Celebrating No One But You with Tessa Levy

NOBY front cover

I’m so grateful to the lovely folk at Literally PR for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for No One But You by Tessa Levy as it looks exactly my kind of read and I’m delighted to have a copy on my TBR. I’m so disappointed I can’t make the actual launch party but am thrilled to host this stop on the tour on publication day for No One But You.

To celebrate No One But You I have a wonderful extract to share and I’m delighted to be staying in with Tessa to chat all about No One But You.

Published today 24th May 2018, by Filament Publishing, No One But You is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from the publisher here.

No One But You

NOBY front cover

No One but You is a fictional account of a young girl’s extraordinary life, from the post-war East End of London to the high life of America and back again. It portrays Tessa Levy’s yearning for adventure and opportunity and ultimately love on both sides of the Atlantic. She is the youngest child of a large family who takes on the responsibility of caring for her beloved dying mother. When her father secretly marries another woman, Tessa’s world is shattered. At the tender age of 17, Tessa seeks solace with her distant cousins in America and sets off on the adventure of a lifetime.

A year and a half later, she returns to England as a glamorous young woman having fallen in love for the first time. However, she crosses the cultural divide and struggles to resettle, despite her family’s best efforts to reintegrate her into their Jewish community in London. Eventually meeting the man she will marry, Tessa suffers another painful premature family death that rocks her world. She embarks on motherhood and a successful career but life continues to challenge her happiness. She finds herself torn between the two loves of her life; the handsome, poetic and artistic Gus in America; and the charismatic, successful, but disloyal Michael in England. Her romantic adventure crosses back and forth between the two countries ultimately in the quest to find the answer to the underlying theme of the book, and Tessa’s life; is it possible to love two men in one lifetime?

Staying in with Tessa Levy

Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about No One But You Tessa. Can you tell me a bit about it? 

No One But You is due for release today May 24th 2018!  We’re going to have a big launch party in London.

(Happy publication day Tessa. I’m devastated I can’t make tonight’s party. Sadly I live in darkest Lincolnshire and with another appointment I couldn’t get there in time. I hope you have a wonderful party.)

I personally enjoy a good psychological thriller.  I loved ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins.  I also love books by Martina Cole, Jeffery Archer and Frederick Forsyth.

(I’m with you on those choices. If you enjoy them then I think I’m really going to enjoy reading No One But You too!)

What can we expect from an evening in with No-One but You? 

No One But You is based on my life story – a story that I’ve told plenty of people and all of whom said it sounded like a novel. I didn’t want it to be a straightforward autobiography though so I worked hard with my daughter Shelley to inject plenty of fictional elements to add even more spice and adventure, heart-break and tragedy. It’s fun to speak to people who have read the book and who are guessing which bits are real and which are fiction!

(I bet!) 

What else have you brought along and why? 

spare ribsFood – I have a passion for spare ribs, Chinese and Indian food from my time in America. Multicultural dining experience with a very chilled glass of rose.

(You can come again if you’re going to bring such tasty food Tessa!)

Music – Beautiful background music especially jazz, as my late husband loved it.  The Music from the Royal Wedding would be perfect to portray the love story within my book.

Guests – I would love to invite;

Maureen Lipman as she is such an intellectual and brilliant actress and I would thoroughly enjoy her company.

Barbara Windsor as I feel that she would make any evening complete.

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Also the late Terry Wogan, who I met through my daughter at one of my birthday lunches and we remained in touch until he sadly passed away.

I really admired Bruce Forsyth, I met him at some charity events and believe is was the most charismatic man I have ever met.

Although I can’t attend tonight’s actual party, I think we can have a pretty good virtual one with these guests! Thank you so much for staying in with me to tell me a bit about No One But You Tessa. I’m sure blog readers will love to read the following extract to get a flavour of the book:

An Extract from No One But You by Tessa Levy

Chapter 3: Losing Her

Tess hopped unsteadily on the chalk marks on the pavement and over her shoulder, she called out, “My brother Danny will be here in a minute. He’s on leave. Wait until you meet him, he’ll make you laugh so much, you’ll be crying.”

She gave up on the game and raced to the corner to see if she could spot him. She had no sense of Millie’s increasing outrage as she returned with another round of excitable chatter about her brother.

“Why don’t you look where you’re going?” a woman grumbled at Tess when she almost knocked her over when jumping into Danny’s open arms.

Tess ignored the warning.

“Alright, kid, steady on, I’m right here. Step back so I can look at you. My God, you’ve grown up.” Danny shook his head and gently ran his hand through her hair. “You’ve grown, Shortie!” He laughed and tickled her ribs.

Giggling, she scrunched up her face. “Danny, stop! Come and meet my best friends in the world.”

“The whole world, sis?” He flashed his huge smile, the one that lit up his hazel eyes. Standing in the street, in his uniform, Tess felt an enormous surge of pride as she watched her friends’ faces turn red and she wanted to shout, “That’s my brother, isn’t he something?”

He pulled on her hand. “Come on kid, let’s go inside and say hello.”

Later that evening, as the family sat around the table, Pop leaned back and beamed. “Look at this, the only one missing is Howard.” He popped a cube of sugar in between his teeth and sipped on his tea. His braces hung at his sides and his hands clasped at the front of his round belly. Pop nodded proudly at his sons.

Lorna leaned forward artfully. “We should have some wine to celebrate.”

“Wine? I don’t know where you’re getting these crazy ideas. It’s enough that you smoke. Can’t you be more like your sister?” Pop said. In the kitchen, Sadie, helping her mother wash the dishes, heard his complaint. She shouted, “He’s right, you know, Lorna. You should try and be more like me.”

Sadie and the others laughed. Lorna took out her irritation out on Tess, who shrieked in pain as her sister’s hand found her thigh under the table and gave her an enthusiastic pinch.

“Some things just don’t change. Do they, Max?” Danny shook a cigarette from his pack and smiled at his brother.

Max fiddled with his unlit cigar. “Thank goodness for that. This bloody war has changed too many things.”

“You’re the last bloke to complain. You’ve got that cushy job, far away from all the action.” Danny pushed his chair back and stood next to his brother. “Come on outside and tell me about all that cash you’re making.”

“You underestimate how crucial my contribution to this war really is, just because you wear a uniform. I wore a uniform and paid a huge price because of that bloody anti-Semitic corporal. I got a court-martial for sticking up for us all. Just remember that!”

“I knew it! You’re a spy, working undercover. I get it, sunshine, you’re doing covert exercises into Germany. I apologise.”

“Now you’re a comedian? You’re jealous because I’ve managed to arrange things the way I have. Face it, Danny, I was always cleverer than you!”

They were inches from starting a fight.

“Go outside, the pair of you. Don’t upset your mother. Don’t you ever grow up?” Pop’s face turned beetroot red whenever he became angry or upset and he was not past ripping off his belt to teach them both a lesson. “As for you, Lorna, go and help your mother.”

“What about Tess, why doesn’t she have to help?” Lorna pouted, making a loud scraping noise as she pushed her chair back

“I’m too young, sorry, Lorna,” Tess said with a smirk and she folded her arms in victory. She followed her dad into the other room and curled up onto his lap.

Later that night, Tess lay awake, trying to ignore the rumbling of Pop’s snoring through the thin walls. Relishing the warmth of her sisters’ sleeping bodies, she heard the faint, familiar sounds of male laughter, drifting up from the street. Carefully, she climbed under the covers and wriggled to the edge of the bed so as not to wake the girls. Wrapping herself in her coat, she tiptoed down the stairs, the floor icy to her bare feet. She came face to face with Danny, catching him slipping off his shoes. He looked at her for a moment and pulled her outside. He struck a match against the brick wall and leaned in to light his cigarette. The light flickered briefly against one side of his face, revealing a fresh black eye.

“Oh my God, Danny, what happened?” Tess said with a gasp.

The smell of alcohol wafted on his panicked reaction. “Ssshhh, you’ll wake up the whole street. Worse still, you’ll wake up Pop.”

“But your eye looks purple, what did you do?”

“Sis, quiet, please,” he hissed. “I went over to the Paramount in the West End and there was this group of American soldiers there. They’d had a few too many and were getting really rowdy.”

Tess sat on her hands, trying to prevent contact with the freezing step. Her mouth opened wide as she listened to her injured brother.

“Anyway, there was this one soldier, a black guy, the only sober one of the bunch and he goes up to a girl and asks her to dance. No big deal. The next thing you know, these punks are laying into him like he’s a bloody German spy.” Danny gave a few mock punches to show his li􏰀le sister what happened.

“I don’t understand, what did he do wrong?” Tess asked.

Danny exhaled smoke, wincing in pain. “That’s the reason I got involved. The poor bleeder didn’t do a thing. All he did was what any normal soldier, far away from home, would do. He asked a pre􏰀y girl to dance.”

Tess loved her brother more than anyone. “Then why?”

“Because of the colour of his skin. It’s not that different to being a Jew. Sadly, that’s the world we live in, sis!”

Tess worked her mind around the new information. “But that isn’t even fair!” she said, indignant.

Danny pulled her closer to him, and they shivered together. “Fair? Life isn’t about fairness, kid, look at what’s happened to Mum.”

Tess leaned back to look at him. “What are you talking about?”

He averted his eyes, busying himself with studying his cigarette. “I’m such an idiot. They haven’t told you, have they?”

Tess attempted to put the jigsaw together in her mind. So there was a secret! “Nobody ever tells me anything. She’s my mummy too!”

His eyes welled up with tears. His long lashes wet, as he stared into the night sky.

Lorna always teased that his eyelashes were God’s mistake, they’d really been meant for her.

Exhaling smoke, he flicked the cigarette butt into the street. “Kid, you’re nine years old, some things don’t belong inside the head of a little girl.”

Tess’s face tightened in a rage. “I am not a baby. Tell me, or I’m going to move in with my friends. I mean it, Danny, I’m sick of all of you!”

“Look at you two out here, you’ll catch your death,” a tired, gentle voice spoke in the darkness.

They jumped and turned around to see their mother standing in the doorway.

About Tessa Levy

Tessa Levy Author Pic

 

Tessa Levy was born in the in the East End of London, as the youngest of six children in a Jewish family; Russian immigrants to England before the Second World War. The author, like her brothers in the fashion business and her husband in the nightclub trade of Soho, made a success of her antique business – a truly entrepreneurial woman in an era when business was dominated by men – specialising in Imari porcelain and creating an established presence in the Kensington Pavilion.

Now in her 80s, Tessa resides in West London, opposite Hyde Park, and maintains one foot on either side of the pond. No One But You is Tessa Levy’s first book, based on real events, which brings to light a topical immigrant family story of displacement, hardship, disease and death, but also of inclusion, friendship, love and success. It crosses the divide not only between two cultural differences, but also two faiths and families.

You can find out more by following Tessa on Twitter @tessalevyauthor.

Staying in with Ana Barreto

Self-Trust 006

There’s a real irony to today’s Staying in with… as I meant to blog about my virtual evening in with Ana Barreto on 19th May and as I was so busy heading off to London to the Blogger’s Bash Awards I forgot to schedule the blog post!

Thankfully Ana is able to stay in with me today and I’m delighted that she can.

Staying in with Ana Barreto

Welcome, finally, to Linda’s Book Bag Ana. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me and my apologies that I’ve kept you waiting.

Thank you, Linda, for having me and welcoming me to participate in “Staying in with Linda.” What a marvelous concept.

(Thanks Ana. I simply can’t read all the books I’m offered but I’m trying to feature as many authors as I can so that at least their books get a showcase.)

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

 Self-Trust 006

This evening I brought my second book Self-Trust: How to Build Trust, Heal Burnout and Navigate through Life on Purpose.   I chose to share Self-Trust because I believe this is a subject people need to talk about, especially women.

(I think I’m definitely one of those women who would benefit from your book Ana.)

Women have come a long way. When you study women’s history, you learned that we used to be labeled a lower class of citizen. For years, women were considered to be a burden for families.  They were denied education, great jobs and even fair pay for their work. Fast forward some decades, and you understand why there are still many women who second guess themselves, overwork to prove their worth, avoid taking appropriate risks or sabotage their careers, relationships, and accomplishments.

People usually ask me “Why some women do that?”  I say they don’t know that they are doing.  Most are all unconscious.  In the book, I share some life-jackets (strategies) to help you reflect, change and navigate life on purpose regardless of what’s happening around you.

(What a brilliant concept. I suppose I’m very lucky to have always had a hugely supportive husband who has tried to make sure I don’t suffer from burn out, but he hasn’t always been successful in that. I think I definitely need to read Self-Trust.)

What can we expect from an evening with this exciting book Self-Trust?

This evening expect to be curious and inspired.  Expect to be more loving, kind and loyal to yourself.  Expect to meet Ophelia in Chapter one and discover if you and Ophelia have some traits in common.

Have you played Tic-Tac-Toe lately?  In Chapter five there is the Life Mirror Tic-Tac-Toe to help you reflect the areas of your life that need your attention. In Part Two, you learn about the mindset people have that leads them to overwork and over-do and how to release them.  In Part Three, you will dig deeper to find the root cause of those mindsets.  In part Four, you will find a Change Strategy that takes into consideration the way the mind-body-emotions work.  In Part Five you will find my suggestions to sustain the change you seek to make in your life.

(You’ve got me hooked. I need all of those strategies and I’m supposed to be retired!) 

What else have you brought along and why?

Bonus Meditation 1

I also brought along a “Love Meditation” to help you embark on a path of self-trust, self-love, and ultimate self-care.  That’s how we re-build our trust, one moment at a time.  This meditation is available with the book and for download by visiting here.  To access it you will need the password: self-trust.

(What a bonus. I’m sure we could all benefit from this.)

Thanks so much for staying in with me Ana and telling me all about Self-Trust: How to Build Trust, Heal Burnout and Navigate through Life on Purpose. I think it sounds such a positive read.

Self-Trust:

How to Build Trust, Heal Burnout and Navigate through Life on Purpose

Self-Trust 006

How do women use their energy? Are women too exhausted to live the life they planned? Are they getting burned out with the choices they make which were meant to bring them joy?

In this inspirational self-help book, Ana Barreto invites the reader to be part of a wider conversation about women and their work. She opens the floor to break away from the established mindsets women and men have, which are leading them to self-sabotage their accomplishments.

Teacher, personal developer, and mentor Ana Barreto shows the readers how to build self-trust which is the cure for burnout and find the inner guidance they need to take themselves as far as they intend to go without depletion while living on purpose.

The author unmasks the stress factors working women use to avoid feeling, being and becoming their true selves.

In the book, Ana Barreto shares hers and other women’s experiences to get you excited about making the changes you know you need to make but have not been able to make. It will give you the tools you need to give up self-depletion and self-sabotage.

The book will open your awareness and teach you how to be loyal to yourself regardless of what is happening around you. You will build your enthusiasm for life and help you make decisions that honor you.

Self-Trust: How to Build Trust, Heal Burnout and Navigate through Life on Purpose is available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indiebound.

 About Ana Barreto

Ana

Ana Barreto is a Brazilian-American teacher, executive, mentor, and author living in upstate New York. Since attending Marymount College, at that time a women’s only college, she has been learning about women’s rights and empowerment. Her passion for women’s education, development, and growth led her to study Women’s History, Women in Business, Women and Leadership, Meditation, Psychology, Neuroscience and Eastern philosophies. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and a Master degree in Business Administration.

Ana’s mission is to help women find their inner-compass to live a great life through her inspirational self-help books, classes and mentorship programs.

When Ana isn’t working or writing books, she likes cooking, traveling, hiking, biking, kayaking, and spending time with her amazing daughters and stepdaughters.

You can find out more about Ana by visiting her website.

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements

The Coffin Path

Thanks to the lovely Caitlin Raynor at Headline I have had The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements on my TBR for almost a year with every intention of reading it way before now. But, as ever, life got in the way. Not any more and I’m delighted to be reviewing The Coffin Path which is not my usual choice of genre!

Published By Headline Review, The Coffin Path is available for purchase through the links here.

The Coffin Path

The Coffin Path

Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.

Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.

When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.

My Review of The Coffin Path

Living at Scarcross has never been easy for Mercy, but it is about to get considerably harder.

Now, I must confess that I don’t usually read books marketed in the ghost or horror genre as I find them too unsettling, but The Coffin Path was a perfect read for me with just the right amount of creepiness and supernatural to disturb and entertain me. Hardcore horror readers might find it wasn’t horrific enough, but I loved it.

The quality of writing is outstanding. There’s a sophistication to Katherine Clements’s prose style that draws in the reader and that is completely convincing so that I felt I was really able to understand the 1600s when the book is set, and to comprehend its superstitions and practices making for a realistic and powerful reading experience. There’s such realism alongside the more supernatural elements so that this narrative is finely balanced and nuanced.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story switches from Mercy’s first person perspective to the other third person aspects so that the reader is kept guessing right the way through. I simply couldn’t decide if this was a story where there really are malevolent elements at work or if there is a more mundane explanation. You’ll have to read the book to find out!

The appeal to the senses throughout is so cleverly done that I could envisage every scene so vividly. I’d love to see The Coffin Path translated into film or television, although I’m not entirely sure I’d have the nerve to watch it. Whilst Katherine Clements is not afraid to describe more visceral aspects clearly, she does so with a deftness of touch that is never gratuitous. This is such fine writing.

I adored the characterisation. Mercy and Ellis in particular hold the reader in thrall, but not one of the minor characters is extraneous to the action and atmosphere so that there’s a wonderful coherence which is quite perturbing. I never quite knew who was trustworthy or honest and found the protagonists of Mercy and Ellis multi-layered and fascinating. The environment is also a compelling character in its own right and at times I thought of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins as I read. There are definitely echoes of the Brontes here too with a gritty bleakness and considerable passion woven throughout.

I loved the story telling. At its simplest this is a story about a place where some inexplicable events take place but my goodness, Katherine Clements knows how to keep the reader guessing, how to uncover just enough atmospheric and tantalising detail to keep them hooked and to deliver the most satisfying resolution.

The Coffin Path is my first Katherine Clements read and it will definitely not be my last. I thought The Coffin Path was brilliant.

About Katherine Clements

Katherine Clements

Katherine Clements is a critically acclaimed novelist, self-confessed costume drama addict and current Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Manchester. She is editor of Historia, the online magazine of the Historical Writers’ Association, and is a member of the HWA committee.

You can follow Katherine on Twitter @KL_Clements, find her on Facebook or visit her website.

Staying in with Luke Tredget

Kismet

I have a copy of Kismet by Luke Tredget on my TBR and it looks fantastic. I’m thrilled to welcome Luke to Linda’s Book Bag today as part of the launch celebrations for Kismet so that he can tell me more about it.

Staying in with Luke Tredget

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Luke. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me and tell me more about Kismet.

Kismet

Thanks for having me Linda.

Tell me, what can we expect from an evening in Kismet?

You can expect a story that is relatable to many people, since it is set in a very recognisable version of London and features a main character, Anna, who is stumped by a very common problem – whether or not to accept the imminent proposal of her long term boyfriend, or give it all up in the hope of finding someone more exciting. To help her make the decision she has an app (Kismet, which gives the book its name), which in the world of the novel has completely replaced normal dating, because it is so effective at using our online data to match us with compatible strangers.

(Now that IS an interesting premise for a narrative – especially as I once found myself in a similar situation to Anna – but in those days there was not even Internet!)

Because of this near-future element, and the questions it poses about the role of social media and technology, many have compared the book to the TV series Black Mirror. But because it is essentially a romantic tale about a comically flawed heroine, others have compared it to Bridget Jones. I certainly didn’t set out to create such a hybrid, but I’m definitely happy with those comparisons!

(I imagine you’re thrilled by them. I certainly can’t wait to read Kismet and find out for myself.)

What else have you brought along and why?

wine

I have brought the ingredients needed to heighten the reader’s empathy with Anna, the protagonist. A bottle of white wine (if you matched Anna glass for glass throughout the book, you’d be in a sorry state), a laptop with a Spotify account and expensive speakers (Anna puts almost as much faith in Spotify to suggest music for her as she does Kismet to suggest suitable men), and a series of tapas dishes to keep appetites at bay (the climax of the novel is centred around a Spanish themed birthday dinner party at Anna’s flat).

tapas

(I can’t drink the wine but I can certainly help out polishing off the tapas!)

And finally, since the book features so many phones (and the phones in the book cause people such mischief), it will be necessary for all guests to leave their own phones at home! If such a thing is physically possible….

(Oo – I’m not sure that is possible in today’s world but we can certainly give it a try!)

Thanks so much Luke, for telling us more about Kismet. Congratulations on your debut and good luck. I’m off to begin reading it!

Kismet

Kismet

Anna is in love.
Or maybe not.
She’s a free spirit: definitely happy.
Or is it more panicked?
In any case, she is living life to the full. Or maybe to the edge.
And having a glass of wine.

With a big birthday just around the corner, an important new project at work, and a boyfriend she suspects might be about to ask her a significant question, Anna should feel like she has it all together. But somehow, she just doesn’t seem to be sure about, well, anything. So she gets out her phone and decides to download Kismet.

Will she embrace the life she has, or risk everything for the life she imagines?

With the warmth of David Nicholls and the off-kilter charisma of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s FleabagKismet is a love story about imperfect people in a world obsessed with perfect matches.

Kismet is available for purchase in all the usual places, including directly from publishers Faber and Faber.

About Luke Tredget

luke

Luke Tredget is an aid worker and writer based in London. He works for the Red Cross, and his journalism has featured in the Guardian. His first novel, Elation, was shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary in 2013. He completed the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck in 2015, and his novel Kismet will be published by Faber and Faber (UK) and Little, Brown (US) in 2018.

You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_tredget and there’s more with these other bloggers:

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A Child Called Happiness by Stephan Collishaw

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I’m absolutely delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for A Child Called Happiness by Stephan Collishaw as I adored his previous book, The Song of the Stork and you can see my review of that book here.

To celebrate A Child Called Happiness, not only am I reviewing it, but I have the chance for a lucky UK reader to win a paperback copy of the book. You can enter the giveaway at the bottom of this blog post.

A Child Called Happiness was published on 17th May 2018 by Legend Press and is available for purchase here.

A Child Called Happiness

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Three days after arriving in Zimbabwe, Natalie discovers an abandoned newborn baby on a hill near her uncle’s farm.

115 years earlier, the hill was home to the Mazowe village where Chief Tafara governed at a time of great unrest. Faced with taxation, abductions and loss of their land at the hands of the white settlers, Tafara joined forces with the neighbouring villages in what becomes the first of many uprisings.

A Child Called Happiness is a story of hope, resilience and reclamation, proving that the choices made by our ancestors echo for many generations to come…

You’ll find an extract from A Child Called Happiness here.

My Review of A Child Called Happiness

Newly arrived in Zimbabwe Natalie has no idea what the country is really like.

A Child Called Happiness is an intense, terrifying portrait of a country permanently on the brink of violence and disaster.

Stephan Collishaw has the ability to transplant the reader into another environment completely through his words. He uses such a beautiful vocabulary and a melodic variety of sentence structure so that I found all my senses heightened as I read. I have only ever been to the border of Zimbabwe from Zambia but I know other parts of Africa well and A Child Called Happiness is a book that captures the area so perfectly.

I thought the title was inspired. Natalie finds an abandoned and ailing child which is subsequently named Happiness. The child’s metaphor for the county is so clever. What happens through the microcosm of that child is an intelligent and moving representation of what is happening in the country. The research to underpin the narrative is wonderful. I have my own image of Mugabe and found Stephan Collishaw has shifted my perspective and understanding.

Although I found Natalie’s story enormously engaging, she and the other characters are less well defined than the country itself at its most elemental level. This is by no means a criticism of the book, but an appreciation of how Zimbabwe, its culture and heritage are at the very heart of A Child Called Happiness. The two main narrative threads weave around each other like strands of DNA so that the reader comes to understand nothing is separate or unrelated. I thought this was a beautiful effect.

Alongside the well researched aspects is a cracking narrative too. I loved the story. There’s a tension that made me quite uncomfortable at times and a depth of sadness for what could be, but may never quite be, achieved. Themes of love and loss, anger and grief, hope and betrayal all give such a satisfying depth so that I immediately want to go back and re-read A Child Called Happiness as I’m sure I’ve missed aspects of this intelligent, beautiful and intense story.

A Child Called Happiness is a wonderful book. It confirms for me that Stephan Collishaw is a writer of integrity and skill who should be so much wider read. I feel privileged to have encountered his writing.

About Stephan Collishaw

Stephan Collishaw

Stephan Collishaw was brought up on a Nottingham council estate and failed all of his O’levels. His first novel The Last Girl (2003) was chosen by the Independent on Sunday as one of its Novels of the Year. In 2004 Stephan was selected as one of the British Council’s 20 best young British novelists.

After a 10-year writing hiatus, The Song of the Stork was Stephan’s highly anticipated third novel. Stephan now works as a teacher in Nottingham, having also lived and worked abroad in Lithuania and Mallorca, where his son Lukas was born.

You can follow Stephan on Twitter @scollishaw. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Giveaway

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For your chance to win a paperback copy of A Child Called Happiness by Stephan Collishaw click here.

UK only I’m afraid. Giveaway ends UK midnight on Friday 25th May 2018.

An Extract from Dreaming of St Tropez by T.A Williams

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Having met him in real life, I’m such a fan of T.A Williams so I’m hugely grateful to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for his latest book Dreaming of St Tropez.

T.A, or Trevor, has been such a regular feature on Linda’s Book Bag, having written about how much of himself goes into his books here, and why he writes books for women here.

I have also reviewed Trevor’s Chasing Shadows hereDreaming of Venice here and To Provence, With Love here.

Dreaming of St Tropez is published by Canelo and available for purchase here.

Dreaming of St Tropez

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After a disagreement with a billionaire, architect Jess Milton is ‘let go’ from her job. However fortune intervenes – an elderly client asks Jess to dog-sit overweight, but loveable dog Brutus in St. Tropez.

Fed up with the mega-rich, Jess is reluctant to visit the playground of billionaires, but an all-expenses-paid trip and the promise of sunshine seals the deal.

Little does Jess know how much time she’ll be spending with the family living in St. Tropez. The sullen, but very good-looking David and his millionaire father are both welcoming but guarded, haunted by their pasts…

Can Jess bring some sunshine back into their lives – and, just maybe, find love in the process?

An Extract from Dreaming of St Tropez

Dreaming of St-Tropez

Chapter 3

The next few weeks turned out to be very busy, and full of surprises. The first surprise, of course, was for Hope, who was blown away by the chance of visiting her dream destination, rent-free. She immediately set about trying to sublet her flat so she would have money to keep her going at least for a good few weeks. Her excitement was clear to see and Jess felt very happy for her.

As for Jess, in spite of her reservations about St-Tropez almost certainly being full of filthy rich, objectionable people, she began to feel a growing sense of excitement as well. The weather in London had improved slightly, but it still felt like winter in the mornings, and the idea of some Mediterranean sunshine was very appealing. As long as the sun shone, she felt sure she would be able to tolerate the people. As for money, the golden goodbye from her old firm would be more than enough to keep her all summer if she chose to stay in France for the full three months.

The next surprise was Mrs Dupont’s car. The following Saturday, Jess went over to the old lady’s house to pick up the car for the weekend, so as to get a bit of practice driving again. The surprise came when she opened the garage door and discovered that the vehicle in question was an absolutely enormous dark blue Range Rover. It was twice the length of anything she had driven before, and so high off the ground that she had to physically haul herself up into the thing. Apart from its size, the added complication was that it was automatic, and she had never driven an automatic car before.

Inside the vehicle – she couldn’t bring herself to refer to it as a car – everything was sheer luxury. It was a symphony of cream leather, burr walnut and thick-pile carpet, and this opulence felt as daunting as the size of the thing. After an embarrassing delay while she had to consult the handbook to discover how to start the engine – apparently you had to keep your foot on the brake at all times – she manoeuvred her way very gingerly out of the garage and into the traffic.

She immediately made two discoveries.

When she put her foot on the accelerator, the big heavy vehicle instantly turned into a Formula One racing car, and she found herself speeding along and in imminent danger of ramming the cars in front. It went like a bat out of hell. Fortunately, the brakes worked equally efficiently.

The second discovery was more welcome. Other road users appeared to be awed by the sheer mass of the Range Rover and she found that, from the commanding height of the driver’s seat, she was able to cut through the traffic pretty effortlessly. By the time she had negotiated her way through the crowded roads of northwest London and onto the M25, she was beginning to relax. And after her initial concern, driving an automatic turned out to be wonderfully simple, and she soon got the hang of it.

The next surprise came a few days later. Jess and Hope were on Google Earth, checking the address of the house in St-Tropez that Mrs Dupont had given them. They discovered that this was a villa, set in huge grounds. But the surprise was where it was situated. It occupied an absolutely fabulous position, only a few short metres from the sea. It was just outside the town, directly overlooking the Mediterranean. The views from the house had to be unbelievable.

From what they could see from the satellite image, there was a swimming pool, and what looked like a private pathway to secluded beaches. It was hard to make out any more than just the roof of the little house in one corner of the grounds where they would be staying, but they could see that it was separated from the villa by a wonderful, verdant garden, containing a number of statuesque trees, including tall palms. Hope raised her eyes from the screen and glanced across at Jess.

‘Wow, what a place!’

‘You aren’t joking. It’s amazing.’ Inevitably, as she looked at it, Jess put on her architect’s hat. ‘I can’t see much of the villa from above, but from the roof tiles, I reckon it’s probably old traditional Provençal style. It’s called Les Romarins, which apparently means rosemary bushes, and that sounds pretty traditional, doesn’t it?’

‘It’s hard to judge from the air. Is it very big?’

‘It’s biggish, but not too massive. I’d say the footprint’s about one-fifty to two hundred square metres. To give you an idea, this flat of yours is maybe forty square metres. And I’m talking footprint – you know, the area of just one floor. Although it’s difficult to judge from an aerial photo, it looks like this villa’s got a second storey, at least for part of the length of the building, so it’s a good size house. But it’s the position that’s amazing. It’s right beside the sea, on the Côte d’Azur of all places.’

‘So it would appear that your Mrs Dupont’s son isn’t short of a bob or two.’

Jess was beginning to get a bad feeling about this. ‘To own a place like that, he must be worth an absolute bomb. What have I been telling you about my not wanting to get involved with the filthy rich again? Maybe this trip to France isn’t such a good idea, after all, Hope.’

‘This trip to France is a bloody marvellous idea, Jess, and you just remember that.’ Hope took hold of her arm and looked her firmly in the eye. ‘Now, don’t you go getting all bitter and twisted about things, all right? The man’s the son of your Mrs Dupont, and you keep telling me she’s a sweetie. He’s probably just as nice. So, he’s loaded – that doesn’t mean he’s automatically bound to be another Drugoi.’

Jess repressed a shudder.

Jess visited Mrs Dupont regularly and they promised to stay in touch over the next few months. She liked the old lady a lot and dearly hoped that her son would be equally pleasant.

Finally, the end of May arrived and Jess and Hope went round to collect the dog and wish Mrs Dupont and Mrs Forsythe well. As they climbed into the huge car, Mrs Dupont handed Jess a little package, containing the registration and insurance documents for the car, Brutus’s pet passport, and dietary and care instructions for him. The dog himself stood in the boot, surrounded by doggie toys and his luxurious bed, wagging his tail as his mistress disappeared from sight. Jess had no doubt the old lady would be in tears, even though she knew he would be in good hands. She glanced across at Hope.

‘We’d better take damn good care of our four-legged friend. She obviously loves him to bits.’

‘He’ll be fine. I see what you mean about her being a sweetie. He’s a lucky dog to have a mistress like that – although she hasn’t been doing him any favours as far as his diet’s concerned. Do you want me to open this package and see what she says about what we’re supposed to feed the dog?’

‘Good idea.’

As Jess manoeuvred the car through the London traffic, Hope opened the package from Mrs Dupont and perused its contents. The first thing she found came as a huge and very welcome surprise to Jess. It was a thick envelope marked Expenses, and it contained five thousand euros in cash and a scrawled note saying, Please keep what’s left over and have a wonderful holiday.

Jess was totally awed by Mrs Dupont’s generosity. Hope, on the other hand, was equally awed by the sheet indicating the dog’s dietary requirements. She read it out loud, disbelief in her voice.

‘Our hairy friend back there has a bowl of muesli and a big helping of dog biscuits for breakfast every day. He prefers full cream milk with his muesli, but skimmed is also acceptable. If he’s still hungry, he also has two or three slices of unsmoked back bacon.’

‘I’ve never heard of muesli as part of a canine diet before. He’s a Labrador, for crying out loud! Of course he’s hungry. They always are. So, we can safely assume he gets bacon every morning as well. Little wonder he’s a bit paunchy.’ Jess shook her head as she squeezed the big vehicle past a red bus and followed the signs for the motorway.

Hope was still reading.

‘It’s called killing with kindness, but listen to this. He has two main meals a day – taken at one o’clock and seven o’clock. At least one of these must include half a pound of best steak, medium to well done, allowed to cool, but not too cold. As a treat, every day at four o’clock, he’s allowed a slice of cake or, his personal favourite, a doughnut (jam, not jelly). Blimey, Jess, this dog eats better than I do.’

‘Poor Brutus. Carry on like this and he’s on course for a heart attack.’

‘Or some sort of awful stomach disorder.’

(And now, of course, I can’t wait to read the rest!)

About T.A.Williams

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T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing.

You can find Trevor on FacebookGoodreads and Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter and visit his website.

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Staying in with Nicola May

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A couple of years ago when I was a relatively newbie blogger I interviewed Nicola May here on Linda’s Book Bag. Today I’m delighted to welcome back Nicola to the blog to stay in with me and tell me about one of her books.

Staying in with Nicola May

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

Hello and it is an absolute pleasure to be staying in with you, Linda.

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

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As it is a new release, I have brought along The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay to share with you. It is the ninth romantic comedy I have written and I’m proud to say I have published this one myself. At the time of writing this I am nestling against Jojo Moyes in the Top 20 of the romantic comedy chart on Amazon; how wonderful is that!

(Absolutely brilliant! Huge congratulations.)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay?

From the title and cover, readers might expect a twee type romantic comedy, but it is far from that. My main character, Rosa, was brought up in foster homes so is quite a tough cookie for readers to relate to at first. It is also far from a straightforward boy meet girl story.

In fact, a review on Amazon from Dash Fan sums it up in a nutshell:

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay has it all, Humour, heartache, mystery, romance, sex, a lil’ bit of magic, nosy neighbours, charm, wit, adorable fur babies, memorable characters and a quaint shop. It triggered so many emotions, it was an uplifting story full of warmth and laughter the tugged on my heart strings. It made for a compulsive read that I couldn’t put down.

(What a perfect review. It certainly makes me want to bump The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay up my TBR pile!)

What else have you brought along and why?

Corner Shop Image

I have brought along a painting of a corner shop. My dad is an artist and he painted this.

(What a talented family you are – writers and artists!)

This shop used to be in a little village in Sunninghill near to where I live. I have happy memories of buying sweets from those big old sweet jars there as a child. It is long gone now, but when my dad gifted me the painting, I looked at it and said out loud ‘I’m going to write a book based around a corner shop.’

(Fantastic inspiration for writing. I always love hearing where authors get their ideas for their stories.)

I decided to set the book in a fictitious Devon village as I adore the South West of England, especially a little village called Dittisham. As Rosa was walking the steep streets of Cockleberry Bay I not only imagined the steep streets of Dittisham, I also thought of Clovelly and a mixture of the other beautiful Devonshire villages and beaches I have visited.

(I know that area well as I spent my childhood summers on holiday there. I love Clovelly.)

The cherry on the cake is that my dad also illustrated the book cover, incorporating the original shop that he painted, which makes it very close to my heart.

Oh, I’m sure it does. Thanks so much for coming onto the blog to tell me about The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay, Nicola. I can’t wait to read it.

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay

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Rosa Larkin is down on her luck in London, so when she inherits a near-derelict corner shop in a quaint Devon village, her first thought is to sell it for cash and sort out her life. But nothing is straightforward about this legacy. While the identity of her benefactor remains a mystery, he – or she – has left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.

Rosa makes up her mind to give it a go: to put everything she has into getting the shop up and running again in the small seaside community of Cockleberry Bay. But can she do it all on her own? And if not, who will help her succeed – and who among the following will work secretly to see her fail?

There is a handsome rugby player, a sexy plumber, a charlatan reporter and a selection of meddling locals. Add in a hit and run incident and the disappearance of a valuable engraved necklace – and what you get is a journey of self-discovery and unpredictable events.

With surprising and heartfelt results, Rosa, accompanied at all times by her little sausage dog Hot, will slowly unravel the shadowy secrets of the inheritance, and also bring her own, long-hidden heritage into the light.

Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay is available for purchase here.

About Nicola May

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Nicola May lives in the UK, five miles from the Queen’s castle in Windsor, with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan. Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks – and, naturally, enjoying a flutter on the horses.

She won Best Author Read at the Festival of Romance for The School Gates and Christmas Evie, in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

She classes her novels as ‘chicklit with a kick,’ writing about love, life and friendships in a real, not fluffy kind of way. She likes burgers, mince pies, clocks, birds, bubble baths and facials – but is not so keen on aubergines.

You can find out more by visiting Nicola’s website, finding her on Instagram and Facebook and following her on Twitter @nicolamay1. All of Nicola’s books can be found here.