Staying in with Michelle Balge

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I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t had a struggle with mental health personally at some point, or knows someone who has, if only fleetingly. With a family member who is bi-polar and suffering from social anxiety disorder I am fascinated by the subject of mental health and am delighted Michelle Balge is staying in with me today to discuss this very subject.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Michelle Balge

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Michelle. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

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

This evening I have brought A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety. This memoir features my darkest, happiest, and most embarrassing moments. I’ve chosen A Way Out because it is a book for anyone who has experienced or is experiencing mental illness, knows someone going through their own challenges, or wants a better understanding of what it’s like. We all have mental health and it’s so important to take care of it.

(Absolutely right Michelle – and sometimes I think we take good mental health too much for granted.)

What can we expect from an evening in with A Way Out?

What you can expect from an evening in with A Way Out is an outpouring of emotion. Whether it be tears of joy, tears of sadness, laughter, or anything else you may experience, I aspire for the strongest reaction to be hope. In this memoir I do talk about suicidal thoughts, as these thoughts are part of my experience. They are raw and honest, but balanced out with material that is less dark.

Here is an excerpt from A Way Out:

This program was changing much more than just my fear of people. It was altering my entire outlook on life. My depression and social anxiety were so closely related that they would often blend into each other. They were both fueled by my negative thoughts. Always spiraling me into the depths of despair. I needed this program to finally get me out of this purgatory I was stuck in. To change the years of built up negative thoughts that were the crutch I leaned upon. To tear down the wall I had built up that kept me from living my life. I was creating a new me. A more confident, happy, content me.

(I’m sure there are many who can relate to the purgatory of poor mental health Michelle. Yours sounds a fascinating journey.)

What else have you brought along and why?

I have also brought along the poem I wrote that gave me the title for my memoir. I wrote this poem before having any intentions of writing the book, but once my memoir began, I knew the title of this poem would be the title of my book.

A Way Out

I’m consumed by darkness,
there is no way out.
No way out of my mind that traps me.
No way out of this despair that overwhelms me.
No way out of this life.
What can I do when the tears run out?
When the only solace is hoping I will fall asleep and not wake up.
But I will wake up.
Not from choice, but from life.
The life I don’t want.
The life I don’t deserve.
The life where nothing is wrong but me.
Where I pray to someone I don’t believe in,
just in hopes this will end.
But it doesn’t.

Day by day, night by night,
I get through it.
It is difficult, the hardest thing I have ever done,
but I get through it.
If those who say they love me actually do, can I do this to them?
Can I risk hurting those I love?
I push the feelings of wanting to end away,
even if it’s till the next morning or in a few days.
The feelings won’t last, they are not forever.
What is forever is what means most. Family, friends, love.
I will fight my way out of this pit,
this pit that sucks me in every chance it gets.
I will find and develop the right tools to help me,
that will help to pull me out.
The journey will be difficult, impossible maybe.

But I did it.
I went through the journey and survived.
I crawled out of the muddy pit of my seemingly worthless existence.
I now see value in my life.
I see more light in this world, in me.
The darkness that literally and figuratively consumed me is gone.
Don’t give up.
Please don’t give up.
There are people who love you, people who care.
Some day one of those people will be you.

That’s wonderful Michelle. I understand that A Way Out will be published tomorrow so huge congratulations and good luck. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it.

A Way Out
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What do you do when you’re trapped in your mind? When you can’t escape the feelings of depression and fear?

A Way Out gives a raw, unfiltered look into the life and thoughts of a young woman, Michelle, experiencing severe depression and social anxiety. Social anxiety plagued her since her early youth, hindering her most as a young adult. She began having suicidal thoughts in her early teens but didn’t perceive them as being abnormal. This eventually evolved into a deep depression. Her social anxiety and depression fueled each other, creating a grave cycle of negative thoughts.

Michelle is able to share her experiences in a way that allows others to go along for the ride with her: the highs, the lows, and the amusingly unexpected. It artfully conveys Michelle’s journey through mental illness and toward mental health. Beyond the haunting honesty, A Way Out delivers heart, humour, and hope.

A Way Out is available for purchase here. You can also watch a trailer for A Way Out here.

About Michelle Balge

michelle

Michelle Balge is a mental health advocate, web designer, and animal lover. She has won awards thanks to her dedication to mental health, and has spoken about her experiences to students, the community, and professionals in the field. Michelle holds an Honours BA in Sociology with a Concentration in Critical Animal Studies, and will receive a Web Design Graduate Certificate in June, 2018. She was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, with a taste of city and small-town life.

You can follow Michelle on Twitter @michelle_balge, find her on Facebook and visit her website. Michelle is also on Goodreads.

Staying in with Susi Osborne

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I’m really pleased to welcome Susi Osborne to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me today as I have been hearing great things about her books so I thought it was time to find out more.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me and tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Susi Osborne

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Susi. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you. And thank you for inviting me, it’s a pleasure to be here.

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

grace

‘Twas a difficult choice!  Am joking – it was an easy decision to make. Although I still feel very attached my previous three books, particularly to Grace & Disgrace, my most recent book, Angelica Stone, is definitely the one of which I am most proud. It actually took me a lot longer to write, and entailed a lot more soul-searching and research than the others did so it definitely holds a special place in my heart. In fact my daughter reckons that writing it changed me as a person – although I wouldn’t go quite that far! So yes, the book I have brought along to share is Angelica Stone.

(I’d like a chat with your daughter some time to find out exactly how she thinks you’ve changed! Such an interesting concept. Books change me as a reader all the time but I don’t really consider the impact on their authors.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Susi Osborne and Angelica Stone?

I think you can expect a little bit of anything really. A mixture. An unpredictable one! But first of all, can I just say – don’t you just love the cover? I am so pleased with it – so much darker than the covers of my previous ones which hints, correctly, at the fact that the story is much darker too.

(I agree – it’s very atmospheric.)

The idea for writing Angelica Stone originally stemmed from thinking about how, when you start out in life, you don’t get a choice about which family you are to be born into and, if you’re given a particularly bad start in life, is it ever possible to break free from that cycle. Education can, in fact, play a huge part in this but often it is the people we meet along life’s way that can be the biggest influence. Friendship choices can really make a big difference to our lives – the mutual support that comes from a good friendship can be phenomenal and, with reservations, this is what happened to Angelica when she formed an unlikely friendship with Lola.

In the beginning Angelica has nothing and Lola has it all…apparently. Sexually abused as a young child, Angelica has been brought up in care, had an ever-changing succession of social workers and was moved around from one foster placement to another. Understandably she rebelled against everything and everyone and could never trust anyone, having been let down so often in her life. She ends up homeless, living on the streets and eventually is led into prostitution in order to survive.

Middle-class Lola, in complete contrast, appears to have it all – apart from the man of her dreams and a sylph-like figure, both of which she craves. However, as a strong bond of friendship gradually develops between the two of them, cracks start to appear in Lola’s life and a series of events lead to a very major and shocking twist which almost leaves her in ruin.

Despite the dark underlying theme around which this story unfolds, there are a lot of light and  humorous moments too – it wouldn’t have been written by me otherwise, I am noted for my sense of humour! I especially liked writing the character called Arthur – he wasn’t even in the book to start with but he kind of grew into his role!

Angelica Stone is receiving some really excellent reviews – I am so pleased, especially as this book is so much darker than my other ones, I really didn’t know how people would react. But they love it – I hope you do too!

(It sounds just my kind of read – especially as I have taught so many students like Angelica in the past and understand completely how that kind of life can emerge.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Hmmm. This was more difficult. Bring along something that fits the subject of the book… Okay. Weird. This may sound weird. But I was thinking about Angelica sleeping out on the street, needing something to keep her warm…and something we could also wear on our evening in, and I came up with the perfect solution… Onesies – one each! I even have a friend who supplied them for us, purple like the book cover, Angelica Stone printed across the back!! (orders can be taken, any colour, any name printed!)

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I brought food as well…and drink. Luxury items that Angelica could never afford to buy for herself, things that occasionally Lola bought for her, things that I’m sure we shall enjoy even if they don’t go together that well. Cream cakes, chocolate…and gin!

Ooh, and I brought a Barbie doll with me too… Don’t ask!

(I won’t!)

The music I brought along with me is just perfect, the words are so relevant to Angelica’s story. Phil Collins – Just Another Day in Paradise. The downside is that it brings tears to my eyes when I hear it but I’m sure the gin and chocolate will make us smile again. In fact we’ll end up crying with laughter if iI read you some of the funny bits from Angelica Stone.

(I’ll hold you to that – I could do with a good laugh.)

Incidentally, I would have liked to have brought along my bestie, just to represent Angelica’s friendship with Lola. I did ask her actually but she declined – she hates onesies!

Well bring her along next time Susi! Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about Angelica Stone.

Angelica Stone

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Following years of sexual abuse and resulting psychological trauma, Angelica Stone has learnt to rely solely on herself. Unwilling to allow anyone to get close to her, Angelica is reluctant to allow her work colleague Lola into her life.

Lola, in contrast to the damaged Angelica, is from what appears to be a happy middle-class family.

But all is not what it seems. An unlikely bond is formed between the two as they learn more about each other. As they become closer, a series of life-changing events leave Lola on the verge of ruin.

Will the friends be able to better themselves and have the lives they so desperately want? Or will they succumb to the expectations and the path already laid out for them?

Angelica Stone follows both characters in their own journey of self-discovery. This close and in-depth look into the lives of Angelica and Lola will see the reader laugh and cry as the two women learn about themselves and the invaluable friendship they have.

Angelica Stone is available for purchase here.

About Susi Osborne

Susi angelica

Susi Osborne is the author of The Ripples of Life, Grace & Disgrace, Secrets, Lies & Butterflies and Angelica Stone. She lives in Cheshire with her Scottish husband, her actress daughter and two mischievous little dogs. Their house is termed affectionately (hopefully!) amongst their numerous friends as the Osborne madhouse for obvious reasons. Susi also has an adult son and a grandson who live nearby.

Before she became a writer, Susi worked in libraries for many years. She also worked as a classroom assistant in a junior school. In addition to her writing, Susi organises Northwich LitFest, which she has been running for the past six years.

Alongside the writing of her latest book, Angelica Stone, Susi has been raising money for Centrepoint, the charity for youth homelessness, and has set up a Just Giving Page for the charity in her name.

Susi is a firm believer in the fact that it’s never too late to do anything. ‘You have one life – go out and grab it with both hands!’

She loves to hear from her readers and you can get in touch via her website or on Facebook. You can follow Susi on Twitter @susiosborne. Susi is also available to give talks at festivals, events, libraries and reading groups and can be contacted at susi.osborne@hotmail.co.uk.

An extract from Who’s That Girl by Celia Hayes

WHOS THAT GIRL COVER

There’s one thing I find really frustrating about blogging and that it that I simply don’t have time to read all the books I’d like to. Once again my 900+ TBR has prevented me reading Who’s That Girl by Celia Hayes and I think it looks such an entertaining read.

However, at least I can take part in the launch celebrations for Who’s That Girl. I am delighted to have an extract to share with you today.

Published by Aria on 1st February 2018, Who’s That Girl is available for purchase on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play and iBooks.

Who’s That Girl

WHOS THAT GIRL COVER

Sam Preston appears to be living the glamorous life of a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle

If only that was the case… in reality, she’s frustratingly single, stuck living in her parents’ house, and oh yeah, in love with her boss, Dave, who barely knows that she exists…

Life seems like it will never change… until the day Sam is put on an assignment with Dave, reporting on the San Francisco Fashion Week. She hopes this might be a turning point in their relationship…

But things never go to plan and practically overnight, Sam becomes an accidental contestant in the Beautiful Curvy pageant and life suddenly becomes very complicated.

How will she manage her new rise to stardom, her job, and her sudden irresistibility to not only Dave, but a new man on the scene?

An Extract from Who’s That Girl

The handle turns, the hinges creak. Here we go.

I check the time: it’s half past ten. He’s punctual, as always.

I lean over the edge of my cubicle to see and almost stop breathing. If my hay fever doesn’t get me first, this unmanageable emotional incontinence of mine – the result of youthful overindulgence in Jane Austen and Lassie Come Homeis going to be the end of me.

In the meantime, I see him approaching from the opposite side of the newsroom office. It’s Dave, the walking proof of the existence of God – a God who loves ties with a Windsor knot.

He is thirty-six years old, has brown hair, green eyes and a smile that could give you a heart attack. He’s my personal standard when judging men, who I file under the categories ‘absolutely not Dave’, ‘a bit Dave’, ‘very Dave’ and ‘totally Dave’. Nobody reaches the standard of perfection of the original Dave Callaghan, though, and if there was any justice at all in the world, he would be the only possible father of my children.

Unaware of my slightly improper thoughts, The Chronicle’s vice editor takes his jacket off nonchalantly and asks Jane, the editorial secretary, to hand him his black planner. Jane has recently been upgraded to coffee bringer and chief excuse maker for any appointment he forgets.

They talk to each other for a while, mainly about work and his schedule, and she fills him in on the latest news from the Civic Centre and about the people he should talk to. Halfway through, though, their ability to co-exist in the same space runs out and they part ways. She goes back to organising the administrative office’s mail and Dave takes cover in his office, checking the notes about the meetings he has scheduled with an expression of concentration on his face.

As undignified as it is to admit it, I hold my breath until I hear him slamming the door behind me and only then, when I’m sure he can’t see me, do my cheeks regain some colour. All of which my nosy colleague seems to find absolutely hilarious.

“Not a word,” I say menacingly.

“Do you need a tissue?” she asks mockingly, perching on the edge of my desk. “You’ve got some drool dripping off your chin.”

“You’re not funny.”

“You do realise that you have no chance at all with him, right?”

“Yes, I’m perfectly aware of my situation,” I admit, “but I started hoping again after I saw Hugh Jackman’s wife. If a woman like her can net herself someone like the Wolverine, surely I can aim for a deputy editor from San Francisco.”

“Yeah, sure…” she replies sceptically.

I’m about to reply when Terry interrupts me abruptly, putting her hand over my mouth.

“Suspicious movements at twelve o’clock.”

“What?” I ask looking around.

“Shut up! He’s coming!” she warns me, picking up a random document from the pile on my desk to give the impression of being too busy to notice him.

“Who? What are you talking about?” I ask. I start hysterically fiddling with the folders too, almost sending the whole lot crashing to the floor. “You mean it’s him?”

“Yes, he’s here, hurry up!” she murmurs, pretending to read the file she’s holding.

“Oh, God, what should I do?”

“Dammit, Sam, just pick something up!” she mutters, sticking a memo into my hands. It’s the notice Jane sent me yesterday about the new time for this morning’s meeting. When Dave finally reaches my cubicle, Terry is completely absorbed in my shopping list and I am correcting imaginary mistakes on a memo I should have thrown away hours ago.

“Sam, may I have a word?” he asks, leaning over the dividing wall.

“Oh, good morning,” I greet him, pretending not to have noticed his arrival earlier. “Sure – what can I do for you?”

He gives me a smile which has an effect on me like hard drugs: it kills me very slowly and even though I am well aware of the damage it’s doing me, I don’t put up any resistance – I’m absolutely incapable of stopping my tormenter.

About Celia Hayes

Hayes_[Bertod Ramundo]

Celia Hayes works as a restorer and lives in Naples. Between one restoration and another, she loves to write. Her novel Don’t Marry Thomas Clark reached number one in the Amazon Italian Ebook chart.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Cover Reveal: Abel’s Revenge by Ross Greenwood

Abel's Revenge - Ross Greenwood - Book Cover

I’m beginning to think I see more of Ross Greenwood than my own husband! As Ross lives in my nearest town we meet at bookish events and he’s been here on Linda’s Book Bag several times already. Consequently, I’m delighted to be helping reveal the latest of Ross’s books, Abel’s Revenge today. There is to be a tour for Abel’s Revenge later too so do please come back to read a cracking guest post from Ross on 27th March.

If you’d like to see what Ross and I have been getting up to you can read a Lazy Blood interview here, a guest post and my review of The Boy Inside here and my review of Fifty Years of Fear here.

Abel’s Revenge is available for pre-order here.

Abel’s Revenge

Abel's Revenge - Ross Greenwood - Book Cover

This is a story about a city. As with all others, it’s a place of violence. There are murderers, and they live among us.

This is also a tale about a couple — sometimes friends, occasionally lovers, but always partners. Dan and Olivia are fighting modern battles; the ones parents have over a lack of money, time or peace.

An escalating serial killer terrifies the streets and homes. The body count rises as their relationship crumbles. Society reveals its dark side, and no one is safe. Dan and Olivia experience this first-hand as danger closes in.

Will Abel’s reign of terror ever end?

Who will live and who will die?

About Ross Greenwood

Ross Greenwood Author Image

Ross Greenwood was born in 1973 in Peterborough and lived there until he was 20, attending The King’s School in the city. He then began a rather nomadic existence, living and working all over the country and various parts of the world.

Ross found himself returning to Peterborough many times over the years, usually, so he says “when things had gone wrong.” It was on one of these occasions that he met his partner about 100 metres from his back door whilst walking a dog. Two children swiftly followed. And, according to Ross, he is “still a little stunned by the pace of it now.”

Lazy Blood book was started a long time ago but parenthood and then four years as a prison officer got in the way. Ironically it was the four a.m. feed which gave the author the opportunity to finish the book as unable to get back to sleep he completed it in the early morning hours.

Ross Greenwood’s second book, The Boy Inside, was picked up by Bloodhound Books, and now, Fifty Years of Fear, is out. All his books are thought provoking, and told with a sense of humour.

Ross Greenwood hopes you enjoy reading them.

You can find Ross on Facebook page and visit his web site. You can also follow Ross on Twitter @greenwoodross.

Staying in with M. P. Tonnesen

Cosmopolitan

Anyone who knows me also knows that I love travel as much as books and today it’s a welcome return to Linda’s Book Bag for M.P. Tonnesen who has previously provided a wonderful post on To Travel is to Live here on the blog to celebrate another of her books Desert Skies: Rebel Souls.

I’m hoping that today she’ll be taking me on more travels as we stay in together.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with M.P. Tonnesen

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag Michelle.

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

I have brought my debut novel, The Cosmopolitan Islander, with me because this book was my maiden voyage into writing fiction. I learned so much from writing and publishing my first novel – about the craft, the industry and myself.

(I think many authors find that first book a steep learning curve!)

What can we expect from an evening with The Cosmopolitan Islander?

You can expect a colourful journey around the world – from the Irish Sea to Copenhagen, Brussels, Singapore, London and New York! – with Chloe on her search for happiness.

(Oo. Sounds great. Apart from Copenhagen I’ve been to all those places so it’d be good to return to them via the book.)

The Cosmopolitan Islander is about women’s roles in the 21st century; the juggling act many women face of having to be an executive in the boardroom, mother in the nursery, and domestic goddess in the kitchen – and bedroom.

But it’s also about the wider issue of identity in general – men’s too. How you and your perspectives and values develop through life and are influenced by who you meet, what you do, the choices you make, and even where you live.

It’s about love and sex and the balance between the two; about power and money, and how these impact our lives, careers, hopes, and dreams.

I hope you will enjoy reading this exciting story as much as I enjoyed writing it!

(I think The Cosmopolitan Islander sounds a corker of a read.)

What else have you brought along and why?

cover and tea

As a nod to my home country – and that of Chloe – I have also brought some Danish liquorice. I know salty liquorice is an acquired taste (kids in Denmark grow up eating it!), but these little beauties are covered in milk chocolate and sprinkled with liquorice dust which makes them divine and irresistible! I’m normally quite an anti-sugar Amazon, but I dare you to not enjoy them too 😉

They go perfectly with a cup of vanilla rooibos which I have brought along as well.

I hope you will enjoy this little trinity of delights. Happy reading!

I will indeed. A book, some food and tea – my idea of heaven! Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me about The Cosmopolitan Islander Michelle.

The Cosmopolitan Islander

Cosmopolitan

What if life as you know it was turned upside down? Would you still be the same person?

When Chloe is forced to leave behind her cosmopolitan life in London to move to a small island in the Irish Sea, she is faced with a myriad of challenges.

How will she and her family adapt to island life? Will she find new friends? What about her career? Most importantly, will the love of Chloe and her husband survive their amorous adventures?

Join Chloe on her journey through her past and her present to make sense of her life, herself, her hopes, and dreams amid her personal upheaval.

The Cosmopolitan Islander is a thrilling novel about female roles and identity in the 21st century – and about how the journey of life can change your destination in the most unexpected way. It takes the reader from the Isle of Man and around the world, traversing the timeless themes of love, desire, family, friendship, power, and ambition.

The Cosmopolitan Islander is a must read for the modern woman – and man; for expats and others in cultural encounters; for islanders and globetrotters; and for anyone in-between.

The Cosmopolitan Islander is available for purchase here.

About M.P. Tonnesen

michelle

M.P. Tonnesen is an award-winning writer and businesswoman living on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. She authors contemporary fiction with an adventurous twist, writes business and lifestyle articles for magazines, as well as advises companies on change and communication.

She has a Master’s degree in International Business and Intercultural Communication. She has also studied Creative Writing at London School of Journalism, Faber Academy and Isle of Man College.

She is originally from Denmark, but grew up in a multicultural family and has lived in Brussels, the Middle East, and London before moving to the island with her family in 2011. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working, living and travelling around the world.

She enjoys reading and telling good stories, going on adventures and eating dark chocolate. She also dabbles in yoga, running and juggling two kids.

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

Menopause Matters by Shelley Chapman

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My enormous thanks to the author Shelley Chapman for a copy of Menopause Matters – How To Master The Menopause: Survive, Thrive And Feel Alive in return for an honest review.

Menopause Matters – How To Master The Menopause: Survive, Thrive And Feel Alive is available for purchase here.

Menopause Matters 

How To Master The Menopause: Survive, Thrive And Feel Alive

menopause matters

This book has been written by Shelley Chapman, a wife and mother of 3 daughters, who lives in Derbyshire. It has been written as a result of her personal journey through the menopause, which she is now in her 15th year of, but due to what she does, she doesn’t suffer at all and lives life to the full. Because of this, she shares a lot of what she has done that’s made this menopausal stage of her life “uneventful”, in the form of a journal, so that you can benefit from a lot of the tips and advice to help you not only cope, but be able to “master the menopause”.

As she says “I’m here to help you because I understand a lot of what you’re going through and how important it is to get yourself back and become the woman you want to be now. These methods help and work, so please give them a try.”

My Review of Menopause Matters 

How To Master The Menopause: Survive, Thrive And Feel Alive

A self help book for women of a certain age heading through menopause and out the other side.

Initially I thought Menopause Matters might be a little late for me, especially as I seem to have had very few problems compared to some women, but its 28 chapters held surprises and useful information I still need and could have used years ago – not just during menopause.

Shelley Chapman writes with such positivity it’s impossible not to feel uplifted as a result of reading Menopause Matters. Speaking directly to the reader so that it’s like chatting with a friend, Shelley charts her own experiences and passes on the helpful things she’s tried that have helped her and might just help other women too. There’s enthusiasm and humour that helps elevate what could be a dry (in more ways than one!) subject. Shelley’s style is easy to read, engaging and very entertaining as well as providing hints and tips from everything from controlling cholesterol to whitening your teeth. I loved the chapter she made her husband write about the male perspective. Although I was sorry to hear of her husband’s health problems, I was delighted he was able to articulate, in a way men can relate to, just what menopause might be like for the women in their lives. Indeed, I think men as well as women could benefit from reading Menopause Matters – I could see many marriages being saved!

Whilst Menopause Matters is, as the title says, about menopause, it’s also about feeling good as a person, about making the most of your appearance and health and it’s a book about celebrating the good aspects of life so that the reader can live a self-assured and motivated existence. There are blank spaces so that the reader can respond to different suggestions from Shelley that I think would actually make a smashing little self-help book in their own right.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s pragmatic, entertaining and encouraging. Shelley Chapman is right to tell us w are never too late or too old to live life to the full. As a result of reading Menopause Matters, I shall be writing some lists and standing on one leg for three minutes a day – but you’ll have to read it yourself to find out why!

About Shelley Chapman

shelley chapman

Shelley Chapman is a wife and mother of 3 daughters, who lives in Derbyshire. She is now in her 15th year of menopause, but due to what she does, she doesn’t suffer at all and lives life to the full. As she says “I’m here to help you because I understand a lot of what you’re going through and how important it is to get yourself back and become the woman you want to be now.”

You can find Shelley on Facebook at the following pages here to join the discussions or here and on Instagram.

An Extract from The Fire Pit by Chris Ould

Fire pit cover

It’s a welcome return to Linda’s Book Bag by Chris Ould to celebrate his latest novel The Fire Pit today. I previously was delighted to host a guest post from Chris when the first of Chris’ Faroes Series, The Blood Strand was published and you can read that post here.

Published by Titan on 20th February 2018 The Fire Pit is available for purchase here. I’m thrilled to have an extract to share with you today.

The Fire Pit

Fire pit cover

In the wake of a dying man’s apparent suicide, the skeleton of a young woman is discovered on a windswept hillside. Detective Hjalti Hentze suspects that it is the body of a Norwegian woman reported missing forty years earlier, while a commune occupied the land, and whose death may be linked to the abduction and rape of a local Faroese girl.
Meanwhile British DI Jan Reyna is pursuing his investigation into his mother’s suicide. But as he learns more about her final days, links between the two cases start to appear: a conspiracy of murder and abuse spanning four decades. And as Hentze puts the same pieces together, he realizes that Reyna is willing to go further than ever before to learn the truth…

An Extract from The Fire Pit

UNDER THE STARK MORTUARY LIGHTS ELISABET HOVGAARD surveyed the bones from the sheepfold at Múli, now laid out in skeletal order. They had been cleaned and the accreted dirt had been collected, filtered and sampled for lab analysis in Denmark. What was left was only human, and all the more naked for that, Hentze thought.

“It’s a long time since I had to do this,” Elisabet said, assessing the layout of the bones as if Hentze was responsible for setting her an unwelcome test of anatomical knowledge. “But for our purposes I don’t suppose it matters so much whether I’ve got metacarpals and metatarsals in the wrong place. What’s most to the point is that we seem to have everything accounted for.” She looked towards Sophie. “You did a good job.”

At the end of the stainless-steel table Sophie Krogh took a final photograph of the skeleton’s clavicle, then lowered the camera to look at its screen.

“It was easier because she hadn’t been buried,” Sophie said. “At least not by much; the ground’s pretty stony. My guess is they tried to dig a grave but then thought it would be easier – maybe quicker – just to dump rocks on top.”

”And then build a sheep shelter?” Hentze asked, with only the slightest hint of scepticism.

“Well, it would be one way to make it less obvious that it was a grave site,” Sophie said. “Also less chance of it being disturbed later on.”

“True,” Hentze agreed. “So, what do we know?”

Elisabet peeled off her gloves and crossed to a worktop where she picked up an iPad and an e-cigarette. She tapped the first and sucked on the other, making the light in the end of it glow.

“I’m trying to quit,” she said when she saw Hentze’s vaguely quizzical look. She exhaled vapour. “Don’t say anything, all right?”

“Not a word,” Hentze agreed.

“Good.” Elisabet glanced at the iPad. “What I can tell you is that she was female, as we already thought. Approximately 170 centimetres tall, aged between thirty and forty. As far as it’s possible to tell I’d say she was in good general health – no signs of osteoporosis, arthritis or disease, although she had an ante mortem break to the right-hand side of her clavicle: her collarbone. It was healing, though,” she added, anticipating Hentze’s question. “I’d say it happened between a month and six weeks before she died.”

“Is it suspicious?” Hentze asked.

“No, not in my book,” Elisabet said. “It could easily have been caused by a fall. Most are, unless you count contact sports. She’d probably have been wearing a sling, but maybe not.”

“Could it help to identify her?”

“It’s possible. If it happened here and if she was treated in the hospital there might be a record. The problem is, we don’t know how far back to go.”

“Between 1973 and 1975 might be a good starting point,” Hentze said. “That’s when the commune was active.”

“I’ll get someone to take a look,” Elisabet said. “We have a new intern who shouldn’t be let loose on the living or the dead yet.”

“Thanks.” Hentze looked back at the skeleton. “So is there anything to say how she might have died?”

Elisabet took another pull on her e-cigarette. “There’s nothing as obvious as a fractured skull or multiple unhealed breaks, if that’s what you mean. But Sophie thinks she may have found something else.”

“It was only because I was cleaning the bones,” Sophie said, as if she didn’t want to accept any credit for extraordinary perception. She picked up one of the higher vertebrae and Hentze followed her across to an illuminated magnifier on the worktop. Holding the bone under the lens, Sophie turned it and then used the end of a wooden spatula to point out a thin mark about a centimetre long.

“Can you see it?” she asked.

Hentze squinted and leaned in closer to the lens. “I think so. The straight line?”

“Yeh. Nothing in nature is straight. I think it may be some kind of tool mark.”

“What kind of tool?”

“My guess is a knife or blade,” Sophie said. “It needs to be properly examined, though. I’m not an expert, but Per Olesen and his team at Roskilde could tell you.”

Hentze stood back. “And if it is a cut mark, what would that say? What would it mean?”

“It’s on C4, a cervical vertebra, here,” Elisabet said. She pointed to her neck just to the rear of her jaw. “Which could be consistent with her throat being cut, the same way you can kill a sheep.”

For a second Hentze had to remind himself that the dumpy, often good-hearted woman before him was as unfazed by discussions of death and its causes as he was by a break-in or a domestic dispute.

“So we must suspect murder,” he said. “Not just from the possible cut mark, but also from the way she was buried.”

“Sorry, Hjalti,” Elisabet said.

Hentze gave a resigned shrug. “Never mind. I’m sure one day I’ll ask a question and someone will tell me I don’t need to worry, everything’s fine.”

Sophie laughed drily. “You’d better not come and work in Denmark,” she said.

(And now I really want to read on!)

About Chris Ould

chris ould

After working at a wide variety of jobs, from ice-cream man to labourer, Chris Ould was first published as a novelist in the 1980s. He then spent many years working as a television scriptwriter, during which time he wrote more than eighty hours of drama and documentary programmes, including numerous episodes of the crime series The Bill, one of which won a BAFTA award.

Chris returned to novel writing with two YA books, before embarking on the Faroes trilogy of crime novels. He lives in Dorset with his wife and son. He also keeps sheep.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @WriterChrisOuld.

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