Scattered Constellations by Ankita Singh

Scattered Constellations

My enormous thanks to the poet Ankita Singh for sending me a copy of her latest anthology Scattered Constellations in return for an honest review.

Scattered Constellations will be released on 31st July 2018 and is available for pre-order here.

Scattered Constellations

Scattered Constellations

Words tumble out, with no pause;
From the pen, my anelace,
That I hold so graciously,
(In awe of its majesty, its power)
In my hand.

They form thoughts, hopes and musings;
Reflect my soul, my entire being,
And spread across the page,
Like scattered constellations
Across the sky.

Scattered Constellations is a YA Free Verse Poetry collection.

My Review of Scattered Constellations

A collection of poetry looking at all aspects of love.

I really enjoyed reading Ankita Singh’s collection Scattered Constellations and all the way through I kept thinking ‘Oh, that’s exactly how I used to feel when I was a young woman’ or ‘I would have been so helped by these poems when I was struggling with the concept of love as a teenager,’ without actually realising until afterwards that I was reading an anthology aimed at the Young Adult (YA) market! I think this goes to show what an excellent collection this is for readers aged 15-25.

Ankita Singh explores all kinds of love in her poems. There is everything from burgeoning sensuality to familial, same sex, unrequited, mutual, controlling and prevented love so that there really is a poem for everyone between the pages of Scattered Constellations. I found the poems Gold and Colour especially poignant because sadly we still live in a world where the hue of someone’s skin can affect every aspect of their life – even love.

Scattered Constellations made me think of W.B. Yeats’ ‘tread softly for you tread on my dreams’ because Ankita Singh explores so vividly how love is the stuff of dreams, of the mind and soul as well as the heart. She doesn’t use elaborate language or self-consciously literary techniques in presenting her poems so that they feel real, true and authentic. I think Ankita Singh is a very perceptive and talented young post and definitely one to watch.

Scattered Constellations is well worth dipping into as I’m sure you’ll find a poem that tells your story too.

About Ankita Singh

ankita

Ankita, though lives in the historical city of Aurangabad, spends most of her time between the pages of a book. If she’s not reading, she can be found scribbling ideas into her journal or petting her cat, Harry.

Ankita’s poetry collection ranked among the Top 15 while on Wattpad, a feat that she’s extremely proud of. She used to write under the pen name ‘Swibells’ until she realised that her own name isn’t all that bad. (Though she still manages to use her pseudonym at times!)

She’ll soon be starting her Bachelor’s in Arts, and is shocking excited about it! (She’s 18!)

Ankita is also an avid blogger at Anky’s Book Bubble, a blog where all she talks about is books! She loves interacting with her fellow bibliophiles, so don’t hesitate in contacting her through her blog, via Facebook, Instagram or on Twitter @AnkySwibells.

Staying in with Steve Dressing

Game Keepers Book Cover

Anyone who knows me well also knows I have absolutely no hand eye co-ordination whatsoever. Consequently, I’m always intrigued by sports of any kind requiring that very skill. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Steve Dressing to Linda’s Book Bag as I have a feeling I might just learn something as he tells me about one of his books as we stay in together.

Staying in with Steve Dressing

Game Keepers Book Cover

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

I’m happy to be here!  Thank you for inviting me and I love how you decorated the place!

(That’s very kind of you. Not too many cat ornaments I hope!)

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

Game Keepers Book Cover

I’ve decided to bring Game Keepers. The book is my debut novel, so it’s very important to me and it seemed fitting to bring it along. It’s great to have finally published my first book, but the journey to get here may be what I enjoy the most about this whole process.

(Oo – interesting. Tell me more.)

I’ve always turned to writing in the forms of poetry, creative writing, and storytelling from middle school to graduate school, but writing became much more important to me later in life. After the last of our three children began elementary school, my wife, Julie, and I decided that one of us needed to stay home to support them. We agreed that I would be the one and I’ve been very happy with our choice! Our oldest daughter was just beginning to write in school at this time and would come home every day with a different story in her hand. This and my experiences helping at the school and coaching Little League baseball helped me rediscover my passion for creative writing. Seeing the pressure they faced from demanding parents, teachers, and coaches, I wanted to empower children to be themselves through my stories.

Game Keepers Dedication

(That sounds a fabulous reason for writing.)

My early books didn’t see the light of day, however, and I returned to my roots as an environmental scientist, working part-time while the kids grew into young adults. However, with the change in leadership at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year, work became scarce. My adult children encouraged me to return back to my true love: writing. Publishing this book was fifteen-year journey, but I’m very happy about that. I just hope others can enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it!

(Fifteen years may feel like a long time Steve, but other authors who’ve stayed in with me have had similar experiences. I’m glad you finally made it!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Game Keepers?

You can expect an evening where you can completely be yourself, one where you don’t feel the pressures from the outside world.

(That’s a book I could definitely do with!)

Game Keepers uses baseball as a theme to address some of the challenges kids face trying to enjoy doing what they love when confronted with relentless pressure from parents and coaches to be the best. You may experience a little magic as well. The book takes a turn when the kids of the Waterfalls Youth League escape into an underground world “Down Home” and encounter magical creatures that help them become better at baseball. Most importantly, though, an evening with Game Keepers would lead to an adventure you would never forget. The experience would bring out your inner child and encourage you to follow your dreams.

(Well we all need a little magic in our lives occasionally…)

Here’s a reader’s review:

to Young Folks: If you love to play — or know someone who does — you’re sure to enjoy this book. The kids seem very real, the adventures (and mysteries!) pull us in and make us want to stay!

to Parents and other Grown-ups: It’s a delightful read! Many characters can be visualized as around the reader’s own age. The team includes both girls and boys, and characters whose enthusiasms reach to music and reading, as well, so non-athletic young readers will find much to draw them too. As an adult, I enjoyed references to Wonderland’s white rabbit, the secret underground world, and the untalented-but-persevering apprentice, to name a few. I especially appreciated the explanation of how I, too, may have had amazing experiences but not remember!

(You must be delighted with that reaction to your writing.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

I wanted to bring right outfielder, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees but his schedule was a little full.

(Ah! Now as a British reader I have no idea who that is!) 

badge

I decided to bring my Little League patch from 1968, the year my all-star team made it to the state championship finals in New York. I still remember the joy of that experience. We were a very good team, but very lucky as well. Back then it was single elimination, one loss and you go home, so every game mattered. We came back from behind to win several games during the tournament, but ultimately lost in the semi-final by blowing a lead. My memories of that experience are what I hope for today’s kids when they compete in sports, music, or whatever interests them most. I felt no pressure to perform and just worked hard because I loved the game.

(That looks like a very precious and treasured possession Steve.)

Staying in With Photo 2

I also decided to bring a photo of me with my Dad because it shows both of us smiling and simply enjoying the baseball experience together. I don’t remember him ever giving me grief for the many failures I had in baseball, but I do remember the pats on the shoulder. He was the local American Legion Commander when I played American Legion baseball as a teenager. I remember being nervous about him traveling on the bus with us for a playoff game, but all he had to say later was that we had some crazy guys on our team that made him laugh. We had fun.

(That’s such a wonderful photo. He must have been very proud of you.)

Thank you so much for staying in with and chatting all about Game Keepers Steve. I have a feeling your book would have made quite a difference to me as a child. I wish you every success with it.

Game Keepers

Game Keepers Book Cover

Baseball is no longer fun for the kids in the Waterfalls youth league after the playoff game ends in an ugly argument among parents and coaches. The players leave the ballpark in shame, but big George Starr kicks at the ground and everything changes.

An amazing adventure begins as they discover a magical world underground, Down Home, and encounter strange and magical beings who help them play better and have fun. Trouble begins, however, when several players break the rules of this new world.

An intruder presents them with a far greater challenge.

Can the kids of the Waterfalls youth league stop this trespasser and save Down Home without breaking more rules and risking permanent banishment?

Published by Number 6 Publishing, Game Keepers is available for purchase here.

About Steve Dressing

Steve Dressing

Steve Dressing was born in Waterloo, New York, and was the youngest child in a family of nine. Growing up, Steve developed a passion for baseball, reading and music. Legend has it that Steve learned how to catch the day he learned how to walk. Before publishing his first work, Steve worked as an environmental scientist in the EPA. He became inspired to write Game Keepers while coaching Little League in Alexandria, VA.

You can find out more via Twitter @Number6Publ and Facebook.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard

paperback jacket image

When The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard was first published I was lucky enough to host an extract that you can read here. I had intended to read and review the book soon after but somehow my copy vanished somewhere in my 900+ TBR. (I think Elvira may have eloped with Harold Fry as I can’t find him either!)

However, lovely Ellis Keene sent me another copy of the paperback as I shall be lucky enough to stay in with Frances Maynard here on Linda’s Book Bag on 12th July when I do hope you’ll come back and join us. Consequently, seven months later than planned I finally have my review of The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr!

Published by Pan Macmillan, The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr

paperback jacket image

Funny, heart-warming and ultimately triumphant, The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr is the perfect story for anyone who doesn’t quite fit in – and for everyone who chooses not to.

Elvira Carr is twenty-seven and neuro-atypical. Her father – who she suspects was in the secret service – has passed away and, after several Unfortunate Incidents growing up, she now spends most of her time at home with her overbearing mother. But when her mother has a stroke and is taken into care, Elvira is suddenly forced to look after herself or risk ending up in Sheltered Accommodation. Armed with her Seven Rules, which she puts together after online research, Elvira hopes to learn how to navigate a world that’s full of people she doesn’t understand. Not even the Seven Rules can help her, however, when she discovers that everything she thought she knew about her father was a lie, and is faced with solving a mystery she didn’t even know existed . . .

My Review of The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr

Elvira is used to her overbearing mother dealing with everything from what Elvira wears to where she goes and what she eats, but life is about to change.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr is a refreshing insight into the life and mind of Elvira – a young woman whom society would at best describe as ‘different’. And it is this difference that makes for such a satisfying read because Elvira’s fears, her insecurities, her need to be loved for her own sake, alongside her realisation that not everyone can be taken at face value is absolutely no different from the needs and understanding of all humanity. Elvira actually embodies the emotions all of us have at some point and I loved her for it.

There is sadness and pathos in the book as Elvira navigates her way through life, but so much more about her is uplifting and enlightening. Who couldn’t love someone who knows absolutely everything about biscuits and their packaging? The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr made me smile and laugh, especially when Elvira began to develop her rules to help her cope in society. I have a feeling if we all took them on board the world would be a better place. I can’t say too much about the rules and what happens as a result of them as this would spoil the story, but they make the structure of the book so satisfying to read.

All the characters are extremely well depicted. I really want to meet Mark as I have something I would like to say (and possibly do) to him! I want to know what is happening to Elvira and Sylvia et al now I’ve finished the book as they feel so real that I care about what happens next to them. I’ve even found myself wondering what Elvira would say in certain situations as if she’s a friend I haven’t seen for a while. Frances Maynard has made me care about the people in her story and given them such vivacious and dynamic personas that I am missing them in my life. Whilst Elvira’s mother is quickly ‘off-stage’ in the story as she moves to her care home, she still remains pivotal to how Elvira thinks and behaves and this is so cleverly written. This even more the case for Elvira’s father who has died well before the story begins but is actually the catalyst for so much of the action.

Indeed, The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr has wonderful plotting. Certainly it is an account of Elvira’s coming of age but there is mystery too so that the reader, whilst being several steps ahead of Elvira through the hints dropped, experiences her new perspective on life with her and I found that very effective and engaging indeed.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr is an absolutely smashing read. It made me happy to have encountered Elvira. She has brightened my life, entertained me and given me a whole new perspective on the way we interact in society and that is quite a triumph. I really recommend it because it will warm your heart and lighten your soul. Wonderful!

About Frances Maynard

frances maynard

Frances teaches English part-time to adults with learning difficulties, including Asperger’s. She is married with one grown-up daughter and lives in Dorset.

You can follow Frances on Twitter @perkinsfran1 and visit her website.

Staying in with C. T. Sullivan

C T Sullivan 12-10-2017

Having lived and worked in New York for a while I love it when I find new to me authors who either live in The Big Apple too or who have set their books there. Consequently, it gives me great pleasure to welcome C.T. Sullivan to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me about one of his books.

Staying in with C.T. Sullivan

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

Not only is it a pleasure, Linda, but it’s raining outside.

Not in the UK it isn’t! It’s been unusually hot and dry here. You can’t have good weather all the time. We’ll just have to chat about books. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

C T Sullivan 12-10-2017

I’ve brought Apple Insider – An Englishman in New York. Pegasus gave birth to it three months ago and I think it’s ready to venture out on its own.

(Now this does pique my interest having been an Englishwoman in New York!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Apple Insider?

A journey full of fun and discovery. When my wife, Deborah, was seconded to her New York office for three months, I was part of the package. There, purely as ballast, I decided to keep an account of my experiences and observations whilst foraging around in the bizarre, fascinating and naughty bits of Manhattan’s historical underbelly. Apple Insider is an informative and humorous account of my three- month stay in the city that appears to ignore the practice of sleep. The book has been described as ‘a sort of Bill Bryson in reverse.’ Well, if it is only half as good as that then the wonderful Mr Bryson will be twice as good as me. I’ll take that!

(I bet you will. I love the sound of Apple Insider.)

Grahame Pearson, magazine editor, wrote:

Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Carnegie Hall, yellow cabs, the Empire State Building – Sullivan has anecdotes to tell about them all. He has a gift of regaling the reader with facts but in a way which will leave you breathless with laughter. I loved it.

Susan Davis, prize-winning author and literary critic, wrote:

C T Sullivan captures the spirit of NYC with all its many quirks and contradictions with wit and style. Apple Insider is a funny book, liberally peppered with comic gems and set-pieces. The setting is powerfully evoked, becoming almost a living presence ensuring the reader will feel they have made the trip with the author. Some stunning imagery and very fine writing make this a thoroughly entertaining read. 

(You must be delighted with those comments Chris. I will have to travel back to New York as soon as I can through Apple Insider.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

Woof

I’ve brought along, as my guest, my golden Labrador Woof. This is because he loves Apples, he is English and he’s never been to New York.

(Isn’t he just adorable? This is usually a cat oriented house – I almost said cathouse but that would have different connotations with the American connection – but Woof is very welcome.)

central park

Also a picture of Central Park, which is not just a miracle of engineering slipped into the middle of a concrete jungle, but an oasis of calm. Without this mollifying, predominately green escape I would, most likely, have had to write this book with crayons from a secure facility.

(I agree. What a place to go.)

Thanks so much for staying in with me and chatting all about Apple Insider Chris. It has made me want to head back to New York and to read the book as soon as I can.

Apple Insider

C T Sullivan 12-10-2017

When Chris accompanies his wife Deborah on her secondment to her New York office, it heralds ninety-one days of joy, frustrations and craziness.

As he uncovers this amazing city’s history of surprises and seedy secrets, join him in his many adventures, from dicing with death in an elevator, entertaining a wacky wedding party and having a set-to with a mad traffic cop, to Deborah being arrested by airport security in Toronto.

Apple Insider –  An Englishman in New York is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

About C T Sullivan

cs025

Christopher Sullivan was born in London’s East End amid tough, sharp-witted cockney characters, but was brought up in a Wimbledon council flat from an early age. After a grammar school education he had a long and successful career as a city money-broker. On leaving the city, whilst learning his craft as an author, he worked as a lorry driver, landscape gardener, film extra, and sung and played guitar in pubs and wine-bars.  He is a singer-songwriter, performs stand-up musical comedy and has written short stories and poems from the age of ten. Loves: music, sport, Woof and wife (not necessarily in that order). His first novel, crime thriller Reasonable Force, was published by Pegasus in 2015.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @Sullyonair, find him on Facebook and visit his website for more details.

Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom by Colin Mulhern

Buttercup

My grateful thanks to Val Hall at Maverick Children’s Books for a copy of Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom by Colin Mulhern in return for an honest review.

Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom will be published on 28th September 2018 and is available for pre-order here.

Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom

Buttercup

Briar’s Cove is the nicest, safest, sweetest place there ever was, where nothing
bad ever happens… Until a fallen star causes the dead to rise from their graves.

Buttercup Sunshine is the friendliest, most angelic little girl you could ever imagine. That is, until an entire army of undead rise from the grave and she’s the only one who can stop them.

Together with her beloved Granny, and armed only with a vacuum cleaner and a
bag of wool, Buttercup Sunshine must make a stand against the approaching
army of the undead.

How can Buttercup and Granny knit their way out this one?

My review of Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom

When the undead rise from their graves, Buttercup Sunshine has a fight on her hands.

Marketed for 7-9 year olds, I think Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom may unnerve more timid children at the younger end of the age range so I think parents should read it first (and they’ll really enjoy it) to decide when to share it.

That said, I thought Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom was a cracking children’s book. It’s really well plotted with an ending that leads nicely into any future adventures for Buttercup. The language is so accessible that children could read it to themselves and I think it would be a perfect story for older more reluctant readers too. I can see 10 and 11 year old reluctant readers thoroughly enjoying this book. The story is exciting, scary and frequently very funny, particularly when Mr Blackberry is being approached by a zombie – but you’ll have to read the book to find out why!

Buttercup is a triumph of characterisation. She retains enough childhood innocence as she plays at being an undercover agent with her partner Barry the toad, only to find herself at the centre of saving the inhabitants of Briar’s Cove. This makes her an excellent role model, illustrating that girls can have just as many and as exciting adventures as boys. I also loved the idea that it might just be possible to knit your way out of trouble.

The illustrations accompanying the text are a triumph. Children will love the staring eyes of the zombies and the reaching, grasping hands. My favourite image was Buttercup’s ‘warrior pose’.

I also liked the inclusion of questions with Colin Mulhern at the end of the story. They would be great discussion points for either home of classroom use. In fact, I think Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom would be a brilliant class reader for primary schools. With horror and comedy, and science and nature included, there’s so much to be explored beyond the initial narrative.

It is obvious that the author, Colin Mulhern, knows children well and understands exactly what they enjoy – jokes and being just a little bit scared. When I researched him I was so moved to find Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom was dedicated to his son Matthew who sadly passed away in 2015 and I think Matthew would have been proud and delighted that his Dad has created such a wonderful book for children.

Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom is a corker of a children’s book and I thoroughly recommend it. 

About Colin Mulhern

colin

Working at a primary school in Sunderland, Colin is right at the front of the educational coalface.

He is a natural, modern-style of writer who understands the distractions children often face when it comes to reading. Pitched at 7-9 year olds, Colin describes this series as Goldilocks meets Night of the Living Dead. Its full-on, fast-paced silliness will have kids laughing out loud and looking for more!

You can follow Colin on Twitter @colinmulhern, visit his website and find him on Facebook.

Staying in with Renee Rocco

Infertility Sucks

Never having had (or had the desire to have) children of our own, but understanding the need other couples feel, I was intrigued when Renee Rocco got in touch recently so I decided to invite her onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me all about her book.

Staying in with Renee Rocco

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

Thank you for having me! What a fun way to welcome authors to your site.

I’m glad you like the concept! Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

Infertility Sucks

Currently, this is my only published book. A lifetime ago I was an author of paranormal romance, but my path changed. I now work behind the scenes for a NY publisher but decided to dip my toe back in the writing waters. One Saturday in December 2017, my daughters were outside playing in the snow together, and I thought about all the doctors who told me I’d never have children. Just like that, the words started to pour out of me, and before I knew it, Infertility Sucks was born.

(I love the fact you can pinpoint the very moment your book began.)

During my decade-long battle with infertility, I was also in constant pain due to a host of reproductive issues. Namely, endometriosis and a diseased fallopian tube. I suffered in silence for so long, and know there were so many other women just like me, who felt broken and who learned to live in agony. I hope that, with each voice lent to the fight, infertility – and women’s reproductive issues as a whole – will stop being a dirty secret.

(I think there are many, many women who will identify with that sentiment Renee.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Infertility Sucks?

Well, I get pretty raw about the embarrassing details of gynecological exams and childbirth!

(Eek!)

I tried to balance the serious with a dash of humor. I tend to be a bit sarcastic, and I think that came through in my writing. Someone told me that while reading Infertility Sucks, she felt as if we were having coffee together. Just two people having a conversation. That was my hope as I wrote it. That folks come away feeling as if they’ve spent some time with an old friend.

(I think that sounds a brilliant way to tackle a difficult subject.)

I also address my battle with the depression that followed the birth of my first daughter – who we had via IVF. I didn’t have an easy life, and five months after my daughter was born, I lost my brother. Although I had already begun to sink into depression, his death was the catalyst that sent me into a downward spiral. But, I fought way back, and I talk about that, too. Gosh, I know it sounds so dark and dreary, but I wrote the story with a light, and sometimes humorous, hand.

(Don’t apologise. We all have dark times in our lives and the fact you’re here telling me about Infertility Sucks shows we can recover and have positive times too.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Frankie + Renee

I’ve brought along my husband, Frankie. Without him, my story would have ended the night I was told I’d never have kids. We met when we were twenty-seven. I’d moved on his block, and was in an awful place mentally. We became instant best friends. He taught me how to live again, and reminded me that I had courage and strength buried beneath layers of pain. Together, we built a solid foundation, and eighteen years later, we’re still the very best of friends. He once told me he couldn’t give me the world, but promised to make me laugh every day. He’s lived up to that promise. Of course, our humor tends to lean a bit toward the sarcasm, but that’s okay. I’m like Benjamin Button. I was born old and am aging in reverse. The older I get, the more carefree and silly I become. I’ve learned there’s nothing more valuable than laughter.

(How wonderful. I like the sound of Frankie very much! Here’s to the next eighteen years of getting younger together!)

Thank you so much for staying in and telling me all about Infertility Sucks Renee. I think it sounds a book to help many women through their own dark times.

Thank you so much for having me, Linda! It was a pleasure to spend some time with you.

Infertility Sucks

Infertility Sucks

At twenty-one, I was diagnosed with infertility.
It took a decade to prove the doctors wrong.

At nineteen I suffered my first ovarian cyst. Two years later a doctor declared I’d never have children. After a decade of being dismissed as a hypochondriac, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, chronic ovarian cysts, a diseased Fallopian tube, and uterine polyps. My reproductive organs were a mess, and the constant pain was unbearable.

Too stubborn to give up, I became a woman on a mission.

Three surgeries and two cycles of in vitro fertilization later, we had our first daughter. A quickie while she was at school gave us our second.

Infertility Sucks is an honest peek into how I dealt with infertility, IVF, and the depression that followed.

Infertility Sucks is available for purchase here.

About Renee Rocco

renee

Once upon a time, Renee was an author of paranormal romance. Now she works behind the scenes for a New York publisher. Three years into parenthood, she saved her sanity when she embraced being a hot mess. Renee and her husband are more Morticia and Gomez than Rebecca and Jack. Renee says ‘My kids don’t eat organic, nor are they in dance, cheer, or sports. But we’re healthy and happy, and that’s what counts. I’m just your average suburban misfit doing my best not to raise a**holes.’

You can find out more by visiting Renee’s website and finding her on Facebook, Twitter @reneerocco, Instagram and Pinterest.

The Woolgrower’s Companion by Joy Rhoades

Image-2

Having been heart-broken by reading The Woolgrower’s Companion by Joy Rhoades, I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the book’s launch celebrations and would like to thank Sian Divine for inviting me to participate and for sending me a copy of The Woolgrower’s Companion in return for an honest review. Even better for me is the fact that Joy is staying in with me to chat about the book today.

Staying in with Joy Rhoades

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Joy. It’s such a treat to have you here. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

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

Image-2

I’ve brought along my debut novel The Woolgrower’s Companion, to celebrate its release in paperback from Viking Books, Penguin in the UK on 28/6.

(Huge congratulations Joy!)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Woolgrower’s Companion?

An evening in with The Woolgrower’s Companion is a bit hard to categorize. A lot of different groups claimed it in Australia, where, I’m thrilled to say, it was one of the best-selling debuts of 2017. It’s historical fiction, literary fiction and it also appealed to what booksellers call the mass market. And book clubs and libraries liked it too.

(I’m not surprised. I loved, loved, loved The Woolgrower’s Companion and will be sharing my review in a moment or two!)

I’m proudest of the wonderful writer Elizabeth Buchan, who said, ‘a novel about endurance and a stubborn will to survive, it is written with passion and intensity that is hugely attractive.”

(And she’s absolutely right!)

What else have you brought along and why?

Image-1

I’ve also brought some of Mavis’s sponge cake! In The Woolgrower’s Companionmany of the themes emerge through the homestead kitchen, the people coming and going, and food prepared and eaten there. So for example, Daisy, the Aboriginal Australian girl, secretly prepares food. It’s 1945 and she (and Kate, her boss) can’t let visitors know that an Aboriginal Australian has touched the food. Kate rejects that and subverts the rule. Kate eats here too, with her father, and later with another character, who I won’t name here, as he’s central to the story.

The recipe for Mavis’s sponge cake is in the back of the book, along with a number of family recipes. Mavis was a wonderfully kind bush woman, the mother of a family of girls, all friends of our family of girls. And Mavis was-the-best-cook. This is her remarkable sponge.

I love the recipes in the back of the book Joy. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat all about your wonderful The Woolgrower’s Companion. I’ll put the kettle on, make a pot of tea, turn it three times, and we’ll have a slice of cake whilst you read my review of your book!

My Review of The Woolgrower’s Companion

With WW2 raging abroad, life is tough for those eking out a living on Australian homesteads.

Oh heavens. If anyone were to ask me for an example of a perfect read, The Woolgrower’s Companion would be it. I truly adored it. Joy Rhoades seems to have looked inside my heart, found what touches it completely and used every element in her writing so that I am emotionally bereft at having finished the book. I read the last page, burst into tears and took quite a while to stop sobbing! The Woolgrower’s Companion broke me completely and I loved it as a result.

The plotting is flawless. This may be billed as a love story, which it is – and an absolutely wonderful one at that, but it is so much more besides. Alongside love there is family, authority, feminism, mystery, violence, grief and pure unadulterated joy. There’s prejudice, history and geography too so that reading The Woolgrower’s Companion is like being conveyed straight to the 1940s and experiencing every nuance of life at the time. Sometimes Joy Rhoades shocks her reader, sometimes she thrills them, but always she entertains, captivates and enthralls them. All life is experienced between these pages. The attention to detail in the descriptions of nature surrounding Amiens sheep station gives a cinematic piquancy that is astounding.

Part of the complete entrancement of this book is that it is impossible not to be involved with the characters. I worried about them all the time, especially Kate and Daisy, when I wasn’t actually reading about them. I thought Harry was a magnificent creation. He provides such an effective light relief as well as some of the most poignant aspects and his speech is so natural that I could hear him as if he were by my side. Daisy too has such presence and I was outraged at the prejudice against the Aboriginal people of the time.

It illustrates the fabulous quality of Joy Rhoades’ writing that the ‘quotations’ at the start of each chapter reflect perfectly what is happening without once undermining her glorious storytelling. The inclusion of recipes at the end of the book also helps convince the reader that this isn’t a work of fiction, but an account of real people’s lives – people whom we care about.

The Woolgrower’s Companion is a sublime book. It thrums with emotion and drama and held me completely spell-bound. I didn’t want it to end and feel adrift without it. It is amazing and I want everyone to have the joy (and pain) of reading it.

The Woolgrower’s Companion

Image-2

Australia 1945. Until now Kate Dowd has led a sheltered life on her family’s sprawling sheep station but, with her father’s health in decline, the management of the farm is increasingly falling to her.

Kate is rising to the challenge when the arrival of two Italian POW labourers disrupts everything – especially when Kate finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Luca Canali.

Then she receives devastating news. The farm is near bankrupt and the bank is set to repossess. Given just eight weeks to pay the debt, Kate is now in a race to save everything she holds dear.

The Woolgrower’s Companion is available for purchase through these links.

About Joy Rhoades

Image-3

Joy Rhoades was born in a small town in the bush in Queensland, Australia, with an early memory of flat country and a broad sky. Growing up, she loved two things best: reading and the bush, often climbing a tree to sit with a book. Her family would visit her grandmother, a fifth-generation grazier and a gentle teller of stories of her life on her family’s sheep farm.

At 13, Joy left for Brisbane, first for school and then to study law at university. After graduating, she worked all over the world as a lawyer. It was in New York that she completed a master’s degree in Creative Writing at the New School University, and the people, the history, and the landscape of her childhood led her to start writing The Woolgrower’s Companion.

She now lives in London with her French husband and their two young children, but she misses the Australian sky.

You can follow Joy on Twitter @JoyRhoades1, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

poster