Staying in with Jackson Ellis

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In the four months since I began this Staying in with… feature on Linda’s Book Bag I have been delighted to find a whole range of newly published or new to me authors. Today I’m delighted to welcome another of those writers, Jackson Ellis.

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 Jackson Ellis

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

Thank you for asking!

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

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I’ve brought my debut novel, Lords of St. Thomas, which was awarded the Howard Frank Mosher First Novel Prize, and will be published on April 10, 2018 by New England-based Green Writers Press.

(Oh! That’s today. Happy publication day and congratulations on your award too. I love that cover. It reminds me of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men or Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Lords of St. Thomas?

Well, hopefully you will find it to be an engaging read — who knows, you may even be able to finish it in one evening!

Lords of St. Thomas is based on a real place, and one of the main characters was inspired by a real person. Allow me to explain…

(Oh, please do!)

From 2011 to 2013, I lived in Las Vegas. During this time, I visited the ghost town of St. Thomas, Nevada, on several occasions. It is a fascinating place, and the story as to why it was abandoned is really interesting as well.

During the 1930s, during construction of the Hoover Dam, the federal government bought out the residents of St. Thomas, as the town sat 70 miles northeast of the dam. It was foreseen that, within a few years of completion of the dam, the newly created Lake Mead would flood St. Thomas. Almost every resident of St. Thomas accepted the money and moved to higher ground.

One man, however, did not. His name was Hugh Lord, and he was the local auto mechanic (and also a lifelong bachelor). He remained in his home until the day the waters of Lake Mead flooded his living room. He paddled away from his porch in a rowboat, setting his house on fire in a final act of defiance.

Eventually St. Thomas was covered by as much as 70 feet of water. But finally, by 2002, the ongoing drought in the Southwest caused Lake Mead to recede, and the ruins of St. Thomas have been exposed ever since.

(What a fascinating story. I live not far from Rutland Water in the UK and all that is left of the village that was flooded for the reservoir is Normanton Church.)

It is so strange to walk through the town (now part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, administered by the National Park Service) and see old home foundations and roads, as well as sun-bleached mussel shells and rusted boat anchors scattered all around.

(I’d love to see that. I can feel one of our trips coming on…)

My novel features a character named Henry Lord, based on the real-life Hugh Lord. Only in my story, Henry Lord has a family, and a grandson, “Little” Henry, who narrates the book. “Little” Henry, narrating as an old man, details his life — and his family’s terrifying (and, of course, highly fictionalized) escape from the flood waters.

It also shows him returning to St. Thomas more than 60 years after he left to retrieve something he left behind.

(This sounds right up my street. I might just have to find a place for Lords of St Thomas amongst the other 900+ books on my TBR.)

 What else have you brought along and why?

A cup of water. After living in the desert for a couple of years, I’ll never take water for granted again.

water

I grew up in New England, where water is plentiful and precipitation is common, and it rarely falls violently enough to make you feel threatened by it. In Nevada, it rains only a few inches a year — but when it comes, it storms hard, and it was viewing these insane desert storms and flash floods from my apartment balcony that inspired the escape scene in my book.

Most of the year though? It often tops ninety or a hundred degrees, and rain scarcely falls.

(Sounds like my kind of place. I love the heat. Though even I might find the continuous heat too much.)

Hiking in the desert means you have to be well prepared with a huge amount of water, and you have to listen to your body — drink when you need it (never hesitate!), and turn back as soon as you start to feel fatigued. I did solo hikes in places like Death Valley and Valley of Fire where if I’d pushed myself too hard or accidentally spilled my water, I don’t think I’d have made it out alive.

Brilliant! I think so many of us in the Western world take water too much for granted.

Thanks so much for staying in with me Jackson, to introduce Lords of St Thomas to us. I’ve found it a fascinating story.

Lords of St Thomas

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Winner of the 2017 Howard Frank Mosher First Novel Prize

Shortlisted for the 2016 Plaza Literary Prize

In the Mojave Desert, at the southern end of the isolated Moapa Valley, sat the town of St. Thomas, Nevada. A small community that thrived despite scorching temperatures and scarce water, St. Thomas was home to hardy railroad workers, farmers, shopkeepers, teachers, and a lone auto mechanic named Henry Lord.
Born and raised in St. Thomas, Lord lived in a small home beside his garage with his son, Thomas, his daughter-in-law, Ellen, and his grandson, “Little” Henry. All lived happily until the stroke of a pen by President Coolidge authorizing the construction of the Boulder (Hoover) Dam. Within a decade, more than 250 square miles of desert floor would become flooded by the waters of the Colorado River, and St. Thomas would be no more.
In the early 1930s, the federal government began buying out the residents of St. Thomas, yet the hardheaded Henry Lord, believing the water would never reach his home, refused to sell. It was a mistake that would cost him―and his family―dearly.Lords of St. Thomas details the tragedies and conflicts endured by a family fighting an unwinnable battle, and their hectic and terrifying escape from the flood waters that finally surge across the threshold of their front door. Surprisingly, it also shows that, sometimes, you can go home again, as Little Henry returns to St. Thomas 60 years later, after Lake Mead recedes, to retrieve a treasure he left behind―and to fulfill a promise he made as a child.

Lords of St. Thomas is available for purchase through the links here.

About Jackson Ellis

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Jackson Ellis is a writer and editor from Vermont who has also spent time living in Nevada and Montana. His short fiction has appeared in The Vermont Literary ReviewSheepshead ReviewBroken PencilThe Birmingham Arts JournalEast Coast Literary ReviewMidwest Literary Magazine, and The Journal of Microliterature. He is the co-publisher of VerbicideMagazine.com, which he founded as a print periodical in 1999.

You can follow Jackson on Twitter @jackson_ellis and visit his website.

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

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It’s a slightly older, non-fiction, book for review for me today and one I have read for my Deepings U3A Monday Reading Group: Do No Harm by Henry Marsh.

Do No Harm was published by Weidenfield and Nicholson, an imprint of Orion and is available for purchase through the publisher links.

Do No Harm

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What is it like to be a brain surgeon?

How does it feel to hold someone’s life in your hands, to cut through the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason?

How do you live with the consequences when it all goes wrong?

Do No Harm offers an unforgettable insight into the highs and lows of a life dedicated to operating on the human brain, in all its exquisite complexity. With astonishing candour and compassion, Henry Marsh reveals the exhilarating drama of surgery, the chaos and confusion of a busy modern hospital, and above all the need for hope when faced with life’s most agonising decisions.

My Review of Do No Harm

A factual memoir about the life of an eminent brain surgeon, Henry Marsh.

Do No Harm opens with a fairly graphic description of brain surgery and initially I had the feeling I was going to be too squeamish to read this memoir. However, Henry Marsh writes with such eloquence that I was drawn in within a couple of pages and found myself completely held in his thrall.

What works so well in this book is the balance of factual and medical detail, explanation of procedures, hospital administration and insight into the personality of the author. Henry Marsh does not spare himself or the reader from his triumphs and disasters, his generosity and his embarrassments, so that there is a true sense of the man behind the surgical mask. I must admit I found some of the passages referring to the bureaucracy and inadequate systems our doctors and nurses have to work within made my blood boil.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the people Henry Marsh worked on and with, and have to admire the way in which he dealt with them. I’m not at all certain I could have behaved with many of them as equitably as did the author. I got a vivid sense of the people and personalities and felt that I had encountered their experiences with them because the writing is so skilful. Indeed, it is quite poetic at times. Although Henry Marsh sees himself as an ordinary man I have to disagree. He is a fantastic surgeon, a magnificent writer and a thoroughly compassionate and wonderful, if flawed, human being. It is those flaws and human frailties that make reading Do No Harm so mesmerising.

I thought Do No Harm was written with honesty, humility, humour and, above all, a real feeling of humanity. It’s a fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking read that I recommend most highly. I could not tear myself away from its pages.

About Henry Marsh

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Henry Marsh read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University before studying medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London, graduating in 1979. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1984 and was appointed Consultant Neurosurgeon at Atkinson Morley’s/St.George’s in 1987, where he still works full time.

He has been the subject of two major documentary films: Your Life in their Hands (BBC 2003 ) which won the Royal Television Society Gold Medal and The English Surgeon (2009) which won an Emmy. He has lectured widely on the subject of hospital architecture and design, keeps bees and makes furniture in his spare time. He was made a CBE by HM the Queen in 2010. He is married to the best-selling anthropologist and writer Kate Fox.

You can find out more by visiting Henry Marsh’s website.

Staying in with Amber Elby

Cauldron's Bubble

I really enjoy young adult fiction and am always on the look out for something new so I’m thrilled Amber Elby has agreed to stay in with me to tell me about one of her YA 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 Amber Elby

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

Thank you for hosting me, Linda.  You have a lovely space for a bookworm, and I am honored to share it with you this evening.

(That’s very kind of you – though you might have to move a few books to find space to be seated!)

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

Photo Cauldron's Bubble

I brought my debut YA fantasy novel, Cauldron’s Bubble.  This is a fast-paced narrative that appeals equally to those who have carefully studied Shakespeare, such as professional educators, as well as students who have yet to be introduced to his classic tales.  The novel also seeks to empower some of Shakespeare’s weaker female characters and expand on his secondary characters as it opens new doors into his plays and introduces twenty-first century readers to his stories.

(What an utterly brilliant premise for a novel Amber. I love the concept of  Cauldron’s Bubble.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Cauldron’s Bubble?

You should expect to stay up rather late because Cauldron’s Bubble has enough suspense to keep you up past the witching hour!

Imagine that Shakespeare’s characters could interact off-stage and that their adventures could span beyond the bounds of the Bard’s fiction: Hamlet deviously escapes from the pirates who capture him on the way to England; Macbeth’s witches perform their magic on unsuspecting victims; and Sycorax awakes from the shadowy backstory of The Tempest, bent on revenge against those who stole her island.  These stories and more come to life in Cauldron’s Bubble as readers follow two new protagonists, an orphan named Alda and a cabin boy called Dreng, as they each search for something lost.

The novel alternates between their limited third-person perspectives as Alda discovers a magical bubble that transports her to Macbeth’s witches on the moor.  Dreng, meanwhile, helps Prince Hamlet escape from pirates en route to England.  The two protagonists come together on Prospero’s enchanted island, where Alda is on a quest to free Ariel, and Dreng is smitten with the mysterious Miranda.  Ultimately, Alda must find powers she gained in a forgotten realm called Netherfeld to defeat a summoner, and Dreng must awake to the realities around him before he is consumed by powerful magic.

(This sounds so exciting – and what a brilliant way to draw in readers to Shakespeare.)

After you finish Cauldron’s Bubble, you may even want to brush up on Shakespeare’s plays, so it is helpful if you have some copies on hand if you want to explore further.

(If you look above you at the book case Amber, you’ll see all of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets – I studied and taught them for years.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

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I brought some of my favorite tea, Yorkshire Gold, to share with you this evening.  I even brought a mug that was painted by my two daughters, but it is probably best that we not all share that.

(Brilliant mug and anyone who is a tea drinker is always a welcome guest here Amber.)

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My two daughters are also with me.  They love to travel and explore, so I brought of a photograph of them below deck on the Golden Hind in London last March and a more recent photograph of them at the aquarium in Epcot at Walt Disney World.  Their curiosity helped motivate me to write Cauldron’s Bubble, and I derived Alda’s name from a combination of their two names; their feistiness is evident in Alda’s personality, too.

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(How wonderful. Your girls must be so proud of you and Cauldron’s Bubble.) 

My husband sends his regrets as he is home doing housework and making dinner for all of us, but I suspect he is reading a science fiction novel as well, perhaps with one of our cats on his lap.  He promised that he would clean and do chores as long as I spend my free time writing, so I plan to write a great deal and to continue to do so for the rest of my life (don’t tell him that I do it to avoid vacuuming).  My husband and I met in fifth grade and started dating when we were seventeen, and he has always been encouraging, so I am lucky to have him as my biggest fan.

(Your husband sounds a great deal like my own who does all the cooking and shopping alongside a very great deal of the housework!)

Finally, I brought an old copy of Macbeth tucked away in my purse.  I taught it many years ago at Austin’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy, which is where I first got the inspiration for Cauldron’s Bubble.  I realized then that my students had no prior exposure to Shakespeare’s plays and that they needed a bridge text to introduce them to his characters and conflicts.  Many of my students read the Percy Jackson series during the previous summer and used it to better understand The Odyssey, so I decided that a YA fantasy novel would be a wonderful introduction into the worlds of Shakespeare.  That’s how Cauldron’s Bubble came into creation!

(My old copy of Macbeth is falling apart so we can compare editions Amber.)

Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about Cauldron’s Bubble Amber. I’ve really enjoyed being transported back to my teaching days.

Cauldron’s Bubble

Cauldron's Bubble

A magical bubble transports Alda through time and place to a realm of witches and curses, pirates and princes, and the lost worlds of Shakespeare. She, along with a cabin boy called Dreng, must navigate the conflicts and characters of Macbeth, Hamlet, and The Tempest. But will they escape with their lives? Or will they become lost and forgotten?

Cauldron’s Bubble is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

About Amber Elby

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Amber Elby was born in Grand Ledge, Michigan but spent much of her childhood in the United Kingdom.  She began writing when she was three years old and created miniature books by asking her family how to spell every, single, word.

Several years later, she saw her first Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, in London.

Many years later, she studied Creative Writing at Michigan State University’s Honors College before earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting at the University of Texas at Austin.

She currently resides in Texas with her husband and two daughters and spends her time teaching, traveling, and getting lost in imaginary worlds.

You can find Amber on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter @amberelby. Amber also has a super website.

The Man On The Middle Floor by Elizabeth S. Moore

The Man On the Middle Floor

My grateful thanks to Anna Burt and the team at Red Door Publishing for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for The Man On The Middle Floor by Elizabeth S. Moore and for providing an advanced reader copy in return for an honest review.

Published by Red Door on 12th April 2018, The Man On The Middle Floor is available for pre-order here.

The Man On The Middle Floor

The Man On the Middle Floor

Despite living in the same three-flat house in the suburbs of London, the residents are strangers to one another. The bottom floor is home to Tam, a recent ex-cop who spends his days drowning his sorrows in whisky. On the middle floor is Nick, a young man with Asperger’s that likes to stick to his schedules and routines. The top floor belongs to Karen, a doctor and researcher that has spent her life trying to understand the rising rates of autism.

They have lived their lives separately, until now, when an unsolved murder and the man on the middle floor connect them all together.

Told from three points of view, The Man on the Middle Floor is about disconnection in all its forms; sexual, physical, parental and emotional. It questions whether society is meeting the needs of the fast growing autistic section of society, or exacerbating it.

Thought-provoking and thrilling, The Man on the Middle Floor will leave readers talking.

My Review of The Man On The Middle Floor

Tam, Nick and Karen live totally separate lives in the same house, but their lives are going to be interwoven in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine.

Well, The Man On The Middle Floor was NOT what I was expecting. I had somehow convinced myself I would be reading a fairly simplistic and entertaining humorous crime thriller. Whilst The Man On The Middle Floor is certainly entertaining, it confounded my expectations completely. I found this book disturbing, compelling and actually quite upsetting in many ways.

Readers can simply enjoy The Man On The Middle Floor as a straightforward narrative and there’s a cracking murder plot that is very satisfying. However, it is Elizabeth Moore’s exploration of who we are, of the norms of society and what places us inside or outside the boundaries of so-called normality that is so brilliantly handled. The debate between nature and nurture, about mental health and its treatment within the pages of The Man On The Middle Floor make for a frequently unsettling and always though-provoking reading.

I think some readers will be shocked and possibly offended by the frequent use of the F-word and by the sexual references, but even whilst they made me occasionally uncomfortable as a reader, I felt they did exactly what was intended. They engendered a reaction and shook me out of my complacency as a reader. In fact, so skilled is the writing that I experienced Nick’s tensions and anxieties as I read and actually loathed Karen, so that even when I understood her I couldn’t bring myself to forgive her. I actually felt the kind of uncontrollable emotions towards Karen that Nick experienced when under stress. The interconnectedness of the three main characters provides an almost claustrophobic feeling that again enhances the quality of the book. Giving Nick a first person narrative is a stroke of genius. It allows the reader to see so clearly into his mind, but also gives status to the most vulnerable and ‘abnormal’ of the characters which felt to me like Elizabeth Moore was illustrating those like Nick in society have at least equal status with everyone else, even though society may wish to treat them differently.

My heart went out to Nick completely. He reminded me of Lennie in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and by the end of the novel I felt quite emotional about him and his life.

I’m not sure if I enjoyed reading The Man On The Middle Floor as it made me feel quite voyeuristic and troubled. Elisabeth Moore took me well out of my comfort zone and that is a very good thing. I was forced to confront my own perceptions of mental health and so-called normality. Would I recommend The Man On The Middle Floor? Absolutely. Without hesitation. I think The Man On The Middle Floor is a book we should all read and talk about.

About Elizabeth S. Moore

elizabeth S moore

Elizabeth Moore has worked as a journalist since she won the Decanter Young Wine Writer of the Year at seventeen. She has written columns and articles on restaurants, politics, South Africa and all things foodie. She comes from a family that has given her a lot of writing material and is currently finishing up her second book, having written the first after completing the Faber Write a Novel course and being approached by fourteen agents after reading an excerpt of her novel to industry professionals. Elizabeth lives in London with her South African husband and has three daughters and a son as well as two lazy Labradors.

You can follow Elizabeth Moore on Twitter @LizzyMoore19 and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

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The Sapphire Widow by Dinah Jefferies

Sapphire Widow

I’m so excited to be part of the launch celebrations for The Sapphire Widow by Dinah Jefferies because I always enjoy her books. I have previously had the privilege of interviewing Dinah here, when Before the Rains was published. When I began blogging in 2015, Dinah’s The Tea Planter’s Wife was one of the first books I reviewed here (and you’ll see how the blog has evolved too). I also have my review of Dinah’s The Silk Merchant’s Daughter here too.

The Sapphire Widow was published by Penguin on 5th April 2018 and is available for purchase here.

The Sapphire Widow

Sapphire Widow

Ceylon, 1935. Louisa Reeve, the daughter of a successful British gem trader, and her husband Elliot, a charming, thrill-seeking businessman, seem like the couple who have it all. Except what they long for more than anything: a child.

While Louisa struggles with miscarriages, Elliot is increasingly absent, spending much of his time at a nearby cinnamon plantation, overlooking the Indian ocean. After his sudden death, Louisa is left alone to solve the mystery he left behind. Revisiting the plantation at Cinnamon Hills, she finds herself unexpectedly drawn towards the owner Leo, a rugged outdoors man with a chequered past. The plantation casts a spell, but all is not as it seems. And when Elliot’s shocking betrayal is revealed, Louisa has only Leo to turn to…

My Review of The Sapphire Widow

With shocking news piling up thick and fast, Louisa Reeve needs to adapt rapidly to the new challenges she faces.

What I always love about Dinah Jefferies’ writing is her wonderfully evocative settings and Ceylon in 1935 is fabulously created in The Sapphire Widow. I think it’s the appeal to all the senses, from well-defined birdsong, through the aroma of cinnamon, the taste of mango and the sensation of silk against the skin, to the music of the era, for example, that so beautifully vivifies a sense of place. I could picture myself in Galle as easily as if I were walking its streets.

Dinah Jefferies’ protagonists are always wonderfully drawn. I understood Louisa completely and whilst I didn’t always agree with her actions she held my empathy throughout. It is indicative of the way all the characters are so life-like that I could quite happily have throttled Irene with my bare hands.

Setting and characterisation aside, there is so much more to The Sapphire Widow. It is a sweeping love story and can be enjoyed quite simply on that level. However, it is also a glorious cultural travelogue, transporting the reader to another country. It’s an historical tale with such a well researched level of accuracy that reading The Sapphire Widow makes the reader hugely satisfied, feeling a kind of confidence in the author. Even better, alongside all these elements there is threat and mystery too.

I thought the themes were just perfect for a dramatic romantic novel. There’s a sense of duty, love and betrayal, family dynamics, loss and grief, social mores and morality weaving in and out of the pages so that I think The Sapphire Widow would repay several rereads too.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Sapphire Widow and found myself completely transported to another time and place. It’s another total success for Dinah Jefferies.

About Dinah Jefferies

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Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. Her idyllic childhood always held a special place in her imagination, and when she began writing novels in her 60s, she was able to return there – first in her fiction and then on annual research trips for each new novel. Dinah Jefferies is the author of four novels, The Separation, The Tea Planter’s Wife – a Number One Sunday Times bestseller, The Silk Merchant’s Daughter and Before the Rains. She lives in Gloucestershire

You can follow Dinah Jefferies on Twitter and visit her web site. You’ll also find Dinah on Facebook.

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My Bucket List: A Guest Post by Judy Leigh, Author of A Grand Old Time

A Grand old time

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh as it was my birthday yesterday and I feel as if I’m rapidly approaching 75 myself! As I have a mountain of things I still want to do in life I asked Judy which three things are on her bucket list before she hits 75 and she agreed to tell me.

I shall be taking A Grand Old Time with me as I head off on another bucket list item of my own soon – a trip to India looking for tigers.

A Grand Old Time will be published by Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins, on 3rd May and is available for pre-order here.

A Grand Old Time

Evie Gallagher is regretting her hasty move into a care home. She may be seventy-five and recently widowed, but she’s absolutely not dead yet. And so, one morning, Evie walks out of Sheldon Lodge and sets off on a Great Adventure across Europe.

But not everyone thinks Great Adventures are appropriate for women of Evie’s age, least of all her son Brendan and his wife Maura, who follow a trail of puzzling text messages to bring her home.

When they finally catch up with her, there are shocks in store . . . because while Brendan may have given up on life and love, Evie certainly has not.

Three Bucket Things Before I’m 75

A Guest Post by Judy Leigh

Limiting myself to just three things on a bucket list before I’m 75 is impossible: when I have finished my list of three, half a dozen more will pop into my head and jostle for pole position. I can be a bit impetuous and change my mind frequently, but here’s an attempt at my three things.

There is fascinating local history of women being accused of witchcraft, and I’m interested in researching their stories. It will become a novel. It might also become a PhD thesis, as I’m wondering what sort of prevailing culture singled these women out for discrimination.

I want to travel to places I’ve never been. I’d like to drive across the USA in a big American car and across New Zealand in a camper van, visit Sri Lanka. Of course, it’s all research for a novel.

I’d like to learn the Romani language. Words we use every day such as dosh, lollipop, pal all come from Romani. My grandmother used to use fascinating words such as hotchiwitchi, a hedgehog. There is a novel there too, about my father and my grandmother who came from a family of fairground travellers.

(These are smashing wishes Judy. I hope they all come true.)

About Judy Leigh

judy

Judy Leigh completed an MA in Professional Writing at Falmouth University in 2015, leaving her career of 20 years as an Advanced Skills teacher of Theatre Studies. She has had several stories published in magazines, including The Feminist Wire, The Purple Breakfast Review and You is for University. She has also trained as a Reiki healer, written a vegan recipe blog and set up a series of Shakespeare Festivals to enable young people to perform the Bard’s work on stage.

You can visit Judy’s website and follow her on Twitter @JudyLeighWriter.

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Staying in with J. Q. Rose

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I’ve been ‘meeting’ so many new authors for this Staying in with… feature on Linda’s Book Bag and today it’s another new to me author, J.Q. Rose who is dropping by to 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 J. Q Rose

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, J. Q. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books.

Thanks so much, Linda. I’m looking forward to visiting with you this evening.

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

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I brought a romantic suspense novel, Dangerous Sanctuary. The setting is in a small town in Michigan in the spring time, my favorite time of the year. Since it is or almost is spring in our corner of the world, I thought the book would be appropriate for a spring evening.

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(I think we could certainly do with a book about spring. It seems to have been very slow arriving here this year.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Dangerous Sanctuary?

This particular book is a quick read, perfect for an evening in, and the quirky characters will make you giggle. One amazon reviewer said, “A florist, an orphan, a cat that needs a new home, an intelligent pot-bellied pig, a wallaby and a homeless man added amusement, interest and suspicion to the story.”

(Oo. I love the sound of that cast of characters. Quite an eclectic mix!)

The story is a “who-dun-it.” Who murdered the church choir director? The handsome detective, although attracted to the female pastor, suspects Pastor Christine clobbered the unsuspecting choir director and pushed him down the stairs to the church basement. The amusing characters and situations lighten up the dark atmosphere of mystery and suspense.

(I think Dangerous Sanctuary sounds highly entertaining.)

What else have you brought along and why?

pizza

I snuck in a yummy pizza just waiting for us on the kitchen counter. Can you smell those spices wafting in here? I hope you like pizza with extra cheese, Linda. Pastor Christine and her florist friend, Lacey, often enjoy pizza and cold beer on the parsonage’s screened-in porch while brainstorming ideas on how they can catch the killer.

(I don’t allow myself pizza often so this is a real treat. Thanks J.Q.)

I also brought along a bouquet of fresh spring flowers for the table to celebrate this occasion. Don’t the colors just make you feel happy? I believe I chose spring to be the background of this inspiring story because I liked the juxtaposition of the bright sunny days against the dark crime in the story. Plus, Michigan winters are pretty rough. The only thing that keeps us going is the hope of spring when the landscape is transformed by trees and flowers bursting into bloom, the sun shines, and the warm breezes comfort our winter-weary souls. In the book, the pretty weather helps calm and renew Pastor Christine Hobbs when dealing with the many trying events and twists in her life.

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(Thanks so much for the pizza and the flowers. You’re right. They are so cheering.)

It’s been a real pleasure staying in with you to discuss Dangerous Sanctuary J.Q. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Dangerous Sanctuary

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Pastor Christine Hobbs has been in the pulpit business for over five years. She never imagined herself caring for a flock that includes a pig, a kangaroo, and a murderer.

Detective Cole Stephens doesn’t want the pretty pastor to get away with murdering the church music director. His investigative methods infuriate Christine as much as his deep brown eyes attract her.

Can they find the real killer and build a loving relationship based on trust?

Dangerous Sanctuary is available for purchase here.

About J.Q. Rose

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After writing feature articles in magazines, newspapers, and online magazines for over fifteen years, J.Q. Rose entered the world of fiction. Her published mysteries are Deadly Undertaking, Dangerous Sanctuary and Terror on Sunshine Boulevard released by Books We Love Publishing. Blogging, photography, Pegs and Jokers board games, and travel are the things that keep her out of trouble. She spends winters in Florida and summers up north camping and hunting toads, frogs, and salamanders with her four grandsons and granddaughter.

You can find J.Q. Rose on Facebook and visit her blog.

Staying in with A. K. Amherst

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Once again I’m finding another new to me author to stay in with me on Linda’s Book Bag. Today A. K. Amherst, traveller and writer, has agreed to 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 A. K. Amherst

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

Thank you for having me. I’m always excited to talk about my favourite topics: books.

(One of mine too – along with travel and chocolate!)

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

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Well I brought my one and only: Belfast Central. It tells the story of Ryan Goodwin, whose family made a fortune with their company in the ammunition industry. But Ryan turns down the ‘traditional family career’ and becomes a paramedic instead. He wants to help people, not arm them.

When he gets shot on duty, he suffers a major life crisis. He knows the only way to move on, to find closure, is by investigating why the shooting at Belfast Central took place – an investigation the police is not very eager to do.

So he sets off on his own, starting by searching for the stranger that saved his life. The deeper Ryan digs into this stranger’s past the clearer it becomes: There is a fatal feud going on between opposing paramilitaries and stopping them might force Ryan to let go of some of his deepest values.

(I understand Belfast Central will be published on 10th April, exactly 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Congratulations!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Belfast Central?

Well it is a thriller so you can definitely expect suspense and unforeseen plot twists. It’s also a story about friendship, about bridging differences. Because you know, sometimes water just is thicker than blood.

Belfast Central also integrates certain true events of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. So for readers interested in contemporary history this book has a lot to offer. My two main characters live in Belfast at different times – one in 1993 and the other in the 1930s. Belfast Central tells the story of those two lives that inevitable collide at the Belfast Central Station.

The story is very authentic and well researched with a lot of details that add up to its unique charm. So yeah, readers who love thrillers and/or are interested in history will definitely find a gem in Belfast Central.

(I imagine doing that research was a totally absorbing experience. I love reading about recent history.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Belfast Bap

I brought a Belfast Bap – the best regional food I ever ate. The bun is a speciality of Belfast and it goes with everything – eggs, bacon, sausage … simply delicious.

(Ooo. I hope you’re not expecting me to share that. I could do that justice very easily right away!)

You know with all the research I did about Belfast beforehand I really didn’t expect to come across something I never heard of before. But there I was, on my first day in Belfast, stepping off the train and stumbling across this local speciality at the market.

It’s more than just food to me, for me the Belfast Bap is a symbol for how important it is that a writer does his homework and researches to the fullest. And if your tummy is full by the end of the day as well … how could life get any better?

How indeed? Thanks so much for staying in with me Andrea to tell me all about Belfast Central. I think it looks a cracker of a thriller. 

Belfast Central

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Belfast 1993: A nocturnal ambulance service at the Belfast Central Station almost turns deadly for the young paramedic Ryan. In the crosshairs of the IRA, he is badly wounded and wakes up in the hospital with muddled memories. The police close the case fast, leaving too many burning questions unanswered. Most importantly, who was that old man who appeared at the scene out of nowhere and saved Ryan’s life?

Not fully recovered yet, Ryan begins searching for the mysterious man, only to get dragged into a feud between opposing paramilitaries – with fatal consequences…

A thrilling story about fates in 20th century Northern Ireland.

Belfast Central is available for preorder in paperback here and the e-book is available for pre-order on Amazon.

About A.K. Amherst

andrea

Born and raised in Austria Andrea travelled the world from a young age. Besides travelling she loves to try new and unusual hobbies, always looking for the next great story to tell.

You can follow Andrea on Twitter @amherst_ak, find her on Facebook or visit her website for more information.

The Stranger by Kate Riordan

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My enormous thanks to Jenny Platt at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of The Stranger by Kate Riordan in return for an honest review and for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for this wonderful read.

Published on 22nd March 2018 by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin, The Stranger is available for purchase here.

The Stranger

the Stranger HB jacket

Cornwall, 1940.

In the hushed hours of the night a woman is taken by the sea.

Was it a tragic accident? Or should the residents of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in?

In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall.

Each is looking to escape her past.

But one of them is not there by choice.

As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface.

And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . .

In a house full of strangers, who do you trust?

My Review of The Stranger

Three new landgirls at Penhallow Hall will find their lives changed for ever.

Oh my goodness me. What a book! I adored every word of The Stranger. It was like reading a modern day Daphne du Maurier, but for me, so much better. The quality of the poetic and beautiful writing is gorgeous. Kate Riordan has the ability to create a tangible sense of foreboding that permeates the reader’s skin, giving them goosebumps. There’s a fabulous use of pathetic fallacy so that the weather, the sea and Cornwall all become inextricably woven into the narrative making reading The Stranger visual and filmic. The absolute power of place is deftly and convincingly created, with an oppressive, self destructive and menacing atmosphere crackling like an approaching storm that I found utterly compelling.

There’s a preternatural evil and claustrophobia lurking around Penhallow Hall making a tragedy an inevitability. Ghostly echoes of the past weave in and out of the narrative, tantalising the reader and making it impossible for me to pull myself away from the book. The plot is a cracker too. I was sucked into the story as if I were a character myself.

Speaking of characters, Diana is a magnificent creation. Kate Riordan uses the perfect voice for Diana’s first person diary accounts so that I loathed her entirely for the first hundred pages of the book. Diana created a visceral and physical response in me that quite shocked me by the violence I felt towards her. It’s a terrible thing to say but I wanted her dead because of her tainting and corrupting effect. I found her a far more malevolent person than the controlling Mrs Fox. However, as the book progressed I came to understand, pity, and even respect Diana and this is such skilled writing by Kate Riordan to be able to effect such a change of opinion.

There are so many layers to The Stranger too. Not only is it a love story, a mystery and in many ways an homage to other literature through subtle reference, but it explores so many fabulous themes. Oppressed and suppressed sexuality, relationships, the nature of good and evil, the present and the past, identity and the basic human need to be loved and accepted without which we all become the stranger, all reverberate through the story giving it a brilliant depth and making it oh so satisfying to read.

In case you hadn’t gathered, I loved The Stranger. It is one of those books that will stay with me a very long time. Wonderful.

About Kate Riordan

Kate

Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist. She is an avid reader of Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie, both of whom inspired her first two novels, The Girl in the Photograph and The Shadow Hour. She lives in the Cotswolds, where she writes full-time. The Stranger is her latest book.

You an follow Kate on Twitter @KateRiordanUK, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

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Remembering Philippa: A Guest Post by Sophie Duffy, Author of The Generation Game

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It’s a real privilege to be part of the Legend100 team of bloggers and I’m delighted that today that gives me a very special guest post to share on Linda’s Book Bag. Legend Press are reissuing some of the most popular titles for the last ten years and 5th April marks the reissue of The Generation Game by Sophie Duffy. To celebrate, Sophie reminisces about her protagonist Philippa and the setting for the novel.

Published by Legend Press, The Generation Game is available for purchase here.

The Generation Game

Generation Game Cover

Philippa Smith is in her forties and has a beautiful newborn baby girl. She also has no husband, and nowhere to turn. So she turns to the only place she knows: the beginning. Retracing her life, she confronts the daily obstacles that shaped her very existence. From the tragic events of her childhood abandonment, to the astonishing accomplishments of those close to her, Philippa learns of the sacrifices others chose to make, and the outcome of buried secrets.

Philippa discovers a celebration of life, love, and the Golden era of television. A reflection of everyday people, in not so everyday situations.

Remembering Philippa

A Guest Post by Sophie Duffy

I know Philippa Smith better than I know myself. I first started writing about her in 2005 where she showed up in a short story of mine. I’m not quite sure where she came from – probably an amalgam of a school friend, Benny from Top Cat, and maybe a teensy bit of me – but she was here to stay, living on in my imagination while the short story became a novel.

Philippa is naïve, innocent and slow, but not stupid – though some of the things she does are admittedly daft even if they are carried out with the best of intentions. She is fiercely loyal and if she loves you, she will love you forever. (Once a Torquay United fan, always a Torquay United fan.) She could be seen as a victim if it weren’t for her good heart and her blundering resilience. She loses the people she loves the most but, somehow, she ends up with more than she ever thought possible – most importantly her baby.

This is where we first meet Philippa in 2005, giving birth in St Thomas’ hospital, the very place she was born forty years earlier. As she tries to make sense of being a new mother, she tells her story to her baby. She tells her about Helena, her feckless mother, Lucas, her best friend, Mr Bob Sugar, owner of the sweet shop where she lived, and Wink, the old lady from across the street.

The part of The Generation Game that is real is the setting. For two years in the early 70s, my parents owned and ran a sweet shop in Torquay. Mum, Dad, my two brothers, Sammy the cat, and I lived above it, a pretty cool place to live when you are five years old. The shop wasn’t just about the sweets. It was also a newsagent’s and a tobacconist’s. My older brother can remember measuring out snuff for the old gents who used to come in. I was too young to serve so I would sit behind the counter on the step that led to our back room and I’d watch and learn. We also sold the football pools and tacky gifts for the holiday makers. Boxes of chocs and saucy seaside postcards. Sandcastle paper flags and ice lollies. It was the best place in all the world and the ideal backdrop for my first novel.

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Sophie and her brother in the back yard of the shop on Sophie’s first day at school

Across the street from the shop was a chemist’s where Agatha Christie was said to be a Saturday girl, learning about poisons. On the other corner was a chippie. And because we only had a small back yard, we used to play out in the ‘boneyard’ of St Andrew down the road. There really was an old lady called Wink who lived opposite us. We ‘inherited’ her from the previous shop owners and visited her every Saturday for fish and chips. And she really did love Brucie.

The Generation Game was first published in 2011 by Legend Press after winning the Luke Bitmead Bursary. Not long after this, Brucie became Sir Bruce. Since then, many of the TV figures of my childhood have been disgraced, but never Brucie. He was a hero to the end. Which brings me back to Philippa. I wonder how the news of his passing would have affected her? I reckon she’d be as sad as I am but proud too. Proud that her loyalty in him was not misplaced. (Unlike her loyalty to The Gulls.) And I’m thrilled that I get to share Philippa, Helena, Lucas, Mr Bob Sugar, Wink and Brucie with some new readers.

(A fascinating insight into the background to The Generation Game Sophie. Many thanks for sharing it with us.)

About Sophie Duffy

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Sophie is the author of three novels. The Generation Game was her debut novel, inspired by her childhood growing up in a sweet shop in Torquay. Her second novel, This Holey Life, is about a reluctant curate’s wife. Her latest novel is Bright Stars, a modern day Brideshead, the story of students reunited after 25 years.

As part of Creative Writing Matters, Sophie appraises manuscripts, runs workshops and mentors novelists. CWM run the Exeter Novel Prize and the Exeter Story Prize as well as other writing competitions.

She lives by the seaside in Devon.

You can follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiestenduffy, vist her website and find her on Facebook.

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