Staying in With…

Staying in with pic

Happy New Year everyone. I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2018. I’d like to thank each and every one of you who has visited Linda’s Book Bag, shared a post, or has been the subject of a blog post with a review, an extract, interview, guest post, spotlight or giveaway. I truly appreciate all the support I’ve had. I cannot express how grateful I am for all the books that have arrived in my inbox or through my letterbox so unexpectedly.

I only have one real blogging regret since I began in February 2015 and that is that kind authors, other generous bloggers and hardworking publishers have sent me so many books that have never reached the top of my TBR pile and I wish I could feature them all. So, I’ve been wondering how I can put that right and have had an idea prompted by the fact that not everyone will want to be out partying tonight on New Year’s Eve. It’s called Staying in With… and the idea is that over 2018 authors can imagine they are staying in with me to tell me about one of their books.

There will be three simple questions:

Which of your books have you brought along to share with me and why have you chosen it?

What can we expect from an evening in with (book title)?

What else have you brought along and why?

If any authors would like to take part either email me using lindahill50(at)me.com or send me a direct message on Twitter @Lindahill50Hill and I’ll try to get you on the blog as soon as I can.

In the meantime, Happy New Year everyone. Let’s hope 2018 is good to us all!

Linda xxx

This is not a Spectacle by Isabelle Kenyon

This is Not a Spectacle

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed returning to reading poetry this year and so I am incredibly grateful to Isabelle Kenyon for a copy of her anthology This is not a Spectacle in return for an honest review.

This is not a Spectacle is available for purchase here.

This is not a Spectacle

This is Not a Spectacle

This is not a Spectacle explores human curiosity towards strangers and investigates where curiosity becomes fascination with another’s grief or misfortune from afar.

The poems range from my experiences of a car accident, my own fascination of others and strangers’ impressions of me.

It is an expression of anger from those who least want to be stared at and be put on display.

My Review of This is not a Spectacle

All of society is laid bare in the poems of This is not a Spectacle.

I really enjoyed reading this anthology. I wouldn’t say that the imagery and syntax are polished and refined, but that is the appeal of these poems. Isabelle Kenyon writes with a raw honesty that conveys true emotion and belief.

The different sections explore the underside of humanity and identity, frequently raising the issue of how we mis-treat others in society, from the bullying of someone because of their name, through mixed race relationships and the depersonalisation of the elderly in care homes to the violence of sexual abuse so that any reader can find a poem to make them think, to question their beliefs and to consider their own attitudes and positions. This is not a Spectacle is very much an anthology that feels personal to the poet, Isabelle Kenyon, but at the same time is no less resonant to the reader.

I found the poems set in India fascinating and will return to them after my visit there later in next year to see if they match my personal reflections. I especially loved the poem Identity – Granny Olga, particularly the last two lines as I felt they conveyed such love and optimism. I was curious throughout about the title This is not a Spectacle and when it became clear at the end of Letter To My Younger Self I almost punched the air in triumphant affirmation. This is a poem all young people could benefit from. There is quite an abrasive undertone to many of the poems, with quite a feminist perspective that I think will enlighten many readers too, especially those poems with quite strong expletive language or a quite disjointed physical structure on the page that reflects the subject matter.

This is not a Spectacle is an interesting and insightful collection that considers humanity from many angles. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Isabelle Kenyon

isabelle kenyon

Isabelle Kenyon is a poet, blogger and book reviewer. Her poems have published online for Bewildering Stories and as a Micro Chapbook for Origami Poetry Press. Isabelle has also featured in poetry anthologies such as Anti Heroin Chic, Literary Yard, the Inkyneedles anthology, Poetry Rivals, and the Great British Write Off. Isabelle has won awards and commendations from The Wirral festival of Music, Speech and Drama,the Festival of Firsts, the Langwith Scott Award for Art and Drama and the Visit Newark Poetry competition.

You can follow Isabelle on Twitter @kenyon_isabelle and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

A Moment for Teachers by Alice Langholt

a moment for teachers

When I was teaching I have to admit there never seemed to be a moment for myself. I once felt so ill I saw my GP and described my symptoms and he told me I was suffering from ‘total exhaustion’. I remember saying, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. I haven’t got time to be exhausted.’ Consequently, when I was asked if I’d be willing to review A Moment for Teachers: Self-Care for Busy Teachers by Alice Langholt I readily agreed!

A Moment for Teachers: Self-Care for Busy Teachers is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

A Moment for Teachers: Self-Care for Busy Teachers

a moment for teachers

You will need 30 seconds. That’s all.

Start at the beginning, or turn to a random page. Every page has a title, a benefit, and simple directions. Read and complete the task on the page.

If you know that you are in the mood for a creative, confidence-boosting, stress-releasing, or peace-promoting task, use the Index at the back of the book to choose the one that fits your interest.

Notice the positive changes you go through because you took that 30 second break. Many of these tasks can also be shared with your students, allowing them to benefit too.

The changes you’ll experience will last for far more than 30 seconds. You’ll find yourself gaining more presence, patience, confidence and becoming much happier if you do this regularly. The energy in your classroom will positively change, and your students are sure to notice too. Using this book could become a wonderful little daily ritual.

By the way, the writing tasks have a blank page beside them for jotting your notes. This means that all you need for those is a pen. If there isn’t a pen nearby, use a pencil. Even a broken crayon will work. You probably have plenty in your classroom. It’s ok to write in the book. Later, when you read what you wrote, it will become part of your reflective process, displaying how you’ve grown.

My Review of A Moment for Teachers: Self-Care for Busy Teachers

Teaching can be tough and teachers can lose sight of the positives. Alice Langholt has some exercises and techniques to bring back the joy in teaching.

I really enjoyed this book and think it would have been useful to me when I was teaching.

There’s a good range of things to do from jotting down ideas and making affirming statements to practical activities that encourage positive reflection so that the reader can see just what they have achieved. One of these, a jar into which to place a quick note of something positive that has happened that can then be reviewed at the end of a term I’m going to adopt for 2018, spending a few minutes each week looking back over the good things that have happened. I’m also going to set my timer when I’m sitting at my desk so that I can carry out the 30 second Cross March technique. I always feel slightly embarrassed saying mottos and positive statements aloud and I’m not sure I’d use those, but they will suit other types of reader. The index at the back of the book enables different kinds of readers to find the types of techniques that suit them easily as well as letting them explore those they might not usually use.

And this is what is so helpful about A Moment for Teachers: Self-Care for Busy Teachers. I think it could easily be called A Moment for People: Self-Care for Busy People because it gives really good advice about how we can reinforce the good things in our lives as well as encourage those around us. Substitute the word ‘student’ for partner, sibling, friend, relative and the same ideas and techniques apply. I must admit the ‘Just For Today’ section brought me up short. I tend not to listen with ALL my concentration and often do something else when someone rings me for example. As a result of reading A Moment for Teachers: Self-Care for Busy Teachers, I’m going to give others my full attention from now on.

I really enjoyed the simplicity of the ideas from Alice Langholt that can fit into any busy life and make a really positive change. I thought the use of white space in the book was inspired. Readers are encouraged to scribble down their thoughts (and these don’t have to be neat and tidily presented), to complete acrostic poems and make notes in answer to the activities suggested. As an avid reader I especially liked the advice to read for fun.

I began A Moment for Teachers: Self-Care for Busy Teachers thinking it might be saccharine and exaggerated and ended up feeling it is a helpful and uplifting book that could make a positive impact in any life – not just that of a teacher. It’s well worth dipping into and I really recommend it.

About Alice Langholt

Alice Langholt

Alice Langholt is a Reiki Master Teacher, the Executive Director of Reiki Awakening Academy School of Intuitive Development (website here), and the founder of Practical Reiki, a strong, simple Reiki energy healing method. She is the author of the award-winning book, Practical Reiki for balance, well-being, and vibrant health, A guide to a strong, revolutionary energy healing method, The Practical Reiki Companion workbook, and a deck of cards, Energy Healing Cards and app.

Alice also authored the A Moment for Me 365 Day Self Care Calendar for Busy People, A Moment for Mom, A Moment for Us, and A Moment for Success (AMoment4Me.com). Alice teaches holistic topics, and offers workshops on 30 second methods of self care online and in the Washington, DC area. Alice lives with her husband and their four children in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Visit the AMoment4Me Facebook page or website for more details. You can also follow A Moment for Me on Twitter @amoment4me.

Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees by C. L. Hoang

Rain Falling On tamarind Trees

Everyone knows I love travel as much as I love books. In 2014 I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks visiting Lao, Vietnam and Cambodia so when C.L. Hoang’s Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees was offered to me for an honest review I couldn’t resist despite promising myself I wouldn’t take on any more books. In fact, the lanterns on my Goodreads profile are those C.L. Hoang has himself photographed in Hoi An.

P1010091

My photo of paper lanterns in Hoi An

Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees is available for purchase in e-book from your local Amazon site.

Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees

Rain Falling On tamarind Trees

Have you ever wondered what Vietnam is like some forty years after the war has ended? Then come along with the author as he returns to visit his ancestral homeland for the first time after a decades-long absence.

Retrace his steps with him around his former hometown of Saigon in the south, and then follow him along on an itinerary of discovery to other unique destinations throughout the country: Hoi-An, the best-preserved medieval seaport in Southeast Asia; Hue, the ancient capital of imperial Vietnam, on the central coast; Halong Bay, a world-renowned natural wonder; and Hanoi, the country’s thousand-year-old capital, in the north.

Filled with historical and cultural tidbits and personal reminiscences, and illustrated with over forty photographs, Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees offers the reader an insightful and fascinating glimpse of this tropical land.

My Review of Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees

After years away from his native Vietnam C.L Hoang finds much has chanced and much has stayed the same.

I thoroughly enjoyed this intimate travelogue. I was captivated from the first few pages as C.L. Hoang arrives at the hotel where we had breakfast on the first morning of our trip, The Hotel Continental. Indeed, C.L.Hoang visits so many of the places I’ve been that I felt truly transported back to the trip I took. I think I must have stood in the same spot to take many of the same photographs and these images add to the reader’s understanding of Vietnam as a country as well as providing visual enhancement to the text.

Whilst I think I particularly enjoyed Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees because I did have a knowledge of so many of the settings, I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been to Vietnam would be disappointed either. Certainly this is a personal journey, but it is also an excellent travelogue. C.L. Hoang writes with incredible perception and an easy, fluid style that makes it feel as if he is chatting with the reader about his trip rather than writing about it. The present tense adds to a sense of immediacy so that the book feels very fresh as well as being highly entertaining. It is impossible not to see the places he describes in your mind’s eye even if you haven’t visited personally.

Aside from the personal diaried entries, Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees provides considerable narrative texture through the political, geographical and historical detail that is woven throughout. This is a book any traveller – real or virtual – can immerse themselves in and enjoy. As the author himself says, ”There’s still so much of the country to explore and enjoy‘ and having read Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees I really want to return to Vietnam. Smashing stuff.

About C. L. Hoang

CL Hoang

C. L. Hoang was born and raised in Vietnam during the war and moved to the United States in the 1970s. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and earns his living as an electronic engineer, with eleven patents to his name. Books, history, and travel are his hobbies. His first book, Once upon a Mulberry Field, is an award-winning novel set in Vietnam at the height of the war. It is followed by Rain Falling on Tamarind Trees, the travelogue of his recent return trip to the ancestral homeland.

You can find out more by following C. L. Hoang on Twitter @clhoang, finding him on Facebook and visiting his website.

Now More Than Ever: A Guest Post by Jane Mersky Leder, Author of Dead Serious

Dead serious

At a time of year when so many of us are full of happiness and excitement, it isn’t the same for everyone. It can be very hard for those living with mental health issues or loneliness and so I felt that, although Dead Serious by Jane Mersky Leder isn’t out for another month, I would put out this blog post in the run up to all the festivities because I feel Jane is tackling such an important issue.

Thirty years after it was first published, a totally updated and revised Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide will be rereleased on 23rd January 2018 and is available for pre-order from your local Amazon site.

Dead Serious

Dead serious

My brother took his own life on his thirtieth birthday.  My life has never been the same.

Thirty plus years after publishing the first edition of Dead Serious, this second completely revised and updated edition covers new ground: bullying, social media, LGBTQ teens, suicide prevention programs, and more.

Scores of teens share their stories that are often filled with hurt, disappointment, shame–yet often hope. Written for teens, adults and educators, Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide explores the current cultural and social landscape and how the pressure-filled lives of teens today can lead to anxiety, depression–suicide.

Jane Mersky Leder’s own journey of discovery after her brother’s suicide informs her goal of helping to prevent teen suicide by empowering teens who are suffering and teens who can serve as peer leaders and connectors to trusted adults. The skyrocketing number of teens who take their own lives makes Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide more relevant and important than ever.

“Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking.”

Now More Than Ever

A Guest Post by Jane Mersky Leder

I wrote the 1st edition of Dead Serious, a book about teen suicide, in 1987.  Thirty years ago and counting.  So, why in the world would I revisit the subject now?  Simple: “NPR Live” aired a segment on suicides in middle school and the staggering increase in the number of kids ages 10 to 14 who took their own lives between 2007 and 2014.  “Well,” I said, “I guess it’s time for me to go back to work.”

There are only educated guesses as to why more young people in middle school are choosing to die.  But the facts about teen suicide are indisputable.

  • In 2015, the suicide rate among girls between 15 and 19 reached a 40-year high
  • Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate for those girls doubled
  • For young males, there was a 30 percent increase

While we can never know for sure, the best estimates show that more than 5,240 teens attempt suicide every day.  More than five thousand die every year.  That’s more teens than die from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.

And the news gets worse (as if it could) because the most recent survey reports that suicide attempts for LGB teens are four times greater than for their straight peers.

Those stats are reason enough for me to pick up where I left off thirty years ago.  But when you think about the changes in the social and cultural landscape, it’s impossible to ignore how different our society is today.  In 1987, there were few, if any, home computers.  There was no social media.  No Facebook.  No Twitter.  No Instagram.  There were no cell phones.  (Imagine!)  Homes were “safe” zones that gave kids who were bullied a cover.  LGBT kids (adults) were, for the most part, in the proverbial “closet.”  Talking about physical and sexual abuse was taboo.  Academic pressure hadn’t reached the fever pitch it is today.

My brother took his life on his thirtieth birthday.  My search for answers is ongoing.  Writing Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide hopefully shines a brighter light on others’ stories and on my own.

(Thanks so much for sharing this with us Jane. I’m so sorry for your loss, but hope that your brother’s death and this book that has arisen out of it can help others who may be feeling suicidal too. Good luck with Dead Serious.)

About Jane Mersky Leder

Jane Mersky Leder

Jane Mersky Leder was born in Detroit, Michigan. The “Motor City” and original home of Motown have driven her writing from the start. A “Baby Boomer” who came of age in the Sixties, Jane is fascinated by the complexities of relationships between generations, between genders, and between our personal and public personas.

Dead Serious, a book about teen suicide, was named a YASD Best Book for Young Adults.

The second edition of Dead Serious (with a new subtitle): Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide, will be published on January 23, 2018, and will be available as both an ebook and paperback on major online book sites, at libraries, and at select bookstores.

The Sibling Connection: How Siblings Shape Our Lives, and Thanks For The Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II are among Leder’s other books. Leder’s feature articles have appeared in numerous publications, including American Heritage, Psychology Today, and Woman’s Day.

She currently spends her time in Evanston, Illinois, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

You can follow Jane on Twitter @janemleder and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

An Extract from Christmas at Carol’s by Julia Roberts

Christmas at Carol's

It’s a welcome return of lovely Julia Roberts to Linda’s Book Bag today to celebrate her latest release with an extract from her Christmas novella, Christmas at Carol’s.

Julia has previously described how she balances a day job in television with writing here, and has explored that axiom, ‘write what you know’ here. I’ve also been fortunate to read Julia’s writing and have reviewed Life’s A Beach And Then… here and Time for a Short Story here.

Published by Ripped Books on 18th December 2017, Christmas at Carol’s is available for purchase here.

Christmas at Carol’s

Christmas at Carol's

An uplifting tale of people’s desire to help each other in the season of goodwill – a romantic comedy with a twist in the tale.

Carol fell in love with Wisteria Cottage the moment she laid eyes on it and moved in two weeks before Christmas hoping it would be start of a new more positive period in her life.

On her first night in her new home she discovers an old Christmas card to someone called Annie with a heart-breaking message inside from Jake.

Although she doesn’t know them, and despite being on a self-imposed dating break herself, Carol begins planning how she can bring them together, while her new neighbour, Sally, is attempting a bit of matchmaking of her own.

An Extract from Christmas at Carol’s

Normally I love days like this – bright blue skies, fluffy white clouds and the pale winter sun catching an occasional touch of frost causing it to sparkle like diamonds – but that’s when I’m viewing it from inside somewhere warm and toasty. Right now, my feet are like blocks of ice and I can feel my nose starting to drip. Instead of downing my paintbrush to retrieve my crumpled paper hanky from its position stuffed up the sleeve of my ancient fleece, I lazily run my sleeve across my dripping nose as the postman, who I’ve already decided would be just my type if I wasn’t on a dating break, pushes through my front gate, his arms full of brightly coloured envelopes. Great. My cheeks heat up with embarrassment so they are now the warmest part of my entire being. Maybe he didn’t notice.

‘Nice colour,’ he says.

For a moment, I think he means my cheeks before I realise he means the door.

‘By that I guess you mean, better than the hideous purple?’

‘I’m no expert, but it was a bit full-on. Where do you want these?’ he asks, wafting several letters in my direction. ‘On the step, seeing as you’ve got your hands full?’

‘Would you mind squeezing past me and popping them on the shelf in the hall? It’d be just my luck for a gust of wind to blow them on to the wet paint and I can’t face painting this door for a fourth time.’

‘No problem.’ He eases behind me, causing just a slight fluttering in my heart.

Off limits, at least for the time being, I remind myself as he heads back down the path.

‘And by the way, you’ve got a smudge of paint on your face from when you wiped your nose on your sleeve.’

Or make that for ever, I think, unless he has very low standards when it comes to personal habits, in which case I’m not interested anyway.

About Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts author pic

Julia Roberts’ passion for writing began when, at the age of ten, after winning second prize in a short story-writing competition, she announced that she wanted to write a book. After a small gap of forty-seven years, and a career in the entertainment industry, Julia finally fulfilled her dream in 2013 when her first book, a memoir entitled One Hundred Lengths of the Pool, was published by Preface Publishing. Two weeks later she had the idea for her first novel, Life’s a Beach and Then…, book one in the Liberty Sands Trilogy, which was released in May 2015.

Julia still works full-time as a Presenter for the TV channel QVC, where she has recently celebrated her twenty-third anniversary.

She now lives in Ascot with her partner and occasionally one or other of her adult children and their respective cats.

You can follow Julia on Twitter @JuliaRobertsTV and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Tour poster

20 Books from 2017 I’ll Never Forget

books of the year

I wasn’t going to do a ‘top reads’ list this year because I think there have been some outstanding books published and just about every book I’ve read has been a four or five star read for me. However, as someone who suffers terrible FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) I thought how I might feel as an author if nobody mentioned my book as one they have particularly enjoyed, so here goes!

There are many, many more I could have added to the list so my selection is books that I feel have touched my reader soul and that I won’t ever forget. They are in no particular order (to quote Ant and Dec!)

All the book and author details and buy links are on the review pages. If a book cover takes your fancy just click the review link for more information.

1. The Words In My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd

uk-pbcover-thewordsinmyhand2017

Not only did I love The Words in My Hand and reviewed it here, I was fortunate to interview Guinevere here too.

2. Sealskin by Sue Bristow

sealskin

I reviewed Sealskin by Su Bristow here and was privileged to attend the launch for it at Goldsborough Books too and I wrote about that here.

3. The Song of the Stork by Stephan Collishaw

song-of-the-stork

What an amazing book this was. I have my review here.

4. The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins

The night visitor

Again I was privileged to attend the launch for this dramatic and compelling thriller, reviewed here.

5. An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth

An Act of Silence

I reviewed an Act of Silence here but if you’d like to read an extract you’ll also find one here.

6. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

 days without end

My review of Days Without End is here.

7. At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye

at first light

A wonderful book reviewed here from an inspiring woman who was also on the blog in conversation with another author I adore here, Jason Hewitt.

8. Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury

abbatoir-of-dreams

This couldn’t have been further away from my usual choice of read but I thought it was stunning and I was delighted to review it here and interview Mark here.

9. Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

Leopard at the door

I think it says something about the impact of this one that when I was ill I hallucinated wearing the head of the cover figure! I reviewed the book when I wasn’t hallucinating and passing out at random here!

10. Yesterday by Felicia Yap

yesterday 1

Once again I was delighted to attend the launch for a book I thought was an outstanding debut, my review of which is here.

11. This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh

this beautiful life

I attended the launch for this book too and not only did I get to review it here, Katie wrote a guest post about the playlist for the book you can read here.

12. Relativity by Antonia Hayes

relativity

I reviewed this gorgeous book here.

13. Green Figs and Blue Jazz by Lizzie Fincham

Green figs and blue jazz

I’m just thrilled to be able to include some poetry in this selection and you can see why I have added it from my review here.

14. Broadcast by Liam Brown

Broadcast_High Res Cover (1)

I have both an extract from Broadcast and my review here.

15. Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

Salt Creek cover

I love historical fiction and this was the perfect read reviewed here.

16. The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman

hattie-hoffman

Such a different read, that I reviewed here.

17. A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

a-boy-made-of-blocks

Tears and more tears after reading this one and reviewing it here.

18. All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker

all the wicked girls 2

I had a total fan girl moment (even if I am old enough to be his mother) when Chris quoted from my review (here) at a recent event!

19. Sweet William by Iain Maitland

Sweet William Cover

This took me by surprise and I loved it! Review here.

And last but by no means least because it is also my Book of the Year:

20. Snow Sisters by Carol Lovekin

Snow Sisters

See here for why I have decided to choose Snow Sisters as my Book of the Year!

There are so many other books that I adored too that it was truly almost impossible to choose. I put in books, took them out, reread my reviews and put them back in until I decided I had a selection that represented books I will never forget.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to visit Linda’s Book Bag in 2017. I am genuinely thrilled that you visited. Please call back on 1st January when I’ll be starting the new year with a blog tour giveaway!