The Migraine Relief Plan: An 8-Week Transition to Better Eating, Fewer Headaches, and Optimal Health by Stephanie Weaver

The Migraine Relief Plan

Although I’m taking a bit of a blog tour sabbatical at the moment, I’m very pleased I agreed to take part in this book birthday blitz for The Migraine Relief Plan by Stephanie Weaver, thanks to fellow blogger and friend Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources.

I’ll never forget the first migraine I ever had. I genuinely thought I was going to die from a brain tumour. I was walking through campus at university when I was suddenly and completely blinded by a cascading zigzag zebra crossing of lights flashing across both eyes and a nauseating headache that rendered me immobile for several days. I remember being led back to my room by a friend as I literally couldn’t see anything but the zigzags. It was terrifying. As a result, I’m delighted to be staying in with Stephanie today to find out a bit more about The Migraine Relief Plan as, although I rarely have a migraine with aura these days, I think I might need her advice!

Published by Agate, The Migraine Relief Plan is available for purchase here.

The Migraine Relief Plan

The Migraine Relief Plan 9781572842090

The Migraine Relief Plan: An 8-Week Transition to Better Eating, Fewer Headaches, and Optimal Health

In The Migraine Relief Plan, certified health and wellness coach Stephanie Weaver outlines a new, step-by-step lifestyle approach to reducing migraine frequency and severity.

Using the latest research, her own migraine diagnosis, and extensive testing, Weaver has designed an accessible plan to help those living with migraine, headaches, or Meniere’s disease. Over the course of eight weeks, the plan gradually transitions readers into a healthier lifestyle, including key behaviors such as regular sleep, trigger-free eating, gentle exercise, and relaxation techniques. The book also collects resources—shopping lists, meal plans, symptom tracking charts, and kitchen-tested recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner—to provide readers with the tools they need to be successful.

The Migraine Relief Plan encourages readers to eat within the guidelines while still helping them follow personal dietary choices, like vegan or Paleo, and navigate challenges, such as parties, work, and travel. A must-have resource for anyone who lives with head pain, this book will inspire you to rethink your attitude toward health and wellness.

Staying in with Stephanie Weaver

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

Thank you so much for inviting me! I love staying in with a good book, so I love the concept of this series.

Tell me, (although I have a pretty good idea), which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

The Migraine Relief Plan 9781572842090

I’m featuring my last book The Migraine Relief Plan, which celebrates its 2nd Book Birthday on Valentine’s Day 2019! I’m excited to share it with your readers because 1 in 7 people experience migraine, and 1 in 5 women do.

My book helps people who get migraines and bad headaches by sharing a framework I developed to gradually shift my lifestyle. You make one small change each week over 8 weeks, and then stay on the strict version of the dietary Plan for 3-4 months before testing foods to add them back. The Plan helps each person determine their unique migraine pattern and triggers, so you can craft your life to avoid those triggers as much as possible. It’s also anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce inflammation in the brain that supports migraines occurring.

(That sounds a simple and effective method Stephanie.)

I was diagnosed with migraines and vertigo four years ago at age 53. That’s really late in life to get diagnosed. Doctors missed it because my symptoms were atypical. I thought I got bad weather headaches, not migraines. I didn’t have aura or have to spend three days in a dark room.

When I started having vertigo attacks, I finally saw a specialist and got a diagnosis. He gave me a diet sheet, and when I got home I found that three-quarters of what was in my refrigerator was in the “do not eat” column. That was shocking, because I was eating a super-healthy diet at the time, I had a food blog, and I had a degree in nutrition education.

(Oh! I’m about the same age as you, eat healthily and have the same symptoms. It never occurred to me these could also be migraine. I think The Migraine Relief Plan could be just what I need.)

I bought every book that was available, and found them to be somewhat helpful, but most confusing and contradictory. I learned a lot of piecemeal things that might help me, but the contradictory information was frustrating. Eventually I did my own research at the medical library at our university so I could develop this Plan to help others.

Included are 75 recipes that are free of known migraine triggers, are anti-inflammatory, and made from whole foods. All the recipes are provided in metric as well as U.S. measurements. And they’ve all been tested by people with migraines: singles, couples, and families.

(I’m going to get started on these recipes immediately Stephanie.)

So, tell me more about what we can expect from an evening in with The Migraine Relief Plan.

The tone of the book is very personal. I share my trials with wellness and staying on the Plan. There’s an entire chapter about failure! Most diet books act like you wave a magic wand and all the food in your house (and in your life) is magically perfect, you never have cravings, and you never go to parties or eat out. My book addresses all that quite honestly.

I had a reader named Jason who’s been very active in our Facebook group on behalf of his wife. She’s gone from 3-4 migraine days a week to 1 per week, and he’s been cooking up a storm and sharing his recipes that follow the Plan. It even allowed them to go out for a celebration dinner, which they had come to avoid.

I hear from readers that they appreciate how much of my own experience I shared, they really believe that I get it, and that they love how gradual the lifestyle changes are. For example, you don’t actually change anything you eat until Week 4, and that’s just your snacks. As a health and wellness coach, I wanted to set people up for success, so I show readers how to arrange their kitchen and their home environment to shift to a migraine-friendly lifestyle.

I’ve also had a number of people read the book who deal with chronic pain, inflammation, or who want to lose weight and are looking for a realistic approach to that. And people who follow gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, or low-sodium diets also love the recipes.

(This sounds brilliant.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Lindas Book Bag - StephDaisyLake-LindasBookBag 

Well, I know you are a cat household, but I had to bring along my dog Daisy. She walks with me every single morning. It’s how we start the day.

(She’s delightful and even though I am a cat person, I’m really happy to meet Daisy!)

Lindas Book Bag - DogWalking-LindasBookBag

We usually do a 30-40 minute walk, then I do 10 minutes of very light seated yoga, and 10 minutes of meditation. I’ve worked up to this morning routine gradually over time, as I have a chronic pain condition called fibromyalgia that flares up if I overdo it. Daisy is always there with me, and I add small walks in throughout my day, especially if I have been writing.

Happy Book Birthday-all

It’s been a huge pleasure to stay in with you Stephanie and to find out more about The Migraine Relief Plan on its birthday. As soon as we’ve finished chatting I’m going to investigate it further as I think it has so much to offer someone like me. Thank you for staying in with me to tell me all about it.

Thanks again for having me, Linda. I appreciate you sharing my book with your readers, and I hope you enjoyed your time with my book in your bag!

I really did!

About Stephanie Weaver

The Migraine - VerticalBlueDoor

Stephanie Weaver, MPH, CWHC, is an author, blogger, and certified wellness and health coach. Her recipes have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Parade, and more. She lives in San Diego, CA.

You can find Stephanie on Instagram and Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter @SWeaverMPH.

Am I Ugly? by Michelle Elman

Am I Ugly

My grateful thanks to Alice Geary at Midas PR for sending me a copy of Am I Ugly by Michelle Elman in return for an honest review.

Am I Ugly is published by Head of Zeus and is available for purchase here.

Am I Ugly?

Am I Ugly

In today’s world of supplements, celebrity diets and social media, it’s very easy to be hard on ourselves about the way we look. With all this pressure to strive for ‘perfection’ aesthetically, it is easy to forget how damaging this can be psychologically. Michelle Elman is a leading part of the body positivity movement that has been gathering momentum to liberate people from these unrealistic standards, recognise that all bodies are equally valuable and broaden the billboard definitions of beauty.

Am I Ugly? is this inspiring woman’s compelling and deeply personal memoir that describes her childhood experiences of life-threatening health problems, long stays in hospital and fifteen complex surgeries that left her scarred, both mentally and physically. The narrative follows Michelle’s journey from illness to health, and from childhood to adulthood as she deals with her body-confidence issues to embrace both her scars and her body – and help others to do the same. This remarkable book grapples with the wider implications of Michelle’s experiences and the complex interplay between beauty and illness.

My Review of Am I Ugly?

With life threatening illnesses, Michelle Elman endures a childhood that will leave both physical and mental scars.

I have to confess I read Am I Ugly? over quite a long period of time, not because I didn’t enjoy it (if, indeed, enjoy is the correct verb to use), but because I found it such a powerful book that I needed to tackle it in short bursts. Structured like a traditional three act Greek tragedy with just as much drama, Am I Ugly? is divided into 36 chapters all headed by questions about identity, at least one of which I can imagine that every human, male or female, on the planet can relate to.

I found Michelle Elman’s account of her life, her insecurities, and her attempts to come to terms with her body and mind, utterly fascinating. She writes in a captivating and fluent style about her experiences. There is a raw honesty and she doesn’t spare herself in the telling. I think Am I Ugly? could do more to further understanding of self image and to aid good mental health and well-being than any erudite thesis because here we have a warm, intelligent, independent woman who is prepared to open herself up to scrutiny and not only survives, but thrives. I found her writing brave, accessible and moving. Michelle Elman realises she is a product of her past but she also develops the tools to cope with that realisation and explains the process in a manner I think will bring solace to so many others.

By the time I got to the end of Am I Ugly? (and was in tears at Michelle Elman’s letter to her 11 year old self) I felt I had lived some of the author’s experiences with her, had met vicariously a woman whom I would be proud to know in real life and had been given tools that I can apply to my own life even now. Her epilogue might just be the most powerful and effective three pages for a reader lacking confidence that they have ever encountered.

I heartily recommend Am I Ugly? to anyone struggling with physical or mental illness, anyone who feels a lack of confidence and crippling insecurity or to anyone who knows someone who is suffering in this way. Am I Ugly? is powerful, uplifting and helpful writing.

About Michelle Elman


Michelle Elman is a five-board accredited body confidence coach, award-winning body positive activist and author. She has appeared on Sky News, BBC Radio London, BBC Radio 5 Live, LBC; and has featured in over a hundred press articles worldwide. Michelle’s TEDx talk ‘Have you hated your body enough today?’ has been viewed over 40,000 times.

You can follow Michelle on Twitter @ScarredNtScared and find out more by visiting her website. Yiou can also find Michelle on You Tube, Instagram and Facebook.

The Frizz by Jasmine Fogwell


My thanks to Jasmine Fogwell for a copy of her children’s book The Frizz in exchange for an honest review.

The Frizz is available for purchase here.

The Frizz


Jeannie Avery Gibbins has frizzy hair and a wild imagination. Every day her mother has to help tame the frizz to get her ready for school.

But each morning, when Jeannie sees her hair in the mirror, she gets an idea. Today, she doesn’t see frizzy hair, instead she sees a lion’s mane.

What do you think Jeannie’s hair will turn into tomorrow?

My Review of The Frizz

Jeannie’s hair has a life of its own!

The Frizz is a charming children’s story about a girl with difficult to tame hair. It has super illustrations that give extra detail and enhance the story. At the risk of sounding sexist, I think it will probably appeal more to girls than boys simply because of the reference to hair products and items like bobby pins.

The structure is great for children as there is both repetition when Jeannie wakes up, and development through the attempts to tame her hair on each day that Jeannie gets ready for school, so that young readers can feel reassured and excited simultaneously.

The vocabulary is accessible to those who are more independent readers, with a few more challenging aspects so that I think The Frizz will develop confidence in reading. I thought Jeannie’s antics (like using a hairbrush as a microphone for her singing) were a smashing blend of familiar behaviours children can understand and more unusual ones (such as being a mop) that children can use to build their own imaginations too.

The Frizz is a fun and entertaining story that I recommend.

About Jasmine Fogwell


Jasmine grew up in Norland, Ontario, Canada. She graduated from Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario with a Bachelor of Religious Education. One of her passions is skiing and she is a certified Level 2 ski instructor with the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance. Jasmine enjoys being in the mountains, reading, playing soccer, and traveling.

You can find Jasmine on Facebook.

The Cleansing by Anton Eine


Regular Linda’s Book Bag readers will have spotted that I almost never feature science fiction, but when Anton Eine got in touch and said The Cleansing was a short story of only 18 pages I thought I’d give it a go! I’d like to thank Anton for sending me a copy of The Cleansing in return for an honest review.

The Cleansing is available for purchase here.

The Cleansing


Will beauty save the world? Not this time…

This sci-fi short story gives us a view of our world from perspective of alien invaders that just arrived to destroy any life on Earth.

Can we do anything to save our fragile peace, to protect our home and the very existence of the humankind?

My Review of The Cleansing

Aliens arrive to ‘cleanse’ Earth of any life.

There’s a really interesting structure to The Cleansing as it is written entirely in dialogue so that it feels quite futuristic and I think it would translate extremely well into a radio play. Equally, it would support a longer narrative with more description and development too as it is an interesting concept.

There’s little character development or conventional setting as befits the structure of the writing, but what is fascinating is the exploration of themes and concepts in The Cleansing. I thought the presentation of life on Earth as a kind of computer simulation was very interesting and the references to both God as a ‘Pre-Eternal creator’ alongside science as the rationale for Earth lead to some though-provoking ideas.

I felt we could learn a lot from The Cleansing. There is a clear message that humanity does not learn from its mistakes in history. The aliens contemplating whether they should eliminate Earth give a salutary lesson that humans are not as important here on earth as they might believe.

I don’t read science-fiction usually, but I did enjoy Anton Eine’s The Cleansing. It makes a great read for a lunchtime break or as a palette cleanser between other genres and I recommend others give it a try.

About Anton Eine


Anton Eine is an independent author and you can find out more by following him on Twitter @AntonEine, finding him on Facebook or visiting his website.

Michael Morpurgo 8 Book Set Collection from @Books2DoorUK

8 book collection

You know, I love being a blogger because I get offered all kinds of books to review. Today I’m delighted to be featuring another selection from the fabulous folk at Books2Door. This time I’m looking at the Michael Morpurgo Series One 8 Book Set Collection which features War Horse. As I’ve read and taught many of the books in this set I’ve chosen to review Long Way Home in detail as I hadn’t read it before.

This is the third time I’ve featured books from Books2Door and you can read my review of The World of David Walliams Book of Stuff here and the 10 book box set Horrid Henry’s Mischievous Mayhem by Francesca Simon here.

Michael Morpurgo Series One 8 Book Set Collection is available for purchase here.

Michael Morpurgo Series One 8 Book Set Collection

8 book collection

This collection contains 8 brilliant novels from Michael Morpurgo, one of the most popular children’s authors of modern times, and comes in a beautiful keepsake box.

With Morpurgo attracting a new legion of fans after the success of the West End play and Steven Spielberg’s Hollywood adaptation of War Horse, there has never been a better time to introduce your children to his other fantastic heart-warming stories.

A natural storyteller, his books are epic tales of triumph and tragedy, human kindness and cruelty, animal humility and sensitivity.

Morpurgo introduces children to some of the bigger issues of life, often against the backdrop of of brilliantly researched history.

Description by Single Titles:

  • War Horse
  • Kensuke’s Kingdom
  • Long Way Home
  • Mr Nobody’s Eyes
  • The Wreck of the Zanzibar
  • King of the Cloud Forests
  • Escape fromShangri-La
  • Why the Whales Came

My Review of Michael Morpurgo Series One 8 Book Set Collection

This is a stunning collection of 8 brilliant books from a master storyteller.

I have to comment on the quality of how this set is presented. There’s a handy cardboard slip cover to keep the books together and I like the way in which the two cover images are repeated inside the cover too. Each of the books is beautifully designed with colourful and eye catching covers that will draw in children of all ages – even those approaching their 6th decade like me!

Having read, taught and enjoyed so many of the books in this collection in the past, I have chosen to concentrate specifically on Long Way Home for this review as it’s one I haven’t read before.

I loved this story. In typical Morpurgo fashion, the reader is drawn into the narrative instantly because of the natural dialogue and the attention to details that help paint a picture in the mind’s eye.

The characters are rounded and believable and any child will relate to George, Tom and Storme. It is wonderful how Michael Morpurgo manages to convey George’s insecurities and his desire for love and a home so sensitively that there is instant empathy and understanding form the reader. Children will be able to explore their own fears (such as being unable to swim, or being rejected) in a safe and helpful way through reading Long Way Home.

The plot races along with conflict, peril and adventure making for a thrilling read. Subtle cautionary messages underpin the exciting writing so that children can learn whilst being entertained. The dynamics of family life are also portrayed vividly and realistically, but I thoroughly appreciated the fact that George in in care as such children rarely have enough representation in children’s fiction. Reading Long Way Home will help give them status and self-worth. I found Long Way Home an emotional, compelling and affecting story.

This collection of Michael Morpurgo stories feels to me as if it should be compulsory reading for children of all ages because it has something for everyone. There’s war, animal rights, love, family, relationships, adventure – indeed everything any reader could ever want. Fabulous storytelling as ever from Michael Morpurgo. I cannot recommend this box set highly enough.

About Michael Morpurgo

michael morpurgo

Multi-award winning author, Michael Morpurgo, is one of Britain’s best-loved writers for children and has won many prizes, including the Smarties Prize, The Writers Guild Award and the Blue Peter Book Award for Private Peaceful, which has also had two successful runs as a play devised by Bristol Old Vic. From 2003 to 2005 he was the Children’s Laureate, a role which took him all over the UK to promote literacy and reading, and in 2005 he was named the Booksellers Association Author of the Year.

You can find out more by visiting Michael Morpurgo’s website.

The Secret to Falling in Love by Victoria Cooke

rachel banner

Although I’m taking a bit of a blog tour sabbatical at the moment, I’m so glad I agreed to take part in this book birthday blitz for The Secret to Falling in Love by Victoria Cooke, thanks to fellow blogger and friend Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Secret to Falling in Love and have my review to share today.

If you’re a UK blog reader, you might also like to know that there is a smashing giveaway at the bottom of this blog post where you can enter to win an ARC of The Secret to Falling in Love as well as some rather delicious Belgian truffles.

The Secret to falling in Love is available for purchase here.

The Secret to Falling in Love

the secret to falling in love

Status Update: I’m going offline for a while… Wish me luck! xx

Lifestyle journalist and thirty-something singleton Melissa hashtags, insta’s and snapchats her supposedly fabulous life on every social media platform there is.

That is until she wakes up on her birthday, another year older and still alone, wondering if for all her internet dates, love really can be found online? The challenge: go technology free for a whole month!

Forced to confront the reality of her life without its perfect filters, Melissa knows she needs to make some changes. But when she bumps into not one, but two gorgeous men, without the use of an app, she believes there could be hope for love offline.

If only there was a way to choose the right guy for her…

My review of The Secret to Falling in Love

Mel is about to go social media cold turkey for her job…

The Secret to falling in Love is a super read. I think it may have been the right book at the right moment for me but I had just read some very intense so-called literary books and this one felt like the perfect pick me up palette cleanser – a bit like the sorbet course in a heavy meal! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I thought Victoria Cooke had the perfect style for what is often called chick-lit, but without the contrived saccharine features that sometimes occur. Her natural direct speech, her vivid descriptions and Mel’s first person narrative, with the occasional aside to the reader, all worked fabulously well so that this felt like a book where I could just relax as a reader and enjoy the story. I loved the theme of what life can be like if we just step away from our phones and social media for a month, and the messages of what makes a true friend or boyfriend, appreciating our friends and family and the world around us first hand, rather than vicariously through the distorted lens of social media, made The Secret to Falling in Love a brilliant book to read and a salutary tale to ponder.

Mel is a super character. She genuinely felt like someone I might know in real life and I was so convinced about her that I wanted her to have a happy ever after ending. In fact, as an older reader, I was genuinely saddened by the highly realistic concept that at 35 a woman is being left behind if she hasn’t found a life partner. I fear society really does believe this. I’m not going to say anything about the men in the story, except to say that I certainly preferred one of them, as too much detail will spoil the read!

There is a hugely entertaining plot in The Secret to Falling in Love that has several surprises along the way so that I think this would make a brilliant film.

I loved this book. I hadn’t read anything by Victoria Cooke before and am delighted to have discovered the perfect pick-me-up read in The Secret to Falling in Love. Uplit at its best!

About Victoria Cooke

Victoria Cooke Image

Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and travelling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, The Secret to Falling in Love, in 2016.

You can find out more by visiting Victoria’s website, finding her on Facebook and Instagram and following her on Twitter @victoriacooke10.


The Secret to Falling In Love Giveaway Prize

Win an ARC of The Secret to Falling in Love and a box of Belgian Truffles (UK Only)

Please note that this giveaway is independent from Linda’s Book Bag under the following conditions:

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

To enter the giveaway, please click here.

Spring Blogger Evening 2019 with @TeamBATC

books and the city

It’s always such a thrill when an invitation to an event run by Books and the City @TeamBATC for Simon and Schuster drops into my inbox. This year was no exception and I was delighted to head off to London for an evening of chat, laughter and fun last Wednesday.


The wonderfully irrepressible Sara-Jade (@BookMinxSJV) made us all so welcome with glasses of fizz, nibbles and Restoration Cake cupcakes as we mingled, chatting with authors and fellow bloggers.


As Milly Johnson will be one of the authors at the Deepings Literary Festival where I live in May (tickets available here by the way) it was good to catch up with her again.

It was lovely to join blogger Kirsty from The Curious Ginger Cat Blog in the special photo booth for Messy, Wonderful Us so that Rich could take our picture.


Also very special for me was having time to have a proper chat with Anstey Harris as I so loved The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton reviewed here and last time we met we didn’t have time to talk properly.

grace atherton

Once we’d eaten and drunk as much as we could, we were treated to readings from some the atending authors, introduced by Bec Farrell. It’s always so exciting hearing authors actually reading their own writing as it brings it alive. Once the readings were complete we had a further chance to chat with our writers who were armed with Sharpies and signed our books and samplers for us. We came away with the usual stunning goody bags, including proofs and samplers, chocolate, shower gel, a notebook and a bookish necklace from Oh Panda Eyes.


It really was a glorious evening.

Let me tell you a bit about some of the books we were introduced to. Some are so new that covers and details have yet to be revealed so don’t be surprised that I can share too much yet.

Firstly, the authors from whom we had readings:

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

the glittering hour

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying just the right side of scandal.

Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina’s orbit one night and can never let her go.

Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, this is an epic novel of passion, heartache and loss.


The Glittering Hour is available for pre-order here.

If You Were Here by Alice Peterson


‘I can toast to my future, but the thundercloud over my head, the threat of a storm, will follow me like a shadow wherever I go. The truth is, I have a potential bomb in my bag, and who knows when or where it will go off.’

When her daughter Beth dies suddenly, Peggy Andrews is left to pick up the pieces and take care of her granddaughter Flo. But sorting through Beth’s things reveals a secret never told: Beth was sick, with the same genetic condition that claimed her father’s life, and now Peggy must decide whether to keep the secret or risk destroying her granddaughter’s world.

Five years later, Flo is engaged and ready to pack up her life and move to New York with her high-flying fiancé. Peggy never told Flo what she discovered, but with Flo looking towards her future, Peggy realises it’s time to come clean and reveal that her granddaughter’s life might also be at risk.

As Flo struggles to decide her own path, she is faced with the same life-altering questions her mother asked herself years before: If a test could decide your future, would you take it?

If You Were Here is available for pre-order here.

Living My Best Li(f)e by Claire Frost

Living my best life

Bell had it all, the perfect job, the perfect partner, and on their 10th anniversary she thought she would get the ring… But two weeks later, Bell wakes up to find herself still clutching a wine bottle and the memories of Collin saying those dreaded words: ‘We need to talk…’

Determined to get on with her life before she hits 40, Bell starts following ‘inspirational’ people on Instagram. Her favourite lifestyle guru is @mi_bestlife, whose life seems Insta-perfect but if you were to zoom out of the heavily filtered picture, you’d see reality strike.

Millie is a single mother, with a cute son called Wolfie, whose father is absolutely useless and not much on the scene. Instagram and the profile she has built up online is more ‘best lie’ than ‘best life’. It isn’t until Millie and Bell’s paths finally cross that the two women begin to understand what is real and what it is that they really want.

Living My Best Li(f)e is available for pre-order here.

The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew by Milly Johnson

the magnificcent mrs mayhew

Behind every successful man is a woman.
Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

Sophie Mayhewlooks like she has the perfect life. Wife of rising political star John F Mayhew, a man who is one step away from the top job in the government, her glamour matches his looks, power, breeding and money. But John has made some stupid mistakes along the way, some of which are threatening to emerge. Still, all this can still be swept under the carpet as long as Sophie ‘the trophy’ plays her part in front of the cameras.

But the words that come out of Sophie’s mouth one morning on the doorstep of their country house are not the words the spin doctors put in there.  Bursting out of the restrictive mould she has been in since birth, Sophie flees to a place that was special to her as a child, a small village on the coast where she intends to be alone.

But once there, she finds she becomes part of a community that warms her soul and makes her feel as if she is breathing properly for the first time. Sophie knows she won’t be left in peace for long. Now she must decide: where does her real future lie?

The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew is available for pre-order here.

You can read a guest post with Milly here on Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate The Mother of all Christmases here and my review of Milly’s The Perfectly Imperfect Woman here.

The Love Child by Rachel Hore

the love child proof


Now, this is so new I don’t even have access to the blurb and sadly I haven’t had time to type it out from the back of my sampler but what I can tell you is that Rachel’s reading had me gripped and I can’t wait to read this one about an unmarried mother and a child adopted by a couple unable to have children of their own…

The Love Child is available for pre-order here.

Then two books we received as proofs in our goody bags:

Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac

messy wonderful us proof

One morning in early summer, a man and woman wait to board a flight to Italy.

Allie has lived a careful, focused existence. But now she has unexpectedly taken leave from her job as an academic research scientist to fly to a place she only recently heard about in a letter. Her father, Joe, doesn’t know the reason for her trip, and Allie can’t bring herself to tell him that she’s flying to Italy to unpick the truth about what her mother did all those years ago.

Beside her is her best friend since schooldays, Ed. He has just shocked everyone with a sudden separation from his wife, Julia. Allie hopes that a break will help him open up.

But the secrets that emerge as the sun beats down on Lake Garda and Liguria don’t merely concern her family’s tangled past. And the two friends are forced to confront questions about their own life-long relationship that are impossible to resolve.

Messy, Wonderful Us is available for pre-order here.

(I loved Catherine Isaac’s You, Me, Everything which has now been optioned for a film and you can read my review of that book here. I spent an ‘evening in’ with Catherine here too.)

If You Could Go Anywhere by Paige Toon

If you could go anywhere

Angie has always wanted to travel. But at 27, she has still never left her small mining town in the Australian outback. When her grandmother passes away, Angie finally feels free to see the world – until she discovers a letter addressed to the father she never knew and is forced to question everything.

As Angie sets off on her journey to find the truth – about her family, her past and who she really is – will enigmatic stranger Alessandro help guide the way?

If You Could Go Anywhere is available for pre-order here.

You’ll find my review of Paige Toon’s The Last Piece of My Heart here and of Five Years From Now here.

And last, but by no means least, the sample books from our goody bags:

Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain

Poppy's recipe for life

Things haven’t always been straightforward in Poppy’s life but her dreams are finally within her reach.

She’s moving into a cottage in beautiful Nightingale Square, close to the local community garden, where she can indulge her passion for making preserves and pickles. She may not have the best relationship with her family but she is surrounded by loving friends, and feels sure that even her grumpy new neighbour, Jacob, has more to him than his steely exterior belies.

But the unexpected arrival of Poppy’s troubled younger brother soon threatens her new-found happiness and as the garden team works together to win community space of the year, Poppy must decide where her priorities lie and what she is prepared to fight for …

Poppy’s Recipe for Life is available for pre-order here.

Heidi is such a good friend she’s been on Linda’s Book Bag almost as often as I have, most recently here when she wrote a smashing guest post to celebrate the publication of Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland

We also stayed in together to discuss Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square here, and you can read my review of Heidi’s Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market here.

Those People by Louise Candlish

Those People proof

Could you hate your neighbour enough to plot to kill him?

Until Darren Booth moves in at number 1, Lowland Way, the neighbourhood is a suburban paradise. But soon after his arrival, disputes over issues like loud music and parking rights escalate all too quickly to public rows and threats of violence.

Then, early one Saturday, a horrific crime shocks the street.

As the police go house-to-house, the residents close ranks and everyone’s story is the same: Booth did it.

But there’s a problem. The police don’t agree with them.

Those People is available for pre-order here.

If Those People is as brilliant as Louise’s Our House (my review of which is here) we are in for a stunner with this one!

The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen by Juliet Ashton


Again, as you can tell from the image taken on my phone, I have very little I can actually tell you yet except to say I’ve read the blurb and initial pages for this book and I can’t wait to move in to Cherry Blossom Mews.

As The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen is so new I thought I’d remind you of my review for Juliet Ashton’s The Sunday Lunch Club that you can read here, and of her wonderful The Woman at Number 24 that you can find here.


Thank you Simon and Schuster

I’d just like to thank all the team at Simon and Schuster for making this one of my highlight events of the year. They work so hard to make sure bloggers have a fantastic evening, get to speak with every author (including those like wonderful Anstey Harris who wasn’t a formal part of the evening but whose book The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton was just fabulous as you can see here) and go away with new books and goodies that are second to none. We’re in for a fabulous reading year.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I let you go

One of the authors I’ve been meaning to read since I began blogging is Clare Mackintosh and I have a couple of her books lurking on my TBR pile, so I was delighted when her psychological thriller I Let You Go turned out to be the choice for the U3A book group to which I belong. I’ll be interested to discover what they all thought of it on Monday but I’m sharing my views today!

Published by Little Brown imprint Sphere, I Let You Go is available for purchase through these links.

I Let You Go

I let you go

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

My Review of I Let You Go

On one evening for Jenna, events will spiral out of control affecting the rest of her life.

I found I Let You Go a completely absorbing and entertaining narrative that held me gripped throughout. There’s an intensity and menace from the start that doesn’t abate throughout. The plot is cleverly constructed and although I guessed some of the twists, others blindsided me with their cleverness. I thought Clare Mackintosh’s story was brilliantly constructed and I’m only sorry that this is my first reading of one of her books.

The title I Let You Go is so apposite because it could relate to the relationships Jenna has, the police and their investigations and various elements of the plot about which I can’t really comment without spoilers. Clare Mackintosh cleverly manipulated both plot and reader under her title so that there are moments of revelation and surprise that feel perfect.

I often find narratives from different perspectives frustrating, but in I Let You Go the balance between Jenna’s first person story and the third person elements relating to Ray and Kate works seamlessly. I was equally engaged with both aspects and desperate to know what would happen next. In fact, I’d go so far as to say these two strands are vital to allow the reader to recover from each ingeniously mastered section. Jenna and Ian in particular are fabulous creations. Their actions are so far removed from anything I might have experienced, but utterly believable and compelling. I Let You Go is a powerfully effective portrayal of the human psyche.

Alongside vivid descriptions of the Welsh coast and a twisty and thrilling narrative are weighty considerations for the reader too, so that I let You Go provides so much more than mere, albeit brilliant, entertainment. Clare Mackintosh made me confront the manner in which we are shaped by events and relationships, particularly abusive ones; she caused me to think about the ways the media and the public respond to those in the spotlight without necessarily having the full details and how crime and investigation can impact not only on the victims, but on those investigating too.

I Let You Go is a narrative that can be read and enjoyed on so many levels. Its one of those books that reverberates and has impact long after it has finished. It may be my first Clare Mackintosh book, but my goodness, it won’t be the last. At the risk of being completely clichéd, I could not put it down! It’s a cracking psychological thriller.

About Clare Mackintosh

clare mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant and is the founder of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival. She now writes full time and lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

Clare’s debut novel, I Let You Go, was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It was selected for both the Richard and Judy Book Club (and was the winning title of the readers’ vote for the summer 2015 selection) and for ITV’s Loose Women’s Loose Books. It is a New York Times bestseller, with translation rights sold to more than 30 countries.

Her second psychological thriller, I See You, was a number 1 Sunday Times bestseller and Audible’s best selling psychological thriller in 2016. Translation rights have been sold to almost 30 countries.

Clare is the patron of the Silver Star Society, an Oxford-based charity which supports the work carried out in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s Silver Star unit, providing special care for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy.

You can find out more on Clare’s website. You’ll also find her on Facebook and can follow Clare on Twitter @claremackint0sh.

Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize


Ever since I read Under MilkWood over 40 years ago I have been fascinated by Dylan Thomas so it gives me enormous pleasure to bring you information about the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, not least as I shall be attending the awards ceremony at the British Library in May.

Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. One of the most influential, internationally-renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, the prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.

Launched in 2006, The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is the largest literary prize in the world for young writers. In 2019 Swansea University will be the first British University to launch an English module based solely on a literary prize, where students will examine the works longlisted for the Prize.

The longlist was announced on 31st January and the shortlist will be made public on 2nd April. The winner will be announced on Thursday 16thth May at Swansea University’s Great Hall, just after International Dylan Thomas Day on 14 May.

This year’s longlist celebrates a whole host of debut authors, including eight dynamic and unique female writers, of which three are debut novelists and one is celebrating her debut poetry collection, and four amazing new, critically acclaimed, debut male voices.

The Judges


The twelve longlisted titles will be judged by a panel chaired by Professor Dai Smith CBE,  BBC BroadcasterDi Speirs, award-winning novelist Kit de Waal and Professor Kurt Heinzelman. All their details can be found here. I’m thrilled that Kit de Waal has featured on Linda’s Book Bag here.

The Longlisted Authors

image001 (4)

Top from left: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Clare Fisher, Michael Donkor, Emma Glass, Guy Gunaratne, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

Top from left: Zoe Gilbert, Sarah Perry, Richard Scott, Louisa Hall, Sally Rooney, Jenny Xie

(No bias here on Linda’s Book Bag but I did love Clare Fisher’s Debut All The Good Things and you can read my review here.)

Recognised for its celebration of experimental and challenging young voices in contemporary writing, this year’s longlist highlights more than ever the challenging world we live by tackling head on difficult topics – including domestic violence, mental health, rape, racism, gender and identity.

This year’s longlist of 12 books comprises eight novels, two short story collections and two poetry collections:

  • Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US) and Riverrun (UK))
  • Michael Donkor, Hold (4th Estate)
  • Clare Fisher, How the Light Gets In (Influx Press)
  • Zoe Gilbert, Folk (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Emma Glass, Peach ((Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Guy Gunaratne, In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder Press, Headline)
  • Louisa Hall, Trinity (Ecco)
  • Sarah Perry, Melmoth (Serpent’s Tail)
  • Sally Rooney, Normal People (Faber & Faber)
  • Richard Scott, Soho (Faber & Faber)
  • Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, House of Stone (Atlantic Books)
  • Jenny Xie, Eye Level (Graywolf Press)

I think this sounds like an amazing collection of writing and I look forward to reading and featuring many of these talented young writers on the blog over the coming months.

You can find more details by following #IDTP19 or @dylanthomprize on Twitter. The Swansea University website has all you need to know.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

the lost man

My enormous thanks to Caolinn Douglas at Little Brown for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for The Lost Man by Jane Harper and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

The Lost Man will be published by Little Brown tomorrow, 7th February 2019 and is available for purchase through these links.

The Lost Man

the lost man

He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

My Review of The Lost Man

When Cameron’s body is found next to the old stockman’s grave in the outback, no-one can work out why he died so far from his car.

Jane Harper’s writing has been so well received that I had probably unrealistically high expectations for The Lost Man. However, the author far exceeded each one. The Lost Man is totally sublime.

The title is so apt. It’s not just Cameron who is lost and found dead, but any of the men in this book could be the lost man. Each has his demons, his secrets, his losses and his pride that prevent him from becoming the man he wants to be. I actually found Jane Harper’s exploration of Nathan in particular, as well as Bub and Harry, quite tender and poignant so that they felt like real men in my own life and not mere characters on the page. Even the brutal, bullying Carl is a lost man. Equally affecting is the impact these lost men have on those around them, so that everyone in The Lost Man is touched by a brilliantly conveyed theme of disorientation and being adrift.

The mystery surrounding Cam’s death thrums with menace throughout the narrative so that I felt both tense and mesmerised by the writing. It’s such a cleverly constructed plot. The way in which small details are uncovered made it impossible not to continue reading. I found Jane Harper’s prose hypnotic and I could not tear myself away. She has a wonderfully distinctive and compelling authorial voice; sometimes as if she’s one of her characters and at other times as if she herself is part of the narrative. I found this incredibly effective. The searing realism of the outback and life in remote Australian places, that leaps from the page through her vivid descriptions and through the realistic and natural dialogue, is absolutely transporting. I was there with Nathan as he struggled to come to terms with Cam’s death and his own life. The undercurrent of violence made me feel quite nervous and I was never quite sure when that violence might erupt.

The emotions in The Lost Man are palpable.  Love, grief and passion are balanced by jealousy, hatred and relief so that every word in this amazing story felt poised, balanced and perfect. I had to compose myself at times as I read. My heart beat more rapidly on occasion and at other times I found I was holding my breath. The explorations of morality, memory and perception left me reeling. As soon as I had established what I thought was happening, Jane Harper shifted my viewpoint as easily as the winds shift the sand at the stockman’s grave. She made me give deep consideration to behaviour, blame and guilt so that I found The Lost Man thought provoking as well as enormously entertaining.

Occasionally I find an author whose writing I find hard to define and describe. That is the case with Jane Harper’s The Lost Man. It is a beautifully written insight into humanity. I think it will be hard to find a book I have enjoyed more this year. The Lost Man is phenomenal.

About Jane Harper

jane harper

Jane Harper is the author of the international bestsellers The Dry and Force of NatureHer books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.

Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year.

Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and now lives in Melbourne.

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

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