The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

The garden of small beginnings

As I love gardening (I lead a gardening group and have an allotment) as much as books and travel, I jumped at the chance when Clara Diaz at Little Brown asked me if I would like a copy of The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman in return for an honest review. I had every intention of reading and reviewing this book months ago, but life got the better of me. However, good things come to those who wait and I have finally got round to reading this lovely book.

The Garden of Small Beginnings was published by Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown, on 22nd February 2018 and is available for purchase here.

The Garden of Small Beginnings

The garden of small beginnings

Life is about to blossom for Lili

In the three years since her husband died in a car accident, Lili has just about managed to resume her day-to-day life as a single mother and successful illustrator. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work and watch TV like a pro. But there’s still the small problem of the aching loss she feels inside.

When she’s commissioned to illustrate a series of horticultural books, and signs up to a weekly gardening class, finally her life starts to bloom again.

The class provides Lili with a new network of unexpected friends – friends with their own heartaches and problems – and, maybe, another chance at love . . .

My Review of The Garden of Small Beginnings

Young widow Lili has lost the ability to live for herself as she struggles to come to terms with her grief, juggling work and small children.

What a wonderful book The Garden of Small Beginnings is. I don’t know whether it’s because it is set four years after Dan, Lili’s husband, is killed in a car crash and she is still coming to terms with her loss that is so resonated with me because, in the last four years, my own husband has had two life threatening illnesses of cancer and a mini-stroke, my father has died and our family lost a full term still born child, but I found every word resonated with me on a very personal level.

Although this is a book about coming to terms with grief and the different ways people deal with grief, be it grief after a death, a marriage break up or the loss of a job, The Garden of Small Beginnings is by no means a depressing book. Instead, I found it joyous to read, witty and enormous fun. I found myself laughing aloud and yes, I did shed a small tear occasionally. Abbi Waxman has a fabulous, chatty style so that rather than reading a book I felt Lili’s first person narration was more like catching up with a friend on the phone with each chapter akin to a new conversation.

I loved the illustrations and the growing instructions for the plants. I’d never thought of fruit and veg in anthropomorphic terms, but the aside-like comments made me smile. I certainly will be careful when I move my strawberry bed at my allotment this year as I’d hate to freak them out! I’ve always known that gardening is good for the soul but The Garden of Small Beginnings reinforces that concept perfectly.

Initially I thought I’d find the number of characters confusing, but Abbi Waxman makes them such vibrant and distinctive individuals that I felt I knew each one intimately. I thought the way she uncovered their different aspects, especially with regard to Mike, was so well done. There’s definitely an underlying theme that we never really know others as well as we might think and that we shouldn’t judge other people on first appearances.

With a plot that revolves around a community garden and it gardeners, I really enjoyed reading The Garden of Small Beginnings as it is a touching, funny and uplifting story that made my heart sing. I thoroughly recommend it to brighten your life.

About Abbi Waxman

abbi waxman

Abbi Waxman is a chocolate-loving, dog-loving woman, who lives in Los Angeles and lies down as much as possible. She worked in advertising for many years, which is how she learned to write fiction. She has three daughters, three dogs, three cats, and one very patient husband.

You can follow Abbi on Twitter @amplecat. There’s more information on Abbi’s website.

Staying in with Angelle Petta

CoverArtist (1)-page-001

When I blogged about running this ‘Staying in with…’ feature on 31st December 2017 I didn’t know if anyone would want to take part. Since then almost 80 authors have participated with almost 60 waiting in the wings. I’m just about to take a little blogging break and head off to India looking for tigers, but before I do I’m thrilled to welcome Angelle Petta to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me and tell me about one of her books.

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 Angelle Petta

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Angelle. 

Hi Linda! Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in “Staying in with Linda.”

A pleasure and 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? 

CoverArtist (1)-page-001

Today I have my debut novel, The Artist and the Soldier with me.  I am so excited about this book. I started writing novels 15 years ago, and four novels later I was offered a publishing contract with a small press. The journey has taught me to persevere. I am thrilled to be starting my author career with this historical fiction novel.

(Huge congratulations. The cover of The Artist and the Soldier is wonderful. It makes me want to dive right in!)

The concept for this book is based around two true stories I heard while on a trip to Rome in 2015. The first story was about a film that was made in a Vatican controlled basilica, which saved hundreds of Italian Jews from the Nazis during the occupation. The second story was about summer camps that were run for youth in the 1930’s throughout American that taught the ideals of Hitler. Both stories fascinated me and stayed with me throughout my trip. Thus Max and Bastian, my main characters, were born. I did not see their entire narrative from the start, but I saw them. I wrote their character profiles and part of the outline on the plane ride home from Rome, a few days later. I spent about a year on research and formed the characters and parts of the storyline during the process.  Though the main characters are fictional, most of what happens on the novel is based on historical events.

(I love historical fiction and I think The Artist and the Soldier sounds exactly my kind of read.)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Artist and the Soldier?

The Artist and the Solider tells the story of two young men who come of age and fall in love, set against the backdrop of true events during World War II.

It’s 1938. Bastian Fisher and Max Amsel meet at an American-Nazi camp, Siegfried. Neither have any idea what to do with their blooming, confusing feelings for one another. Before they can begin to understand, the pair is yanked apart and forced in opposite directions.

Five years later, during the heart of World War II, Bastian’s American army platoon lands in Salerno, Italy. Max is in Nazi-occupied Rome where he has negotiated a plan to hire Jews on as ‘extras’ in a movie—an elaborate ruse to escape the Nazis. Brought together by circumstance and war, Bastian and Max find one another again in Rome.

Exploring the true stories of Camp Siegfried and the making of the film, La Porta del Cielo, The Artist and the Soldier is intense, fast moving, and sheds light on largely untouched stories in American and Italian history.

(Sounds fabulous Angelle.)

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it? 


I’ve brought four things with me today.  The first is a photo I took in Rome of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, where the movie that the book is based on was filmed.


I also have one of the original movie posters advertising La Porta del Cielo or The Gates of Heaven.

(How interesting. I’d never heard of this film before today.)

Next is a link to the article featured on NPR that inspired the summer camp where the boys meet titled “Nazi Summer Camps In 1930s America?” You can find the article here.

(I’ve visited your link Angelle and found the information fascinating.)

Finally I’ve included one of my favorite quotes from the book:


(What a wonderful sentiment Angelle.)

Thanks so much for staying in with me Angelle, to introduce The Artist and the Soldier. It sounds a wonderful story and I very much look forward to reading it.

The Artist and the Soldier

CoverArtist (1)-page-001

It’s 1938. Bastian Fisher and Max Amsel meet at a Nazi-American summer camp, Siegfried. Neither boy has any idea what to do with their blooming, confusing feelings for one another. Before they can begin to understand, the pair is yanked back into reality and forced in opposite directions.

Five years later, during the heart of World War II, Bastian’s American army platoon has landed in Salerno, Italy. Max is in Nazi-occupied Rome where he has negotiated a plan to hire Jews as ‘extras’ in a movie—an elaborate ruse to escape the Nazis. Brought together by circumstance and war Bastian and Max find one another again in Rome.

Exploring the true stories of Camp Siegfried, a Nazi-American summer camp in New York and the making of the film, La Porta del Cielo, which saved hundreds of lives, The Artist and the Soldier is intense, fast moving, and sheds light on largely untouched stories in American and Italian history.

Out on 1st May 2018, The Artist and the Soldier is available for pre-order here.

About Angelle Petta


Angelle Petta holds an MA in Theater Education from Emerson College, and a master’s equivalency in Drama Therapy through the NADTA. Angelle is a registered drama therapist and a PhD student at Lesley University.  She works as a Drama Therapist at an Expressive Arts Center in Virginia called A Place To Be.

She lives, works, and writes in Northern Virginia along with her husband, two delightful dogs, and one fat cat.

You can find out more by visiting Angelle’s website, finding her on Instagram, Facebook and Goodreads or by following her on Twitter @AngellePetta.

Staying in with Stephen Ainley

Dennis Biskit

I have had the pleasure of ‘meeting’ so many smashing authors through this Staying in with… feature on Linda’s Book Bag and I’m delighted to meet another author today as Stephen Ainley has agreed to tell me all about one of his books.

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 Stephen Ainley

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

Thanks for the invite, Linda.

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

Dennis Biskit

I’ve bought along my first novel, The Dennis Bisskit Adventures.  Being the comic adventures of young, Dennis Bisskit. It describes his rocky journey, from Dudley in the 1950’s. To Uganda, serving in the British Army in the 1960’s. And all the colourful characters he meets along the way.

(Oh! I’ve just come back from a trip to Uganda so it would be great to return through fiction too!)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Dennis Bisskit Adventures?

I recently had my favourite ever review. It just said “This book made me happy” and that is really what I’d hope you would get from an evening with, Dennis.

(Sounds like a book I could do with at the moment Stephen as life has been what you might call challenging!)

He is short, ginger-haired, and very accident prone. He always means well, but most things he tries, seem to end in disaster.

(Actually, this description makes me smile as we used to have a cat called Dennis who had a pretty ‘accident’ prone life as he was diabetic and got taken short quite often. Funnily enough he was ginger too!)

It’s a book full of fun, family, friends and catastrophes.. Some sad bits, but mainly lots of laughs.

Readers are calling it, “hilarious”  “brilliantly funny” and “an amusing and heart warming read”.

(It sounds smashing Stephen.)

What else have you brought and why have you brought it?

sponge bob

I have bought a DVD of SpongeBob Squarepants. I’m a huge fan, and have a SpongeBob tattoo.

(Am I allowed to confess I’ve never seen a single second of SpongeBob before? This will be quite an education!)

Also a CD of The Who. I’m a huge fan, and have a, The Who, tattoo.

(I can feel a pattern coming on here…)

Also a huge bowl of trifle. If it were socially acceptable and not dangerous to your health, I would be quite happy to live on trifle. I know what you’re thinking. No, I don’t have a trifle tattoo, but it’s only a matter of time.

(That’s a relief. I’m so pleased you brought the trifle. I love it. I make it all the time so if we run out I’ll whip up another.)


Thank you so much, for staying in with me to introduce The Dennis Bisskit Adventures Stephen. I think your book sounds enormous fun. All the very best with it.

The Dennis Bisskit Adventures

Dennis Biskit


Meet Dennis Bisskit, short; ginger-haired; kind-hearted; game for anything. Born in 1945 on the day the war ended; it should have been a good omen. Instead it’s been one disaster after another. Luckily fate normally steps in to save the day.

Gasp at the great holiday camp knobbly-knees scandal of 1955!

Be amazed as Dennis attempts to win back the world mile record for queen and country!

Discover Fosdyke’s department store and the all-powerful Mrs Ricketts!

Shed a tear as Dennis visits the battlefields of France with his granddad.

And meet the memorable Colour Sergeant Plunkett who teaches Dennis everything he needs to know about the army and finally makes a young man of him.

Published by Austin Macauley, The Dennis Bisskit Adventures is available for purchase through these links.

About Stephen Ainley


Stephen Ainley was born in Birmingham U.K. in 1952. He served in the British Airborne in the 1970’s before emigrating to Australia. He has written short stories and articles for many years but this is his first novel. He resides in Western Australia with wife Jane and Irish terrier O’Malley.

A sequel, Dennis Bisskit and the Man From Paris, with the Very Large Head, is due to be published later in 2018.

You can follow Stephen on Twitter @stephen_ainley and visit his website. Stephen is also on Facebook.

The Sunday Lunch Club by Juliet Ashton


I’m so grateful to the lovely folk at Simon and Schuster and TeamBATC for providing an advanced reader copy of The Sunday Lunch Club by Juliet Ashton in return for an honest review.

I recently met Juliet Ashton again at the latest Spring Blogger Event that you can read about here. I’ve also read, loved and reviewed here another of Juliet’s books, The Woman at Number 24.

The Sunday Lunch Club by Juliet Ashton will be published on 19th April and is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Sunday Lunch Club


The first rule of Sunday Lunch Club is … don’t make any afternoon plans.

Every few Sundays, Anna and her extended family and friends get together for lunch. They talk, they laugh, they bicker, they eat too much. Sometimes the important stuff is left unsaid, other times it’s said in the wrong way.

Sitting between her ex-husband and her new lover, Anna is coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy at the age of forty. Also at the table are her ageing grandmother, her promiscuous sister, her flamboyantly gay brother and a memory too terrible to contemplate.

Until, that is, a letter arrives from the person Anna scarred all those years ago. Can Anna reconcile her painful past with her uncertain future?

My Review of The Sunday Lunch Club

Anna’s family meet regularly for Sunday lunch and know everything about one another. Or do they…

Well, well, well. Juliet Ashton has done it again. I absolutely adored The Sunday Lunch Club.

Firstly, I so appreciated the quality of the prose. I must admit the book’s title made me think this might be a very superficial read but I was completely wrong. As I read, a quotation from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina that ‘Happy families and all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ kept going through my head because all the members of Anna’s family have their secrets, their hopes and their fears so beautifully presented that I felt I knew each one intimately. Anna makes the perfect conduit to present them all so that we learn as much about her as we do all the others. I fell in love with them all and wanted them all to have a happy resolution, but you’ll have to read the book for yourself to find out if that happens.

The plot is so engaging, revolving around Anna’s pregnancy and drawing in each of the other members through the anchor of the family Sunday lunches. I found reading The Sunday Lunch Club a bit like watching the ocean. It was mesmerising; ebbing and flowing so that the reader occasionally feels complicit in the action, is often surprised and is always so wonderfully entertained. There’s such an intimate sense of family whilst at the same time they all represent a real microcosm of society so that there really is a character, an action or an event for any and every reader to identify with. This is such clever writing. It’s not overstating my emotional response to The Sunday Lunch Club to say it made me feel back in touch with humanity.

I think The Sunday Lunch Club is perfect escapist reading but with a depth and warmth that surprised me. I didn’t want it to end and feel lost now that I’m no longer heading over for Sunday lunch with these warm, witty and loveable people. I absolutely loved it.

About Juliet Ashton


Juliet Ashton is just one of the nom de plumes of writer Bernadette Strachan who also co-writes musicals with her composer husband Matthew Strachan. Juliet has a daughter and dogs!

You can follow Juliet Ashton on Twitter and visit her website.

Staying in with Morton S. Gray


I’m thrilled to welcome back Morton S. Grey to Linda’s Book Bag. Previously Morton wrote a fabulous guest blog (here) all about writing through emotions when she and I had had a particularly difficult year. I’m so glad she has agreed to return to stay in with me today.

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 Morton S. Grey

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Morton. It seems ages since I saw you in real life. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Hi Linda, thanks for inviting me over!

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

TGOTB_hirespackshot CMYK_preview

I’ve brought along The Girl on the Beach. It’s just come out in paperback, my first ever, as this novel was my debut with Choc Lit after winning their Search for a Star competition. Even though I’ve been e-published for over a year there was something so special about being able to hold my novel in my hands and to run my fingers over the embossing on the front cover. I don’t often get excited, but I definitely did when my author copies arrived (you may have seen the video I posted online – blushes!) A copy of my novel now takes its place on my keeper book shelf.

(How wonderful to have a physical copy with your name on the cover. You must be so excited.)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Girl on the Beach?

The action in the novel takes place in my fictional seaside town of Borteen, as do the other novels from my Borteen Secrets Series (watch out for Book Two The Truth Lies Buried published on 1 May 2018).


(Congratulations on your new book, The Truth Lies Buried, too. Blog readers might like to know that it is available through the links here.)

The story of The Girl on the Beach follows Ellie Golden and her shock when she believes she recognizes her son’s new headmaster, Harry Dixon from her past. If Harry is who she thinks he is, he doesn’t appear to recognize her, he’s using a different name and she thought he was dead.

Ellie moved to Borteen to escape her troubled past and keep her son, Tom safe, but that past is about to catch up with her big time.

(This sounds so good.)

I’ve had some lovely reviews for the book and people seem to like the fact I’ve included teenage secondary characters, art and a youth mentoring scheme in the book. My favourite image from the novel is Harry Dixon on his daily run along the beach.


What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?


I’ve bought my heart shaped pink bucket (watch out for this in some of my stories), a spade and a beach mat. I’ve bought these along so that we can go for a walk on some of my favourite beaches, maybe Woolacombe, Llandanawg, or Bamburgh, to indulge in some beachcombing and a little paddle in the sea. I love to look out for seaglass and interesting pebbles for my collection.


Living in Worcestershire, UK I couldn’t be further from the coast if I tried, so going to the seaside is a real treat. Being on the beach is so good for the soul.

(I agree Morton. South Lincolnshire places me a good way from the sea too and I love a walk on the beach!)

Thank you so much, Morton, for staying in with me to introduce The Girl on the Beach. I think it sounds wonderful and will be sure to add it to my TBR along with The Truth Lies Buried. Good luck with both titles!

The Girl on the Beach


Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

The Girl on the Beach is available for purchase through these links.

The Truth Lies Buried

The Truth Lies Buried

Two children in a police waiting room, two distressed mothers, a memory only half remembered…

When Jenny Simpson returns to the seaside town of Borteen, her childhood home, it’s for a less than happy reason. But it’s also a chance for her to start again.
A new job leads to her working for Carver Rodgers, a man who lives alone in a house that looks like it comes from the pages of a fairy tale – until you see the disaster zone inside …

As Jenny gets to know Carver she begins to unravel the sadness that has led to his chaotic existence. Gradually they realise they have something in common that is impossible to ignore – and it all links back to a meeting at a police station many years before.

Could the truth lie just beneath their feet?

Published by Choc Lit on 1st May 2018, The Truth Lies Buried can be pre-ordered through these links.

About Morton S. Gray


Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was e-published in January 2017, after she won Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon. This book is available as a paperback from 10 April 2018.

Morton’s second book for Choc Lit The Truth Lies Buried is published as an e-book on 1 May 2018. Another romantic suspense novel, the book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past.

Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified clinical hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

You can follow Morton on Twitter @MortonSGray, find her author page on Facebook and visit her website.

Riley Knows He Can by Davina Hamilton

Riley knows he can

In August last year I was privileged to meet Riley in a lovely children’s book by Davina Hamilton, Riley Can Be Anything, which I reviewed here. I’m delighted to find that Riley is back in a whole new adventure Riley Knows He Can, and would like to thank Davina for sending me an advanced reader copy in return for an honest review.

Riley Knows He Can is available for pre-order here. Riley will be sitting in your basket until he’s released on 25th April!

Riley Knows He Can

Riley knows he can

Riley is excited about starring in his first school play – but his nerves keep getting the better of him.

His Mummy and Daddy will be in the audience and Riley is excited that they’ll be there to watch him in his starring role as the wise king. In addition, Riley can’t wait to put on his costume – a kingly cape and crown!

But he keeps getting overwhelmed by the butterflies in his tummy! What if he walks on the stage and freezes? Or what if he walks on the stage and sneezes?

Thankfully, Riley’s big sister Ella is on hand. Not only did Ella help her little brother to practice his lines for the play, she also gives him the encouragement he needs to take to the stage with kingly confidence. With Ella’s help, Riley learns how to ditch the doubt and tell himself he can do it – because deep down, he knows he can!

The follow-up to 2017’s Riley Can Be Anything, Riley Knows He Can follows young Riley on a new and exciting journey of discovery. In this wonderful rhyming tale, our young hero learns, with the help of his big sister, how to conquer his fears by believing in himself.

My Review of Riley Knows He Can

A starring role in his school’s play can be rather daunting but Riley’s sister Ella gives him the confidence to perform.

I love this book. It is equally as good as Riley Can Be Anything and although I’m a good fifty years older than the target audience, it felt like an old friend had returned to read about Riley’s new adventure.

The elements that I so appreciated in Riley Can Be Anything are present in Riley Knows He Can. The gender and ethnicity balance of the characters is wonderful, giving equal status to all in a world where we still haven’t always managed that equality.

The language fits both Riley’s character and the plot perfectly. Children could read this to themselves but the lovely fluid rhyme scheme also makes Riley Knows He Can a perfect book for reading aloud together too. The refrain ‘I can do this. I can!’ is such a wonderfully positive message and I can envisage children saying it to themselves in emulation of Riley when they find themselves in challenging situations. Riley Knows He Can provides brilliant positivity without being patronising or twee and I love that aspect of Davina Hamilton’s writing. There’s a secondary message too in the play within the story that shows children that no-one is better than anyone else, so that as well as being hugely entertaining, Riley Knows He Can is educational too.

I must also mention the lovely illustrations. They enhance the words so fabulously. They are simple but effective and will appeal to adults and children alike.

I think Riley Knows He Can is a superb children’s book. It made me happy to read it and what could be better than that?

About Davina Hamilton


Davina Hamilton is an exciting writer with 15 years of journalism experience. The former entertainment editor for UK publication, The Voice, Davina has contributed to a host of publications, both in the UK and internationally. She has also featured on a number of radio programmes on stations including BBC London, LBC and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Davina lives in London, England with her husband and two children. She is available for interview upon request.

You can follow Davina on Twitter @davina_writes, visit her website and find Riley on Facebook.

Staying in with Sue Haasler on Half A World Away Publication Day

half a world away

I’m absolutely delighted to be starting off the launch celebrations for Half A World Away by Sue Haasler. Normally when authors stay in with me on Linda’s Book Bag I don’t really know which book they might be sharing in advance but today I had a pretty good idea!

Staying in with Sue Haasler

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Sue. 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?

half a world away

I’ve brought my new novel Half A World Away, which has just been published by The Dome Press.

(Oh yes! It’s out today. Happy publication day Sue and congratulations.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Half A World Away?

We’ll be taken to East Berlin in the last years of the Cold War, to a world that’s now completely disappeared, a through the looking glass country where a lot is familiar, but a lot is alien and strange. It’s not a whole world away from us – just half!

(I love a book where I can ‘travel’ Sue. That concept of it being ‘half’ a world away is really intriguing.)

We’ll meet handsome, kind Alex, who would have been happy to live a normal life working in his father’s bakery if he hadn’t fallen in love, first with music and then with a girl from a so-called “enemy country.” We’ll meet Nicky, who is loving and optimistic, but still feels guilty about a decision she had to make in the past. And we’ll meet Detlef, who would be a misfit in any country but in the GDR he thinks he’s found a way to fit in – until his world turns upside down when he sets eyes on Alex. It’s a love story, but with a lot of twists and turns and very specific to a time and a place.

(Half A World Away sounds wonderful. I’m so glad I have a copy on my TBR pile.)

What else have you brought along and why?


As Alex is a baker, I’ve brought a selection of typical East German bread and cakes. Various bread rolls – Milchbrötchen, which is like brioche; Semmeln, which are bread rolls where two are stuck together like the number 8; and a hollow cake called Spritzkuchen, all lovely eaten warm, with butter and cheese.


Then we’ve got Pflaumkuchen, a delicious tray bake made with plums and a sweet, crumbly topping. We might have some cream with that. And we’ll wash it all down with the famous sparkling wine, Rotkäppchen. It’s still hugely popular today, but in the GDR times it was reserved for special occasions. You might have garnished it with a pineapple chunk, if you could manage to get tinned pineapple.


(Oh my goodness Sue. I can’t drink ordinary wine but I love a sparkling one and those other foods look delicious. You can come again!)

While we’re eating and drinking we could listen to some Charlie Parker – saxophone player Alex’s all-time hero. Or perhaps some David Bowie, because he has a part to play in the book, as he played a concert in West Berlin in 1987, right next to the Wall. Because we’re on the East side, we can hear him, even if we can’t actually see him.


I love those music choices. I really must visit Berlin and in the meantime I’ll do so vicariously through reading Half A World Away. Congratulations again Sue on today’s publication. Thank you so much, Sue, for staying in with me to introduce Half a World Away, happy publication day and good luck!

Half A World Away

half a world away

East Berlin, 1987.

Alex is a talented saxophonist, flirting with ‘Western’ jazz as well as girls. When he meets Nicky – a beautiful English girl visiting East Berlin as an au pair – she makes him feel that his dreams could become reality.

Detlev’s love for his country has always been enough for him, until Alex makes him feel things he never thought possible. But what use is his passion when its object doesn’t even know he exists?

As Alex meets a new group of musicians, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere – and Detlev’s unrequited feelings threaten to endanger them all.

Published today, 12th April 2018, by Dome Press, Half A World Away is available for purchase here.

About Sue Haasler

sue haasler

Sue Haasler was born and brought up in County Durham and studied English Literature and Linguistics at Liverpool University.

After graduating she moved to London and worked for three years as a residential social worker. Since then, she has lived as an administrator for a disability charity, which recruits volunteer carers for disabled adults.

Many of the volunteers are from abroad and this is how she met her husband, who is from the former East Berlin.

Sue is the author of four romantic fiction titles, True Colours, Time After Time, Two’s Company (all Orion paperbacks) and Better Than the Real ThingTwo’s Company was optioned for film by Warner Bros.

She has been commissioned by the BBC to write an authorized tie-in to Holby City.

​Sue is married with an adult daughter and lives in London.

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

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