the summer. This was largely a family affair where the sisters, along with their cousins, would be organised into teams and compete over the most number of cherries pitted.  Their Grandmother would then cook the cherries for hours and once the jams were ready, they would be potted for family and friends.

Simin and Sara cherish these nostalgic memories they gathered as children, and often recall how instrumental these were in creating special bonds with families and friends. They reflect on the variety of skills that were passed down through generations during these activities, and use/will use these as guides to encourage interaction with their own children.

My Review of The Snake Who Baked a Cake

Jake the snake is cooking!

You’d think there wouldn’t be much to say in reviewing a book a mere 18 pages long aimed at two year olds, but I disagree.

Firstly, there are some smashing illustrations to captivate young children and I like the way these relate to the text so that children might count the three illustrated eggs that Jake uses, for example, promoting numeracy as well as a love of storytime.

I thought the rhyme scheme was very well maintained, allowing young children to hear similarly spelled words to help with future oracy and literacy. I also liked the fact that although the text is primarily simple and at the right level for very young children there are also a few words like ‘wobbling’ to extend their vocabulary too.

Alongside these aspects I thought the care taken with the oven as Jake baked was a good way to promote safety and I liked the fact he wore his apron to keep clean. It is no bad thing either that a male snake is baking to invert sexual stereotypes and I love the concept of getting children active in the kitchen so they can emulate Jake’s baking too.

I thought The Snake Who Baked a Cake was an excellent book for pre-school children.

About S. Afrough and S.Hough

After becoming an auntie and mother respectively for the first time, sisters Sara and Simin quickly came to love story time and the joy of creating new worlds, and adventures, which would spark the imaginations of the children in their family. Wishing to share their stories with other young readers, and their families, they decided to put pen to paper beginning with their favourite character of Jake, a Californian red-sided garter snake, and his surprising ability to cook scrumptious cakes.

Complimented by colourful and dynamic illustrations, Sara and Simin hope that that the book will not only provide an entertaining bedtime read but will also encourage young and extended families to start baking tasty treats together in the kitchen!

There’s more with these other bloggers too:


The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett


My enormous thanks to the author Lilly Bartlett for allowing me to read The Big Dreams Beach Hotel. I always enjoy her books and this was no exception. You can read my review of Lilly’s previous two books, The Big Little Wedding at Carlton Square here and of The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square here.

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel was published by Harper Impulse on 18th August and you can purchase it here in the UK and here in the US.

I also have an extract that you might like to read here, although the giveaway is now closed.

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel

paperback cover

This is a brand new standalone novel from the author of the Carlton Square series with a whole new cast of characters to fall in love with!

Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face when you check into the hotel that’s full of dreams…

Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?

My Review of The Big Dreams Beach Hotel

When a stint in New York doesn’t quite go according to plan, Rose finds herself back in Scarborough in a hotel just ripe for development.

Having loved Lilly Bartlett’s previous two novels I approached The Big Dreams Beach Hotel with trepidation because I knew I was going to meet a new set of characters and I didn’t know if I would like them as much as I have those in the Carlton Square. I needn’t have worried. I loved The Big Dreams Beach Hotel and its inhabitants even more.

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel is unashamedly light, romantic and chick-lit in style and Lilly Bartlett writes this genre with consummate skill to perfection. I find her books effortless to read. That doesn’t mean they are insubstantial, but that the writing flows so well that I am totally absorbed in the story. I love the direct appeal to reader at times as it makes me feel I am actually part of the narrative too.

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel has humour that never feels contrived and comes through the wonderful characterisation. I rarely laugh aloud when reading but I did during this book. It was a delight to meet Rosie, Rory et al and apart from a couple of characters whom I won’t name for fear of spoiling the story, I loved them all – especially Barry. Lilly Bartlett manages to convey what makes us human so emotionally that I admit to shedding the odd tear too.

I absolutely loved The Big Dreams Beach Hotel. It has everying I want in a book of this genre. There’s a great and believable plot. There’s an exploration of community, friendship and love. There’s a colourful range of characters who feel real and human. Above all, there’s a hugely satisfying and entertaining read. I cannot recommend it higly enough.

About Lilly Bartlett


Lilly Bartlett is a pen name of Michele Gorman. Michele writes books with heart and humour, full of best friends, girl power and, of course, love and romance. Call them beach books or summer reads, chick lit or romcom… readers and reviewers call them “feel good”, “relatable” and “thought-provoking”.

She is both a Sunday Times and a USA Today bestselling author, raised in the US and living in London. She is very fond of naps, ice cream and Richard Curtis films but objects to spiders and the word “portion”.

You can find Michele on Instagram and on Facebook . You can follow her on Twitter and visit Michele’s blog and her website. There’s also a Lilly Bartlett Facebook page here. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Big Dreams Blog Tour (1)

Introducing Jackie and Wade with A. L. Gaylin, Author of If I Die Tonight

If I Die Tonight

I’m so thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for A. L .Gaylin’s If I Die Tonight. Alison has very kindly told me a bit more about two of her characters from If I Die Tonight, Jackie and Wade, and I’m delighted to be able to share that with you on Linda’s Book Bag today.

If I Die Tonight is published by Penguin on 24th August 2017 and is available for pre-order here.

If I Die Tonight

If I Die Tonight


There was a time when Jackie Reed knew her sons better than anyone. She used to be able to tell what they were thinking, feeling, if they were lying…

But it’s as though every day, every minute event, she knows them a little less. Her boys aren’t boys anymore, they’re becoming men – men she’s not sure she recognises, men she’s not sure she can trust.

So when one of her son’s classmates is killed in suspicious circumstances, people start asking questions. Was it really a hit and run? A car-jacking gone wrong? Or something much more sinister? Now Jackie must separate the truth from the lies. How did that boy end up on the road? And where was her son that night?

Wade and Jackie

A Guest Post by A.L Gaylin

Thank you very much to Linda for hosting today’s stop on my blog tour with If I Die Tonight – I am really pleased to be here.


It is Wade’s voice we hear first in If I Die Tonight – in the form of a suicide note posted to Facebook. Yet despite that deeply personal introduction, the 17-year-old high school outcast is the character we know the least about for most of the book. With his dyed black hair, dark wardrobe and sullen disposition, Wade is an anomaly in bright, preppy Havenkill. But that isn’t the only reason why so many in town are suspicious of him. While he largely keeps to himself, he was hurt emotionally by his parents’ divorce, and more than once that’s manifested itself in hostile behaviour, which we learn about as the book progresses.  As we find out, a disturbing incident involving Wade’s estranged father and his new family two years earlier almost resulted in the teenager’s arrest, and troubles his mother Jackie to this day. So, when Wade’s classmate Liam Miller falls victim to a hit-and-run, it’s not surprising that this troubled young artist is blamed – especially after it’s revealed that the assailant fit Wade’s description. An angry outburst on Instagram – in which Wade lashes out at both Liam and his grieving friends — only serves to incriminate him more.

But there is much more to Wade than just sullenness and anger. A talented artist who collects found objects, he’s sensitive and loyal to those he loves, including his mother and brother. He’s also keeping more than one secret that he’s willing to guard with his life. Did he really kill Liam Miller? While he insists he did not, Wade’s refusal to tell anyone where he was the night of the hit-and-run casts even more doubt on this enigmatic young man… and may actually point to his guilt.


If I Die Tonight is a story told through four separate points of view, and it was that of Wade’s mother, Jackie, that was most difficult — and scary — to write. I’d like to tell you a bit about her.

Jackie Reed is a middle-aged woman who grew up in Havenkill, Jackie once dreamed of being a novelist, and still keeps a half-finished manuscript stashed in her desk. When she was young and adventurous, she and her then-boyfriend Bill Reed drove across country to California – she with her manuscript, he with his screenplay — in the hopes of fulfilling their dreams and making it big in Hollywood. Those dreams ended when Jackie got pregnant with her first son, Wade. The couple married and returned to Havenkill, where Bill finished law school and became an attorney and Jackie eventually found work as a realtor before giving birth to their second son, Connor.

They’ve since divorced, with Bill leaving Jackie for the young office manager at his firm when Connor was starting preschool and Wade in elementary school. Raising the two boys on her own, Jackie is finding their teenage years particularly difficult, and feels as though she knows them less and less with each passing day. That’s particularly true of Wade, about whom she’s genuinely worried. When it’s revealed that a mysterious carjacker has run down local high school football star Liam Miller, sensitive Jackie can’t help but empathize with his parents. But her sympathy turns to dread when she realizes that mysterious Wade was missing that night, his whereabouts unaccounted for.

Honesty is a trait that Jackie values more than any other. So it’s particularly frustrating to her that so many people have lied to her in her life – from Bill to her confounding quiet sons. As the book progresses, Jackie uncovers more and more truths that have been kept from her, and in the process, grows more and more resolute in her desire to save Wade and prove him innocent – for his sake as well as her own.

Jackie is one of my favourite characters I hope you enjoy reading her story.


(Oh, I’m sure we will Alison! Thank you so much for telling ua about your characters.)

About A L Gaylin

AL Gaylin

Alison Gaylin’s debut book Hide Your Eyes, was nominated for an Edgar award in the best first novel category.  Her critically acclaimed suspense novels have been published in such countries as the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Japan.

She has been nominated for the ITW Thriller, Anthony and RT awards and won the Shamus Award for And She Was, the first book in the Brenna Spector series.  Her books have been on the bestseller lists in the US and Germany.

You can Follow A.L.Gaylin on Twitter @alisongaylin, visit her website and find her on Facebook. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

If I Die Tonight Blog Tour - final

An Extract from The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard


I was desperate to read The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard in time for these launch celebrations but unfortunately, life and my enormous TBR pile got in the way! However, I do have the opening of the novel to share today so at least I have had the pleasure of reading part of this wonderful book.

Published by Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr


Funny, heart-warming and ultimately triumphant, The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr is the perfect story for anyone who doesn’t quite fit in – and for everyone who chooses not to.

Elvira Carr is twenty-seven and neuro-atypical. Her father – who she suspects was in the secret service – has passed away and, after several Unfortunate Incidents growing up, she now spends most of her time at home with her overbearing mother. But when her mother has a stroke and is taken into care, Elvira is suddenly forced to look after herself or risk ending up in Sheltered Accommodation. Armed with her Seven Rules, which she puts together after online research, Elvira hopes to learn how to navigate a world that’s full of people she doesn’t understand. Not even the Seven Rules can help her, however, when she discovers that everything she thought she knew about her father was a lie, and is faced with solving a mystery she didn’t even know existed . . .

An Extract from The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr


Preparation, Elvira, is the key

– Mrs Agnes Carr (Mother) 

I was scrubbing potatoes when it happened.

Mother liked them with the skins left on, because of Vitamins, but I had to make sure any little marks or green bits were cut out. My feet were aching and I was just about to take off my slippers to rub them when there was a crash and a moan from the living room.

My heart thudded. I knew this kind of thing happened because I’d seen it on Casualty. Old people often collapsed and fell, but I’d never thought it would happen to Mother. I was surprised she’d allowed it to.

I wished she’d fallen in her Opera Class or her Bridge Afternoon, where there would be people who knew what to do. I went into the living room, my feet throbbing. She was lying on the floor beside her chair, trying to pull herself up.

‘Are you alright?’ I asked. I’d never been in this situation before so I didn’t know what else to say.

I twisted the hem of my apron – it was the one with Dog Breeds of the World on it – and looked at her.

Normally, whenever Mother saw me doing this she’d shout Apron! or Jumper! depending on what I was wearing, but this time she wasn’t looking at me. She wasn’t saying anything either, which was unusual. The noises she was making sounded like the monkeys in David

Attenborough’s Nature Documentary The Life of Mammals. They weren’t proper words, but groans with gasps in between.

I tried to pull her up. Mother was quite a thin person, not like me, but I couldn’t lift her. Her left hand was white as she hung on to the chair leg.

I was struggling to get my words out. ‘Have you . . . broken your hip, Mother?’ I asked. This was a common accident for old people. Older people. (No, just people, Mother would scowl. She said she was wrinkled before her time because of having to screw her face up into expressions clear enough for me to recognize.)

My heart was still thudding, and I couldn’t think straight because of the suddenness. Mother groaned again and I thought I heard a familiar word: useless.

‘Shall I call the Doctor, Mother? Um . . . or go next door and fetch Sylvia and Trevor? What should I do?’ Mother’s moaning got louder. She lifted her head slightly. Her hair hung over her face like the madwoman in a Classic Horror Film I’d watched with Father when she’d been Away. Her mouth was twisted. People who had strokes on TV fell and were paralyzed down one side, and their mouths were lopsided. ‘Have you had a stroke, Mother?’ I asked, bending down. She snorted. Call an ambulance, I thought. That’s what people did.

It came very quickly with two men – paramedics was the correct word – who looked young and strong. They moved around as if they were used to people having strokes and they made a lot of jokes. I knew they were jokes because the one making the joke looked at the other one and then they both laughed. I don’t like talk-ing to Strangers but I liked these ones coming. It made me feel safe. I think even Mother would have liked them

if she’d been feeling better. They carried her into the back of their ambulance: Light as a feather, you are, love. She clung to the sides of the stretcher and kept making the monkey noises even though no one could understand them.

‘Soon have you checked out, no worries,’ one said, and then, to me, ‘Are you coming with your mother, love?’

My face went hot when he called me love.

Coming with your mother?

I hardly ever went anywhere. Father was dead and Mother had sold his car. When I’d made trips on my own there had been Incidents. I occasionally went to places, places such as the Dentist, on the bus with Mother, but that was a palaver and made her knees hurt.

I would have enjoyed a trip out but I knew ambulances were only for sick people.

‘No, thank you.’ I stared at his ear. ‘I’m not ill. And I haven’t finished getting the lunch ready.’

They looked at each other. I screwed up a fold of my apron and held it tight. The apron ties cut into my waist. I could do with losing a few pounds. (A few stones, Mother used to say, looking at me and sniffing.) We ate a Healthy Diet, because Mother decided what we ate, but

I had an interest in biscuits. I did the shopping – I was used to our local branch of Asda and could manage going there on my own – so I bought them then, sometimes without Mother knowing. I liked trying out different brands and varieties and comparing them. It added another dimension to my life.

‘We’ll be off, then.’ The ambulance man was looking at me. ‘Sandhaven Hospital. Give us an hour or so before you ring.’

‘Why do you want me to ring you?’ I asked, chewing my lip.

‘Not us, love,’ he said, very slowly. People often talked slowly to me. Mother didn’t. She talked fast and loudly and didn’t leave room for replying. ‘Ring the hospital to find out how your mum is. Alright?’

‘I’m alright, thank you.’ I wasn’t ill but my feet ached and my heart was still pounding and there was a new hollowness inside me that was like the feeling I got when I looked down from the top of the escalator in the Shopping Centre.

About Frances Maynard

frances maynard

Frances teaches English part-time to adults with learning difficulties, including Asperger’s. She is married with one grown-up daughter and lives in Dorset.

You can follow Frances on Twitter @perkinsfran1 and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:


99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter

99 red balloons

I was delighted when 99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter dropped through my letterbox as it looked like just my kind of read. I’d like to thank Sabah Khan for sending me a copy (and for the lolly that has rapidly been eaten!)

Published by Avon Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, 99 Red Balloons is available for purchase here.

99 Red Balloons

99 red balloons

Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…

My Review of 99 Red Balloons

When a child goes missing it will be the start of a catalogue of events to affect many lives.

Crikey! What a tangled web we weave! I thoroughly enjoyed 99 Red Balloons. It’s actually quite difficult to review without giving too much away as its plot races along, but suffice it to say it’s a cracker of a story, cleverly thought out and hugely entertaining in its execution. Elisabeth Carpenter is so skilful in ending each chapter with a sentence that takes the breath away and makes the reader desperate to know what happens next. I also thought the exploration of identity and relationships was an extra element that added depth to the story so that 99 Red Balloons isn’t just another run of the mill crime thriller.

All the characters have a fascinating part to play and their first person narratives twist and weave so that I was completely swept up in the story. I liked Maggie best as she carries the events and grief of her life with dignity and fortitude. It’s the brilliantly written direct speech that reveals so much and each individual has a clear and distinct voice that adds layer upon layer to what is happening.

99 Red Balloons made me consider the impact of a missing child not just on the child and their family, but on the police and wider community too. I want to say so much more but am fearful of giving away the plot so suffice it to say 99 Red Balloons is such a good read and I highly recommend it.

About Elisabeth Carpenter

libby carpenter

Libby Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She completed a BA in English Literature and Language with the Open University in 2011.
Libby was awarded a Northern Writers’ New Fiction award, and was longlisted for Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 and 2016) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015). She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories in the area, including the novel she is writing at the moment. She currently works as a book keeper.

You can follow Elisabeth on Twitter, @LibbyCPT and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

Cover reveal: Christmas With You by Sheila O’Flanagan

Christmas with you

Welcoming Sheila O’Flanagan back to Linda’s Book Bag is well overdue and I’m delighted to be helping reveal the cover of her latest release, Christmas With You. Sheila previously told me all about her inspiration for another of her books My Mother’s Secret in a guest post that you can read here. I also reviewed My Mother’s Secret here.

Christmas With You will be published on 19th October by Headline and was previously titled A Season To Remember. It is available for pre-order here.

Christmas With You

Christmas with you

Sheila O’Flanagan’s romantic and heart-warming Christmas With You is perfect festive reading for fans of Veronica Henry, Carole Matthews and Marian Keyes. These enchanting linked short stories from the No. 1 bestselling author bring to life one unforgettable Christmas full of surprise twists, life-changing moments…and love.

Tucked away in the Irish countryside, the Sugar Loaf Lodge is opening its door for the festive season. With snow falling on the mountains outside and warm fires roaring inside, it’s the perfect place for guests to celebrate the happiest time of the year. But what if you’ve just had your heart broken? Or discovered that the man you’re married to has lied to you? What if a secret from your past has finally come back to haunt you?

For some of the guests arriving at the Sugar Loaf Lodge, Christmas is looking far from tranquil. But can they find the magic and romance of the season within the walls of this beautiful hotel?

About Sheila O’Flanagan

Sheila O Flanagan

Sheila O’Flanagan is the award-winning author of over twenty titles, including the Sunday Times bestsellers The Missing Wife, My Mother’s Secret and If You Were Me, and the winner of the Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year Award, All For You. She has also written the bestselling short story collections Destinations, Connections and A Season To Remember.

Sheila has always loved telling stories, and after working in banking and finance for a number of years, she decided it was time to fulfil a dream and give writing her own book a go. So she sat down, stuck ‘Chapter One’ at the top of a page, and got started. Sheila is now a full-time writer and lives in Dublin with her husband.

You can follow Sheila on Twitter @sheilaoflanagan, find her on Facebook and visit her website for more details.

Closer to Home: A Guest Post by Holly Seddon, Author of Don’t Close Your Eyes

Don't Close Your Eyes_cover

I can’t express how delighted I am to welcome Don’t Close Your Eyes author Holly Seddon to Linda’s Book Bag. I was desperate to know what Holly thought about crime and the fears we have and I asked her if she would write a guest post about our fear of the ordinary, closer to home, threats. I’m delighted she agreed to do so.

Published by Corvus, Don’t Close Your Eyes is available for purchase here.

Don’t Close Your Eyes

Don't Close Your Eyes_cover

Robin and Sarah weren’t the closest of twins. They weren’t even that similar. But they loved each other dearly. Until, in the cruellest of domestic twists, they were taken from one another.

Now, in her early 30s, Robin lives alone. Agoraphobic and suffering from panic attacks, she spends her days pacing the rooms of her house. The rest of the time she watches – watches the street, the houses, the neighbours. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn’t…

And Sarah? Sarah got what she wanted – the good-looking man, the beautiful baby, the perfect home. But she’s just been accused of the most terrible thing of all. She can’t be around her new family until she has come to terms with something that happened a long time ago. And to do that, she needs to track down her twin sister.

But Sarah isn’t the only person looking for Robin. As their paths intersect, something dangerous is set in motion, leading Robin and Sarah to fight for much more than their relationship…

Closer to Home

A Guest Post by Holly Seddon

You can take your baddies in the shadowy alleyways, your plane crashes and your serial killers, and file them under ‘incredibly unlikely to happen’. For me, these are such distant fears that they carry no weight. What scares me, what absolutely terrifies me, is the idea of danger creeping under my own front door and destroying everything that I love.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good serial killer romp but the chances of it happening to me are easy to dismiss. So let’s look at some of the real risks to a woman my age.

An estimated 2 million adults (aged 16 – 59) in the UK experienced domestic abuse in 2016 alone. That’s six people in every 100, afraid and at risk in the place that should be safest: their homes.

There were 106,098 sexual offences recorded by the police in England and Wales last year. That’s just last year. Some one in five women in the UK have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of sixteen. And here’s the kicker, approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.

We teach our children stranger danger, as we ourselves were taught to fear the bogeyman, but danger is rarely unknown to us.

Don’t Close Your Eyes, my second novel, doesn’t feature unknown assailants. In fact, a large proportion of the story takes place within one suburban home.

The characters’ pasts, the choices they made and those made for them, they are where darkness lies and spreads.

Domestic noir is chilling in its realism, in its plausibility. Just look at the juggernaut that was The Girl On The Train. A normal woman, on a commuter train, watching her old street. There were no masked killers, no bogeymen.

Look at the premise of The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. A boozy dinner party, a baby next door protected by a monitor, missing at the end of the night. Or Disclaimer, the excellent debut by Renee McKnight, which features a woman’s past bleeding into every nook and cranny of her present, rotting her relationships from the inside.

Aren’t these some of our biggest fears?

As a reader and a writer, these books aren’t just about escapism, they’re a study of our very real vulnerabilities and, for me, a reminder of how lucky I am to truly feel safe.

Statistics from:

The Office for National Statistics


Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013

(Linda – My goodness Holly. Those are some scary statistics you’ve shared with us today.)

About Holly Seddon

Holly Seddon bw

Holly Seddon is a full time writer, living slap bang in the middle of Amsterdam with her husband James and a house full of children and pets. Holly has written for newspapers, websites and magazines since her early 20s after growing up in the English countryside, obsessed with music and books.

Her first novel Try Not To Breathe was published worldwide in 2016 and became a national and international bestseller.

You can follow Holly on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Long Journey to Jimbopo by James Lettice

long journey to jimbopo

My grateful thanks to Georgina Wiseman at Austin Macauley for my copy of Long Journey to Jimbopo by James Lettice in return for an honest review.

Long Journey to Jimbopo was published on 30th June 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Long Journey to Jimbopo

long journey to jimbopo

James Lettice was born in Wigan in 1940, a wartime baby. His cheery autobiography takes us through his short but eventful army career. A young man with a spectacular talent for getting into trouble, James’ senior officers couldn’t decide whether he was a leader or a follower and soon his name went before him as he made his mark on friends, colleagues and officers. His many escapades during his time as a ‘bad soldier’ make for lively reading, including numerous spells in jail, being ordered to ‘thumb a lift’ to Borneo, causing competitive bed-wetting and picking up ladyboys in Malaya.

Eventually the army had enough of him and sent James and his drink problem home, where he met Jaci and started a family before reaching rock bottom.

Much later in life, after a wake-up call, he began to write poems, some of which feature in this very enjoyable book.

My Review of Long Journey to Jimbopo

With a talent for getting into trouble born of too much fondness for drink, James Lettice has to learn some hard life lessons.

Let me say at the outset that Long Journey to Jimbopo is by no means a literary masterpiece of perfectly honed prose. There’s too liberal a use of exclamation marks and the F-word for that. It is, however, a colloquial, charming and brutally honest memoir that reveals a man much more sinned against than sinning.

As I read I became absolutely sure that James Lettice was a man with whom I’d get along brilliantly. He’s aware of his flaws, he’s self-deprecating and he is only too aware of the need to make the most of life and be grateful for his blessings. I think I enjoyed Long Journey to Jimbopo so much because James reminded me of some of the rogues I’ve taught in the past who ended up on a downward spiral as a result of life’s chance, not their intrinsic personality. I have also lost a person close to me through alcoholism and know what a grip drink can have on the individual so that James gained my empathy too.

There are some eyebrow raising adventures to enjoy as we read about life in the army and I can only hope procedures have changed somewhat now. It’s amazing what entertainment can be had with a cone of paper and a flame!

Whilst I enjoyed the prose section of Long Journey to Jimbopo very much, it was the poetry at the end that touched me most. I appreciated the irony and combative imagery of John Barleycorn the Thief, and thought that Listen, in particular, had a strong message for us all. I found the colloquial language and history behind Grandma Phoebe Jane very touching and would definitely say don’t read the poems before reading the memoir as they have much greater poignancy if you know the stories and life behind them. There’s also great sensitivity in the nature poems that belies the coarse mouthed drunkard of the army years.

Long Journey to Jimbopo is an unusual book that I very much enjoyed. I think its significance and messages will touch different readers in many ways, depending on their own life experiences. The meaning of the title only becomes clear at the very end of the prose section of the book and it was indeed a long journey for a man so consumed by alcohol and one that I am glad to have read about.

About James Lettice

james lettice

After being discharged from the army James was employed in numerous jobs: Meat porter, window cleaner, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, biscuit factory, to name a few. Eventually at the age of 36 he got a job at the magistrate’s courts. Drink blighted his life for a good number of years.

In desperation at the age of 38 he managed to stop drinking with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and a man called Tony and he says words cannot express his gratitude to Tony.

Eventually James started to write poetry, life-in-rhyme. He enjoys sharing his work as a speaker poet and says he could never have dreamed that one day he would become a published author at the age of 76.

You can see James Lettice performing his poem Listen featured in Long Journey to Jimbopo here.

An Interview with Jane Lythell, Author of Behind Her Back

Behind Her Back

It’s wonderful to have Jane Lythell back on Linda’s Book Bag today. Author of Behind Her Back, Jane previously wrote a fabulous guest post all about creating vivid settings when her previous book, The Woman of the Hour was published. You can read that post here.

Today I’m thrilled to be able to interview Jane about her writing.

Published by Head of Zeus on 10th August, Behind Her Back is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

Behind Her Back

Behind Her Back

Liz Lyon is a television producer and busy single mum to a teenage daughter. She works at StoryWorld, the UK’s favourite morning show. As both confidante and team leader, she is the person tasked with controlling the conflicts and tantrums that flare up off-air. Having just started dating again, she’s also having to deal with a few conflicts and tantrums at home…

Following a blissfully peaceful two-week holiday in Italy, Liz has returned to find a new colleague has joined the station. Lori Kerwell has been brought in to increase the show’s profitability. But Liz is not sure that’s the only thing on Lori’s agenda.

As Lori builds her power base with the bosses, Liz finds herself wondering what’s really going on behind her back…

An Interview with Jane Lythell

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Jane. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Behind Her Back in particular. Firstly, can you tell me, why do you write?

That is such a big question. I was a passionate reader from quite young. I read my way through the fiction shelves of Sheringham library and writers were my heroes. At some point I realised I had stories I wanted to tell.

When did you realise you were going to be a writer?

When I was seven or eight I wrote a story for my younger sister about Sally Dumpling, a fairy with curves. She lived in a yellow rose and polished the walls till they shone like gold and her best friend was a robin. My sister loved it! When I was older I wrote a few short stories. I knew I wanted to write but it took me an age to get down to the business of completing a novel.

(I love the sound of that early story!)

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I write in the mornings and I write standing up. I’m a morning person and my brain seems to work so much better before one! I’ve rigged up a wooden tray on legs on top of my desk and this gets my laptop to the right height. I would recommend doing this. It works for me and makes me feel more alert.

(I’m going to try that as I write anything slumped over my desk.)

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Behind Her Back?

Liz Lyon the heroine faces work and home conflicts many of us can relate to. It’s about backstabbing colleagues at work and about a secret Liz has to keep which would result in a scandal if it got out. A new Head of Sales arrives at the TV station and she tries to undermine Liz at every turn. Meanwhile at home Liz has started to date again but her fifteen year old daughter deeply resents the new man in her life. So there is a lot of conflict which drives the story.

You’ve worked in television like Liz. To what extent do you agree with the advice to new authors to ‘write what you know’?

I don’t think you have to do this literally. What I think this means is write about the emotional truth of your experiences. You can put your characters into a completely fictional environment and let them act out your own emotional history.  But certainly in Behind Her Back I have drawn on a world I know very well as I worked at TV-am and later WestCountry TV. Both places offered a lot of colourful material to draw on.

How far, then, is it your intention in your writing to uncover the world of television and how far simply to write a great story?

Always to tell the story first and foremost because that is what keeps me, as a reader, turning the pages. I also have to believe in the characters and care for at least one of them so I enjoy creating characters and trying to portray them as rounded, flawed and authentic as possible.

You belong to a group of authors called The Prime Writers. How has belonging to that group impacted on you as a writer?

It’s great for moral support and encouragement. We have a private Facebook page and it’s a place to go to share our highs and our lows. I’ve made some good friends in the group and would recommend joining a group of people doing the same work as you.  I am sure as bloggers that you will have such a forum.

(Yes indeed we do.)

You write very visually. How do you go about creating setting in your writing?

I do see things very visually before I write them down. For example I had to know what Liz’s flat looks like – French doors into a courtyard garden, squashy yellow sofa; what colours she likes to wear – all shades of red; what the TV studio looks like. For the StoryWorld TV station I made a rough sketch to get the geography of the offices and dressing rooms right.

In my novel After The Storm I had a head start because I’d sailed the route I describe and I’d taken lots of pictures which were so useful.

BRIGHT After The Storm cover

In Behind Her Back Liz is quite feisty. How did you create her as a character in advance of writing the novel?

What I do is I create a sheet for my main characters and think about what food, clothes and music they would like. What is their greatest fear and the worst thing that has happened to them? Even if not all of this makes its way into the book it helps the characters to live in my mind. With Liz Lyon I wanted to create a strong and capable woman who is also subject to guilt and self-doubt. Liz is divorced and worries about being a working mum with a full-on job. But she is feisty too. She will fight back when attacked and I particularly enjoyed writing those scenes. I wanted to reveal how Liz reacted under pressure because that is when a sense of a character emerges most strongly.

If you could choose to be a character from Behind Her Back, who would you be and why?

I would have to be Liz Lyon because I worked as a television producer and always said that I would far rather work behind the camera rather than in front of it. People often think it’s glamourous to be a presenter but in my experience presenters are insecure and need constant reassurance. I would not like to be in their shoes.

That’s interesting because in many of your books there is a contrast between the image people present to the world and the truth underneath. How far do you think this is part of the human condition?

There is always that split I think. We are social creatures and know that in our interactions we need to be diplomatic and make compromises, but I’m sure most of us sometimes carry on a different conversation in our heads. First person is particularly effective with characters who don’t or can’t say what they mean, characters whose inner voice is different from their outer behaviour.​ This is certainly the case with Liz who has to bite back words a lot.

If Behind Her Back became a film, who would you like to play Liz and why would you choose them?


I think Suranne Jones would be perfect as Liz as she has the right mix of strength and contained emotion. Liz is controlled at work and emotional at home and Suranne Jones would do this very well.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

All kinds of things. I have just started Watership Down by Richard Adams because I have never read it. My favourite novel is Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News. I love John le Carre’s and Charles Cumming’s espionage novels. Funnily enough I rarely read psychological thrillers even though I wrote two.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Behind Her Back should be their next read, what would you say?

A relateable heroine battling big egos, conflicts and betrayals at work and trouble at home!

Thank you so much, Jane, for your time in answering my questions.

About Jane Lythell

13 Oct 2014 Author pic

Jane lives in Brighton, UK and is a sea-lover, star gazer, film and football fan.She worked as a television producer for fifteen years. Jane then moved to the British Film Institute as Deputy Director, did one year as Chief Executive of BAFTA (miserable) followed by seven years at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (interesting). Jane now writes full time.

You can follow Jane on Twitter and find her on Facebook. She also has a blog.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Behind Her Back Blog Tour

All About Eve: A Guest Post by Kate Fitzroy, Author of the Wine Dark Mysteries

A fine racy wine

It gives me very great pleasure to welcome Kate Fitzroy to Linda’s Book Bag. Kate has six books in her Wine Dark Mysteries series and I was interested to find out how she had created and sustained her protagonist, Eve, through the series. I’m delighted Kate has agreed to tell me more today.

A Fine Racy Wine, the sixth book in the Wine Dark Mysteries, is available for purchase with all Kate’s books here.

A Fine Racy Wine

A fine racy wine

In the heart of the quiet county of Suffolk, there is a Tudor manor house surrounded by a well-manicured, leafy vineyard. Perfect? Is life there as good as it first appears?

Then, on the very border of this gentle county, lies the racy town of Newmarket. Here life is always on the edge. Jockeys, trainers, owners and punters all sharing the thrills and spills of the race course.

When Eve Sinclair, wine critic and TV celebrity, travels with Adam and Bernard to write the final chapter in her book she hopes to make it a quick visit… she hopes but then… is that love that is smouldering in the damp Suffolk air?

All About Eve

A Guest Post by Kate Fitzroy

When I decided to move genre from thrilling romance to romantic thriller, I was determined to create a heroine that was not too syrupy. I decided that Eve should walk along the tough path of riches to rags.  She is a reverse Cinderella, a spoilt young woman who meets her comeuppance even before the story really begins. I nearly named her Ella, but then decided on Eve, as she falls out of the paradise of an ideal life in her Provençal villa.

I wanted her to be strong enough to hide her vulnerability and to be likeable to the point where my ideal reader would identify with her.  Selfish and yet, in extremis, loving and caring. Educated to a ridiculous level of uselessness with her Master’s degree in English literature and a tendency to while away her time writing obscure poetry under an olive tree in Provence… until reality strikes. Vaguely arrogant and yet scared of falling in love but by Wine Dark Mystery Book 6… is it inevitable? The next title may tell all… or maybe not. Friends tell me that Eve is my alter-ego but I don’t agree… she  is merely a fig-leaf of my imagination.

About Kate Fitzroy

Kate Fitzroy

Kate Fitzroy has two lives. One in a flinty Victorian cottage in Newmarket, where she awakes to the clatter of horses’ hooves as strings of racehorses pass early each morning. Kate’s other life is played out in a Napoleonic manor set in a sleepy village amongst the vineyards of the Loire valley.
Her life has not always been so blissful. Widowed at the age of twenty-one, already with two children to love and protect, she fought her way up as hard a path as any of her heroines. Now happily married and surrounded by a large, loving family, Kate enjoys every moment of every day… CARPE DIEM… TEMPUS FUGIT…. or should that be CARPE MOMENTUM?

You can follow Kate on Twitter @KATEFITZROY36 and find her on Facebook.