A Vintage Year by Rosie Howard

A Vintage Year

My enormous thanks to Lesley Crooks at Allison and Busby for allowing me to return to Havenbury by sending me a copy of A Vintage Year by Rosie Howard in return for an honest review. I loved my visit to Havenbury in Rosie’s first book in the series, The Homecoming, and you can read my review of that book here.

Published on 21st February by Allison and Busby, A Vintage Year is available for purchase here. I happen to know there’s a special price drop to less than £1 for the A Vintage Year ebook from today until 7th March so what are you waiting for?

A Vintage Year

A Vintage Year

It started with ‘happily ever after’, yet just three years after Bella’s fairy-tale wedding to irrepressible Charlie Wellbeloved, her best friend, Maddy, is expecting a baby, while Bella’s own weight gain is purely from comfort eating. Only her little Labrador, Dolly, can boost her spirits as she gloomily surveys her failing marriage and fledgling interior design business.

Dovecot Farm is just a rainstorm away from ruin, but Charlie is hoping against hope his family vineyard will produce a vintage year, saving his business, his childhood home and – most of all – his marriage…

When handsome Rufus appears in the tight-knit Havenbury community, he quickly charms Bella and makes himself indispensable to Charlie. But is he really too good to be true…

My Review of A Vintage Year

Charlie’s vineyard is on the brink of collapse and desperate times call for desperate measures.

What a delight to return to Havenbury in A Vintage Year. Although the focus is on another set of characters, there are familiar faces like Flora and Ben so that reading A Vintage Year feels like returning to friends the reader knows and loves but with the added delight of new people to discover.

I adore the quality of Rosie Howard’s writing. There’s a mature warmth and humanity that shows her characters with all their flaws, and that makes the reader care about them so that the events matter as much to the reader as to participants like Bella and Charlie. Indeed, I was so caught up in the people that in the earlier stages of the novel I had the desperate urge to climb into A Vintage Year and practise my right hook on Rufus. I think it illustrates Rosie Howard’s engaging and clever style that I did moderate my feelings towards him as I read on.

There’s a super plot in A Vintage Year. I was appalled at a decision made by Bella early on and I don’t think I would have done the same thing, but I understood her actions entirely. Subsequent events are captivating and although there are references to The Homecoming, the reader doesn’t need to know that book to love A Vintage Year. As in The Homecoming, Rosie Howard doesn’t just weave a spellbinding tale, but she illustrates how we never really know the lives others have to lead and she gives the reader so many aspects to consider, including identity, control and loyalty. There’s a satisfying depth to Rosie Howard’s writing.

A Vintage Year is one of those books that is difficult to review without spoiling the plot. I guessed many of the outcomes but that only enhanced my pleasure in reading it because they were exactly as they should be. You’ll have to read it for yourself to see what I mean!

A Vintage Year represents the best kind of women’s fiction for me. It has a believable, engaging and interesting plot. It has a wonderful setting in Havenbury. It has characters who are vivid and real whom the reader cares about. Best of all, it transported me to a different world as I read and convinced me that I have found a new favourite author in Rosie Howard.

About Rosie Howard

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With a father in the forces and the diplomatic corps, Rosie Howard spent much of her childhood in UK boarding schools, joining her parents in exotic destinations during holidays. After obtaining a degree in music she pursued a career in public relations, campaigning, political lobbying and freelance journalism but realized her preference for making things up and switched to writing novels instead. She lives in a West Sussex village with her husband and two children in a cottage with roses around the door.

Follow her on Twitter: @RosieHowardBook and visit her website. You’ll also find Rosie Howard on Facebook.

Punch by Kate North

Punch

My enormous thanks to freelance publicist Karen Bultiauw for sending me a copy of Punch by Kate North in return for an honest review. I really rather wish I wasn’t on a self-imposed blog tour sabbatical as I’d love to interview Kate about this collection of short stories so expect to see her on the blog in the future!

Punch will be published by Cinnamon Press on 4th March 2019 and is available for pre-order from the publisher and on Amazon.

Punch

Punch

Punch is a collection of stories exploring the uncanny, the uncomfortable and the surreal in the everyday, at home and abroad.

Whether it’s a man with a growth on his hand, a couple trying for a baby, a woman finishing a book, a pope with penis envy, or a bullied girl, characters throughout the collection assess their surroundings and are often forced to reassess themselves.

Punch offers the reader a humorous and disturbing take on life in the twenty-first century.

My Review of Punch

A collection of quirky short stories.

Punch is utterly fascinating. I read the collection straight through in order, but I think actually it would be better to read these vibrant, intricate and eloquently crafted tales over a longer time frame so that their quality can be fully appreciated. Each story is an individual gem that deserves reflection after reading.

There’s such a range of material here. Kate North writes with a vivid intensity, creating atmosphere through magnificent use of the senses, so that in Punch the reader is transported to her settings; whether that’s a circus, a cafe or a spooky attic. Often there is a feeling of menace or something unsettling a bit like glimpsing something out of the corner of your eye and not really knowing what it is. I found this writing style totally captivating.

Kate North has a very sophisticated style too that incorporates themes that resonate in today’s society. Bordering fantasy at times, other stories are more prosaic but all of them are spellbinding. I thought the collection in Punch was perfectly balanced too with first and third person narratives affording insight into Kate North’s world. I have a feeling that some, like the title story Punch, may well be at least partly autobiographical and I felt that the author’s writing had a natural rawness alongside a mystical poise that was incredibly clever and interesting. Many of the stories have quite an ambiguous ending so that the reader can draw their own conclusions or continue the narrative for themselves, and since reading this collection I have found myself pondering the fate of Liz’s coat or the relationship between Paul and Lin for example.

Punch is an enthralling and often disconcerting collection. I have a feeling that there is much more to be discovered between its pages than I have managed yet with just one reading and I look forward to returning to these tales many times in the future. The assured, disturbing and captivating writing is a real joy.

About Kate North

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Kate North’s first novel, Eva Shell, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2008 and her poetry collection, Bistro, in 2012. She writes and edits for a number of journals and publications. She has a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from Cardiff University and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She lives and teaches in Cardiff. You can find out more on Kate’s website or by finding her on Facebook or following her on Twitter @katetnorth.

Unanswered Verses by Tajammul Kothari

Unanswered Voices

Regular Linda’s Book Bag readers know I’m very fond of poetry and I would like to extend my grateful thanks to the author Tajammul Kothari for sending me a copy of his second poetry collection Unanswered Verses in return for an honest review.

Unanswered Verses is available for purchase here.

Unanswered Verses

Unanswered Voices

Unanswered Verses is a collection of poems that strives to capture the varied emotions of life in its rawest form. It aims to indulge the reader in asking questions pertaining to the three entities that govern our lives. Namely the mind, the heart and the soul. Written in a simple and lucid manner, the book is divided into three chapters related to the attainment of peaceful bliss, love and worldly freedom.

My Review of Unanswered Verses

A collection of poems exploring the meaning of life from a very personal viewpoint.

Unanswered Verses is a moving and heartfelt collection that made me feel incredibly close to the author because Tajammul Kothari articulates with a searing honesty the range of emotions so many of us feel internally but often never fully acknowledge or express.

Tajammul Kothari’s writing is actually quite simple; usually without the intricate linguistic flourishes and hidden meanings many might associate with poetry and it is all the better for it because the intensity of feeling has a chance to shine through lucidly and poignantly. Simple does not mean superficial, however, and in Unanswered Verses I found the language hugely affecting and effective. There’s everything explored in this short collection from loneliness to bullying, love to despair, failure to success, and reading the collection made me feel I had experienced the full gamut of human life through one man’s eyes. I have no idea how autobiographical these poems might be but they do have a universal resonance for all readers.

Tajammul Kothari writes with honesty from his heart. He understands that we all want to be more than ‘a whistle in the breeze’. He lays open his soul in Unanswered Verses and I feel privileged to have had a glimpse inside his heart and mind in this moving collection. I really recommend it.

About Tajammul Kothari

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Tajammul Kothari considers himself a novice writer as it is only a few years ago that he planted his tiny footprints in the literary world.

After his first book An Ode to Life was well received by both the readers and the media that he found the confidence and courage to write his second book named Unanswered Verses.

The author sincerely hopes that his second book too will receive the same recognition and support as his previous work.

You’ll find Tajammul on Goodreads and he blogs here.

Read in Comfort with @beanbagbazaar

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Since I began blogging I’ve been offered all manner of items for review here on Linda’s Book Bag, (including an awful lot of wrinkle cream and weight loss products!) but I always try to feature those things that are book related if I accept something for review.

Today’s review of Bean Bag Bazaar might seem tenuous but this company offers bean bags, cushions throws and accessories that make for a very comfortable reading experience. They also do so at extremely competitive prices. You can see the full range of products on the Bean Bag Bazaar website.

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A small business based in Northumberland, Bean Bag Bazaar design, make and sell soft furniture and furnishings and their specialty is bean bags! As well as a wide range of bean bags for grownups they have a beautiful offering of trend focused children’s products too.

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I was delighted when Jordan said Bean Bag Bazaar would send me the Mid Baz Bag to try out and review. I chose my product on Thursday, received a confirmation email on Friday providing a tracking number and my bean bag was delivered on Monday. I was given a time slot of 10.24 to 11.24 AM and my beanbag arrived at 10.27 so I think that’s pretty good service!

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I chose this bean bag because it is 100% waterproof and one of my great joys in life is sitting in the garden to read so this bag is ideal.

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It’s much firmer than I anticipated which is brilliant as I find it supports my back very comfortably. Used as pictured above the bag really needs to be resting against a wall or other support, which works well, but placed diagonally it’s perfectly self-supporting as you can see from the photo of me in my gardening gear!

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My feet aren’t really that big – it’s just the angle of the photo I promise!

I hadn’t realised that the cover of the Mid Baz Bag is zipped so that it can easily be taken off to clean or replaced with another cover if need be. The waterproof fabric and stitching all seem robust, neat and secure, but of course it would be disingenuous of me to be too confident here as I’ve only had my bean bag one day!

I’m genuinely delighted with my Bean Bag Bazaar Mid Baz Bag because it is light enough to be lifted and transported in one hand, and I can simply throw it out into the garden when the sun is out, settle myself down and read my latest book for review. I’m also thinking that bench behind me in the above photo, where I normally read in the garden, would be enhanced by a couple of Watercolour Palm Print Outdoor Cushions so I’m off to browse Bean Bag Bazaar to see what else might enhance my reading life!

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To find out more about the ways you can enhance your home – and more importantly for me – your reading experience, visit Bean Bag Bazaar, find them on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest or follow them on Twitter @beanbagbazaar.

And thank you Bean Bag Bazaar for my complimentary bean bag. It’s going to get a lot of reading use!

The Design and Construction of the Nautilus by Demetri Capetanopoulos

Nautilus

My grateful thanks to Joshua at Boyle and Dalton for sending me a copy of The Design and Construction of the Nautilus by Demetri Capetanopoulos in return for an honest review. It’s a real pleasure to be looking at a book that is very different from the usual reading I do.

Published by Boyle and Dalton on 13th October 2018, The Design and Construction of the Nautilus is available for purchase here.

The Design and Construction of the Nautilus

Nautilus

Is there anyone, of any age, who has read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and not sketched their vision of the Nautilus in their imagination or down on paper? For 150 years, the submarine created by Jules Verne has captivated readers and inspired countless interpretations.

Jules Verne was meticulous about incorporating cutting-edge technology of his time and making reasonable extrapolations. The Design and Construction of the Nautilus takes Jules Verne’s in-text descriptions, paired with extensive research on the technology of the time in which Verne’s iconic book was written, and presents detailed construction plans, design notes, and operational theories based on modern submarine technologies.

The Nautilus is more than just a 19th-century mechanical marvel. She has always represented the ultimate technological triumph over nature, a symbol of mankind’s mastery of our domain, and the human desire to explore the unknown.

My Review of The Design and Construction of the Nautilus

An engineering and technology based imagining of Jules Verne’s Nautilus.

I have a confession. I wasn’t especially interested in reading The Design and Construction of the Nautilus because design and engineering are not particularly appealing to me, but I was wrong to eschew it. It’s a fascinating book that I found interesting, plausible and brilliantly researched.

Jules Verne’s Nautilus is to some extent only a catalyst for this intricate and detailed book. The modern text is cross referenced with quotations from Verne so that anyone who loves the original story will adore this book too. I’d certainly like to go back and read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea with a fresh eye having encountered The Design and Construction of the Nautilus. Fictional imaginings become enthralling factual possibilities through Demetri Capetanopoulos’ expertise. Although I forgot some of the facts and figures (such as a crew’s CO2 production) as soon as I’d read them, they still made for an interesting concept that really brought alive the original vessel. The glossary at the end of the book helps here too, but Demetri Capetanopoulos writes with complete authority and the quality of research and detail is unparalleled. My favourite part was the reference to the library…

However, what I think makes The Design and Construction of the Nautilus such an engaging book for a reader like me is the variety within its pages. There’s history and geography, social science and art alongside an abundance of carefully selected illustrations that make The Design and Construction of the Nautilus perfect to dipping in to as a coffee table book as well as a straightforward read.

The Design and Construction of the Nautilus won’t suit every reader, but if, like me, you don’t read much non-fiction, you might find it surprisingly interesting. Those who have an interest in any form of design and construction will be completely captivated by it and will lose themselves between its pages for hours. I know a person who is going to be thrilled to receive my copy. I found it interesting, educational and entertaining and I recommend The Design and Construction of the Nautilus most highly.

About Demetri Capetanopoulos

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Like many boys of a certain age, Demetri Capetanopoulos discovered Jules Verne and was captivated—not just by the tales of scientific adventure—but by the example of the power of imagination to shape what might be possible with the creative application of technology. Who can say with surety what influence it had, but he became qualified as a nuclear submarine engineer and deep submersible pilot.

With a career spent in technical realms, Demetri has found in this project a delightful synthesis of his passion for science, history, and the creative arts, all while rediscovering a boyhood inspiration. Surely Verne would approve. He dedicates this labour of love to his son, Leo, and to all those for whom submarine dreams stir the child within.

Time Will Tell Featuring Eva Jordan @EvaJordanWriter

Time will tell cover

It was my absolute privilege to reveal the cover to Eva Jordan’s latest book Time Will Tell back in November and I am thrilled to part of her blog tour thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group today. Both Kelly and Eva are real life friends and I am delighted that Eva will be appearing at The Deepings Literary Festival where I live in May. You can see more here but a special Read Dating brochure will be coming soon.

Eva has appeared on Linda’s Book Bag in the past writing about female friendships to celebrate her novel 183 Times a Year that you can read here and another, that was part of the launch celebrations for All The Colours In Between, about the need for older protagonists here.

Today, I’m doing things slightly differently. As most of you know, I have a TBR that is sky high and one of my attempts this year is to read books that have been languishing on that pile of books far too long. So, whilst featuring Eva’s latest Time Will Tell, I’m actually reviewing 183 Times A Year in a kind of book BOGOF today as this first novel from Eva has been waiting for me to read it since 5th December 2015!

Time Will Tell

Time will tell cover

Writer, Lizzie Lemalf, and her loving but somewhat dysfunctional family are still grieving over the loss of a much-loved family member. Lizzie is doing her best to keep her family together but why does the recent death of a well-known celebrity have them all in a spin?

The police suspect foul play; Lizzie and other family members suspect one another.

Lizzie begins searching for answers only to find herself being dragged back to the past, to 1960’s London to be exact, and to the former life of her father, that up until now she has never been privy to.

Every family has its secrets but how can the past hold the key to a present day celebrity death? They say the past comes back to haunt you. Surely the truth will out?

Maybe, but only time will tell…

Published by Urbane and out in ebook now and paperback on 25th April 2019, you can find Time Will Tell here.

183 Times A Year

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Mothers and daughters alike will never look at each other in quite the same way after reading this book—a brilliantly funny observation of contemporary family life.

Lizzie—exasperated Mother of Cassie, Connor and Stepdaughter Maisy—is the frustrated voice of reason to her daughters’ teenage angst. She gets by with good friends, cheap wine and talking to herself—out loud.

16-year-old Cassie—the Facebook-Tweeting, Selfie-Taking, Music and Mobile Phone obsessed teen—hates everything about her life. She longs for the perfect world of Chelsea Divine and her ‘undivorced’ parents—and Joe, of course.

However, the discovery of a terrible betrayal and a brutal attack throws the whole household into disarray. Lizzie and Cassie are forced to reassess the important things in life as they embark upon separate journeys of self-discovery—accepting some less than flattering home truths along the way.

Although tragic at times this is a delightfully funny exploration of domestic love, hate, strength and ultimately friendship. A poignant, heartfelt look at that complex and diverse relationship between a Mother and daughter set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families.

183 Times A Year is available for purchase here.

My Review of 183 Times A year

Lizzie tries to be all things to all people with varying degrees of success!

I thoroughly enjoyed 183 Times A Year. Eva Jordan manages to create genuine and vivid voices for each of her characters so that I totally believed in them, especially Lizzie and Cassie. I’ve never been a mother, but the relationships between Lizzie and her extended family are just perfect. The feelings and emotions conveyed are those anyone can relate to. I laughed aloud, found myself nodding in agreement (particularly at some of Lizzie’s conversations with herself in her head) and shed a few tears too when reading 183 Times A Year.

The plot is a corker. There are so many elements that combine into a hugely satisfying read. Some aspects were really unexpected and I think this reflects Eva Jordan’s skill as a writer. Her narrative very much mirrors the unpredictability of real life which is one of her themes. This is so cleverly done.

Indeed, it is the themes in 183 Times A Year that ensure this is a perfect read for so many. Love, family, betrayal, relationships, race, gender, society, money, health, social media and so on are all part of the fabric of real life as well as this realistic and engaging story. Given that it is set near to where I live too, I found its authenticity so engaging.

I loved the literary and musical references that pepper the text. They add real colour to the writing and help develop character at the same time. I so wish I’d thought to name one of my own cats Romeow! Whilst I found some of Cassie’s vocabulary irritating, particularly the use of ‘sick’ this was also just right. She IS irritating at times. She’s a typical teenage girl. She’s also incredibly funny because of her malapropisms. Along with Lizzie she was the most appealing character for me.

There’s wit, emotion, social commentary and incredible warmth in 183 Times A Year. It both entertains and surprises and I loved it.

About Eva Jordan

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Eva Jordan, born in Kent but living most of her life in a small Cambridgeshire town, describes herself as a lover of words, books, travel and chocolate.

Eva is a published writer of several short stories and debut novel 183 Times A Year. Eva has always had a love of books and reading and really got the writing bug when she received a first for her dissertation, which looked at The People’s War during World War II, whilst studying for a degree in English and History.

Eva’s career has been varied, including working in a Women’s Refuge and more recently at the city library. However, storytelling through the art of writing is her true passion. Eva enjoys stories that force the reader to observe the daily interactions of people with one another set against the social complexities of everyday life, be that through crime, love or comedy.

Time Will Tell is Eva’s third novel.

You can find Eva on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @EvaJordanWriter and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

annie thorne

My enormous thanks to Jenny Platt at Penguin and Michael Joseph for sending me a copy of C. J. Tudor’s new book The Taking of Annie Thorne in return for an honest review, even though I wasn’t able to participate in the blog tour during my tour sabbatical.

I have reviewed C. J. Tudor’s debut The Chalk Man here and so I was delighted to have the opportunity to read The Taking of Annie Thorne.

The Taking of Annie Thorne is published today, 21st February 2019, by Michael Joseph and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Taking of Annie Thorne

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Then . . .

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. Though she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

But something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what.
I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same.
She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Now . . .

The email arrived in my inbox nearly two months ago.
I almost deleted it straight away – but I clicked Open:

I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again . . .

My Review of The Taking of Annie Thorne

Joe Thorne is back teaching in the village where he grew up…

The Taking of Annie Thorne opens in dramatic style and simply doesn’t let up until the last full stop. There’s a sinister menace that oozes eerily from the page and under the skin of the reader so that they feel as threatened as do many of the characters. I felt disturbed and uneasy most of the time I was reading and yet I was compelled to continue. It’s no exaggeration to say that I devoured The Taking of Annie Thorne in less than 24 hours because it held me spell-bound.

C. J. Tudor has such an effortless style to read because each word is perfectly attuned to her plot and theme, making for a narrative that enchants the reader in an almost sinister way. The Taking of Annie Thorne is so creepy and convincing. I thought the balance of the preternatural and more ordinary aspects of the story was sublimely handled.

I thought the plotting was excellent too. The tension builds as past actions are gradually uncovered and there are many unexpected elements that literally had me exclaiming aloud. It’s C. J. Tudor’s ability to create an irresistible narrative voice in Joe Thorne, who occasionally appeals directly to the reader, that works so well here. Joe is flawed, with an addictive personality but he is a genuine tragic hero of Shakespearean dimensions so that I was on his side even when my moral compass told me it was wrong. The style of writing made me complicit in the action.

As is often the case with impeccably plotted books like The Taking of Annie Thorne, it’s tricky to review without revealing what happens. There’s a fast pace that flicks effortlessly between past and present. There are elements of supernatural horror and everyday life. There are themes of identity, love and revenge. Whatever I might want to say about The Taking of Annie Thorne but can’t for fear of spoiling the read for others, I can say it’s brilliant, atmospheric and  unsettling – an absolute corker that I can’t recommend highly enough!

About C. J. Tudor

C J Tudor

C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, waitress, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and now author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

You’ll find C.J. Tudor on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter @cjtudor.