Tell Me Where You Are by Moira Forsyth

tell me where you are

It’s just over two years since Moira Forsyth appeared on Linda’s Book Bag with a smashing guest post linked to her book A Message From The Other Side. You can read that post here alongside my review. Today I’m delighted finally to have a review of another of Moira’s books, Tell Me Where You Are and would like to thank Sandstone Press for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest opinion.

Published by Sandstone Press in paperback on 16th May 2019, Tell Me Where You Are is available for purchase through the links here.

Tell Me Where You Are

tell me where you are

Maybe the worst thing hadn’t happened yet. You couldn’t know the awful things lined up in the future, looming.

The last thing Frances wants is a phone call from Alec, the husband who left her for her sister thirteen years ago. But Susan has disappeared, abandoning Alec and her daughter Kate, a surly teenager with an explosive secret. Reluctantly, Frances is drawn into her sister’s turbulent life.

My Review of Tell Me Where You Are

Frances has no contact with her ex-husband, Alec, after he left her for her sister Susan, but that is about to change.

I think if readers are looking for a visceral thriller with several twists and turns Tell Me Where You isn’t the book for them. However, I found Tell Me Where You an intimate and sensitive portrait of family life, sibling rivalries and our desperate need to be loved and to belong and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I thought the title was inspired because although ostensibly it refers to Susan throughout, who is missing, many of the characters are looking for happiness, their own identity, a relationship and so on, giving Tell Me Where You are multiple meanings. I don’t wish to sound patronising, but I do believe readers need a level of maturity (which isn’t necessarily linked with age) fully to appreciate the nuances of family dynamics explored by Moira Forsyth. I thought her perception and presentation was spot on.

Reading Tell Me Where You Are felt a bit like viewing a kaleidoscope because the different characters’ perceptions acted as refracted light, and the patterns and dynamics within Frances’s family shifted and changed like the pieces of a kaleidoscope so that I understood the balance within the family perfectly.  I felt Moira Forsyth had observed the people in her narrative every bit as closely and effectively as does Austen in Mansfield Park for example. There’s bigotry, disappointment, resignation, stoicism, jealousy, love and so many other emotions that bubble and surface, subside and simmer, that add depth and interest to this family story.

There’s considerable care and thought that has gone into the creation of character by the author. I loathed Alec. He made my skin crawl and had I been Frances I think his treatment might have been very different! Frances is a real Everywoman. She tries to manage the demands of being both mother and daughter, sister and individual in a way so many readers will relate to. Even though I have never been a mother, I was able to comprehend her perspective completely because of the successful way she is drawn by Moira Forsyth. Susan, on the other hand, brought out the very worst in me. Whilst she has mental health issues to which I felt I should be sympathetic, I also found her behaviour selfish and hurtful at the best of times so she didn’t gain my empathy and this made me uncomfortable. It doesn’t sit well with me not to have sympathy for those with mental health issues and Moira Forsyth has got under my skin and made me doubt myself. This is such clever writing. I found Tell Me Where You Are both thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Tell Me Where You Are is a book that somehow seems to be more than the sum of its parts. It is insightful, providing so much for the reader to consider. Moira Forsyth doesn’t provide all the answers by the end of the narrative and I liked the story all the better for that because life isn’t always neatly resolved and packaged to our satisfaction. I’ve finished Tell Me Where You Are with a feeling that these characters live on outside the book as real people. I rather hope I’ll meet them again some day.

About Moira Forsyth


Moira Forsyth is the author of five novels, and a published poet and short story writer. She has been a registrar of births, deaths and marriages, sold hotels and catering properties, been a bookshop manager, a lecturer and schoolteacher, and taught in a Young Offenders’ Institution. Moira is now an editor, and has worked on a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books. Moira has two grown-up children (non-resident), two cats (resident), and lives in the Highlands of Scotland.

You can follow Moira on Twitter @moira_forsyth.

Meditation for Children by Shelley Wilson

Meditation For Children Cover

I’m genuinely thrilled to feature lovely Shelley Wilson on Linda’s Book Bag once again. It’s been a while since Shelley ‘stayed in’ with me in a post you can read here.

I’ve previously interviewed Shelley here on the blog and she has explained here why she writes for the self-help market. Speaking of which, I have reviewed one of Shelley’s self-help books, Motivate Me: Weekly Guidance for Happiness and Wellbeing here too.

Today, thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things I am reviewing another of Shelley’s books, Meditation for Children.

Meditation for Children which is is published by BHC Press ais available for purchase here.

Meditation For Children Graphic

My review of Meditation for Children

From the moment I read Shelley Wilson’s introduction to Meditation for Children I felt its effect. The author has such a no-nonsense practical approach that the reader feels as if they can do exactly what she’s suggesting with ease. Quite frankly, once I’d read the breathing exercise in the opening ‘How to’ section I already felt more relaxed myself – never mind any children with whom the technique might be shared.

I think the way in which each of the ten meditations is structured is so well done. There’s a routine that could quite easily be one that older children could use for themselves independently, aside from sessions with adults using Meditation for Children. I could easily imagine an anxious child using the breathing technique to calm themselves in stressful situations.

Each story is short and accessible with situations that appeal to all children regardless of gender. The stories are entertaining whilst affording imaginative development and activities. I could envisage drama and role play as well as the suggested art work.

I must also acknowledge the lovely illustrations by Phaedra Elson. They have a naive quality and charm that appeals to adults and children alike. It would be lovely to discuss them with children if the meditations are used during the day so that youngsters can think about colour and art as well as enjoying the meditations and learning to relax.

I thought Meditation for Children was a super book, being practical, thoughtful and helpful. I really recommend it for children, but will be applying the techniques in my own adult life too.

About Shelley Wilson

Shelley Wilson Author Picture

Shelley Wilson divides her writing time between motivational non-fiction for adults and the fantasy worlds of her young adult fiction.

Her non-fiction books combine motivation and self-help with a healthy dose of humour, and her YA novels combine myth, legend and fairy tales with a side order of demonic chaos.

Shelley’s multi-award-winning motivational personal development blog has received several awards and has been named a Top 10 UK Personal Development Blog.

Shelley is an obsessive list maker who loves pizza, vampires, mythology, and history. She resides in Solihull, West Midlands, UK, where she lives with her three teenagers.

You can find out more about Shelley on her author blog or via her personal development blog. You can also follow Shelley on Twitter @ShelleyWilson72 and find her on Facebook (or here on Facebook for YA writing) and Instagram.

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FINAL FINAL Meditation for Children BT Poster

Clear My Name by Paula Daly

Clear My Name

It’s far too long since I last reviewed a book by Paula Daly – in fact her novel The Mistake I Made (the basis for the recent television series Deep Water) was one of the earliest reviews I ever wrote on Linda’s Book Bag and you can see that review (and how the blog has evolved) here. My very grateful thanks to Hayley Barnes for sending me a surprise copy of Paula Daly’s latest book, Clear My Name, in return for an honest review.

Clear My Name was published by Penguin imprint Bantam Press on 5th August 2019 and is available for purchase through these links.

Clear My Name

Clear My Name


When Carrie was accused of brutally murdering her husband’s lover, she denied it. She denied it when they arrested her, when they put her in front of a jury, and when they sent her to prison.

Now she’s three years into a fifteen-year sentence, away from the daughter she loves and the life she had built. And she is still denying that she is to blame.


Tess Gilroy has devoted her life to righting wrongs. Through her job for Innocence UK, a charity which takes on alleged miscarriages of justice, she works tirelessly to uncover the truth.

But when she is asked to take Carrie’s case, Tess realises that if she is to help this woman, she must risk uncovering the secrets she has struggled a lifetime to hide . . .

We’ve all done things we’re not proud of…

My Review of Clear My Name

Tess spends her life trying to overturn miscarriages of justice.

Clear My Name is a hugely entertaining read. Paula Daly takes what should be a straightforward premise – those wrongfully convicted should be freed from prison – and then wrongfoots her reader at every turn as she forces them to confront her blurred presentation of morality so that by the end of the story I wasn’t entirely sure of right and wrong. I was so wrapped up in the events that I read the book in one uninterrupted sitting as I couldn’t wait to find out what happened.

The narrative is deftly plotted meaning that I had no idea whether Carrie was innocent or guilty as Tess tried to uncover the facts behind her conviction. I loved the way Paula Daly gradually uncovered evidence in a way that placed me in a similar position to Alice, learning from Tess, as the narrative progressed. I’m still not sure what I feel about Carrie, now I know the outcome of the story, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to see what happens! I thoroughly enjoyed the fast pace of the novel and the drip feeding of Tess’s background as the investigation progresses too.

I found Tess a fascinating character and Clear My Name was actually more about her than Carrie, whose conviction is the catalyst for the action. Tess is multifaceted with many flaws, and the parallels between her own experiences and the other women in Clear My Name, made me think hard about what constitutes morality, or good and bad behaviour, particularly in relationships. Paula Daly shows her readers completely successfully that the distinction isn’t always clear cut. I think it is a sign of good writing and a compelling character that I’m still thinking about Tess and wondering what is happening to her now that the novel is over.

Clear My Name is clever, entertaining and full of thought provoking aspects that I really appreciated. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and recommend it very highly.

About Paula Daly

Paula Daly

Paula Daly is the acclaimed author of six novels. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year award, and her books have been developed for the new ITV television series, Deep Water, starring Anna Friel. She was born in Lancashire and lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children, and whippet, Skippy.

You can follow Paula on Twitter @PaulaDalyAuthor and find her on Facebook.

The Burning Hill by A. D. Flint

The Burning Hill Cover

Shortly after we’d landed in Rio a few years ago and we were being transported to our hotel, my husband and I were somewhat disconcerted to be told the coach lights were out and the curtains drawn to make it more difficult for us to be shot on the way. We were also told not to take much money or any valuables when we went out and that it was’t wise for me to wear jewellery. Copacabana beach was to be avoided after dark. Well, we loved Rio and Brazil in spite of the dire warnings.

Since then, I became aware of A.D. Flint’s setting for The Burning Hill was Rio and I having featured 10 things about him here on Linda’s Book Bag, I have been meaning to read the book.

My enormous thanks to A. D. Flint for sending me a copy of The Burning Hill and my apologies that it has taken nine months to reach the top of my TBR.

Published by Unbound, The Burning Hill is available for purchase here.

The Burning Hill

The Burning Hill Cover

On the run from unjust court-martial back home, a young British soldier gets robbed and shot on Copacabana Beach. The bullet in Jake’s head should have been fatal but, miraculously, it saves him from a previously undetected condition that soon would have killed him.

Jake doesn’t believe in fate, nor does he feel he owes anything to anybody, but he does hate injustice. Vilson, the teenage favela kid who fired the bullet, is a victim of injustice, in a deadly corner with a corrupt cop and a sadistic drug-lord after his blood.

With a turf war erupting in Vilson’s favela, fear stalks every narrow alleyway, and anyone dragged up to the notorious Burning Hill had better hope they’re dead before they get there. But it’s not just fear that shapes life in the favela: belief is also powerful, able to both save and destroy.

The Burning Hill is about the power of belief and one man’s desire for justice at any cost.

My Review of The Burning Hill

Jake’s escape to Brazil may not be the panacea he’s searching for.

By rights I shouldn’t have enjoyed The Burning Hill. At its heart is the kind of injustice and unfairness that I abhor and there is a level of violence outside my usual reading comfort zone. However, I thought The Burning Hill was a fabulous read because the quality of A.D. Flint’s prose is so finely wrought that he draws in the reader and compels them to continue even as they feel uncomfortable and challenged by the content. Not only is this an exciting and thrilling read, but it is so well written too.

The Burning Hill begins dramatically and maintains the adrenaline throughout. It’s fortunate that chapters are short, which adds to the pace, because I’m not sure my heart could have tolerated the thumping of fear and excitement I experienced reading The Burning Hill. I was enthralled by the story and completely unable to tear myself away even when I found the content disturbing. I had to keep pausing to allow my pulse to subside because A. D. Flint understands exactly how to control his reader’s feelings and emotions.

I found the characters extremely vivid and real. Their flawed personalities and lives are sadly all too familiar to those living in poverty so that A. D. Flint shines an unflinching spotlight on the realities of day to day existence for those caught up in drugs, gangs and violence. Jake is the perfect example of an anti-hero whom the reader cannot help but admire. I found his version of morality a convincing antidote to the corruption of organisations like the police. My heart went out to Vilson so that I wanted him to triumph because I understood perfectly the reasons for his behaviour.

And it is the themes of corruption, the poverty, the sense of family, friendship and identity underpinning the dramatic narrative that add such depth to The Burning Hill. As well as being a very engaging and entertaining thriller, I think The Burning Hill is a hugely important book. A. D. flint does not shy away from presenting the realities of street life in Brazil and his engrossing and well-crafted prose ensures those reading his story are left in no doubt about how so many have to struggle simply to exist. The shimmering undercurrent of superstition adds an extra layer of interest too and I found the concept of honour completely fascinating.

The Burning Hill is a novel I would not usually pick up. Had that been the case I would have missed a gripping narrative, brilliantly written and heart-thumpingly exciting. I really recommend it, regardless of your usual preferred reading genres. It’s a corker!

About A.D. Flint

A D Flint Author Picture

On a June afternoon in 2000 there was a robbery just a few blocks from where the A.D. Flint  was living in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro. It turned into a hostage situation. The teenage robber had survived a notorious massacre of street children outside a Rio church years before, and the tragedy that played out in the aftermath of the robbery on live TV news was an embodiment of the desperation of life at the bottom of the heap. An ugly thing in this beautiful city, shocking, even to a society inured to everyday violence.

As an Englishman new to Rio, the author was beguiled by the city, and found it profoundly disturbing to watch something happening just down the road that was so out of control and so wrong. The author spent a year in Brazil and now lives on the south coast of England with his Brazilian wife and two sons.

You can follow A.D. Flint on Twitter @brazil_thriller. You can visit The Burning Hill website and find A.D. Flint on Facebook.

Dead Inside by Noelle Holten


It’s a true pleasure to be participating in the paperback blog tour for Dead Inside by Noelle Holten today, because not only is she an absolute delight to know, as well as being a cracking author, but blog tour organiser Sarah Hardy of Books on the Bright Side publicity was one of the first fellow bloggers I met in person, so both these ladies have a special place in my blogging life.

Already available in e-book, Dead Inside is published in paperback today, 22nd August 2019, by One More Chapter and is available for purchase here.

Dead Inside


‘Hugely confident … harrowing, visceral … recommended’ Ian Rankin

‘Kept me hooked’ Angela Marsons

‘An excellent read’ Martina Cole

‘Gritty, dark and chilling’ Mel Sherratt

A dark and gripping debut crime novel – the first in a stunning series – from a huge new talent.

The killer is just getting started…

When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.

And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?

My Review of Dead Inside

Starting a new job for DC Maggie Jamieson could be a case of out of the frying pan…

Dead Inside surprised me. I was expecting a gritty and visceral story which indeed it it as times, but I hadn’t reckoned on the absolutely fascinating insight into multi-agency working, or domestic abuse and its consequences that Noelle Holten presents so utterly convincingly. Here is a writer who understands and manages to convey disturbingly realistically what it is like to present a public persona of confidence whilst simultaneously being dead inside. I felt Dead Inside had a depth I wasn’t expecting and reading it has made me look anew at society so that I feel I am less naive and accepting after reading this book. Not only do I understand the impact of domestic abuse better, I understand the reasons for it too much more clearly.

That sensitivity acknowledged, there’s a fast paced and gripping story to enjoy. Dead Inside opens with a violent and dramatic prologue that sets the tone for many of the successive scenes in the narrative. Whilst there is considerable violence sometimes very graphically described, as well as a liberal use of expletives, I never felt any of it was gratuitous. Noelle Holten conveys the reality of the people in her story very vividly. I loved the short chapters because the book’s structure adds to the pace brilliantly.

Initially it took me a while to remember who all the characters were but as this is the first in a new series of books where many need to be established, I think that is to be expected and, because they are clearly drawn, flawed and very human, I soon worked out who was who. I especially liked the fact that DC Maggie Jamieson isn’t fully revealed in Dead Inside. We are given snippets about her and hints for the future that are clever hooks and have left me wanting to know more about her.

The person I was most intrigued by was Lucy. Ostensibly a successful career woman, she has an abusive home life that she manages to conceal so well that her part of the narrative got me wondering about people I have known and worked with in the past. I found that not only was I being entertained by Noelle Holten’s writing, I was being made to think too.

I thought Dead Inside was the perfect start to a new series. I already have characters I care about and want to see more of in future books. I was enlightened and educated by Noelle Holten’s writing, but what’s more, I was entertained by a great story too. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dead Inside, in spite of its sensitive subject.

About Noelle Holton


Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at She is the PR and Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, author-stalking and sharing the #booklove via her blog.

Dead Inside is her debut novel with Killer Reads/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

For more information about Noelle, follow her on Twitter @nholten40, find her on Facebook, Amazon and visit her blog.

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The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge by Julie Stock

The bistro-cover-FINAL copy

Having met lovely Julie Stock in real life at the first ever Deepings Literary Festival a couple of years ago when we had tea with Erica James, it was lovely to catch up with her at this year’s festival when, along with Lizzie Lamb, Julie was one of our speakers. Julie spoke so eloquently about her forthcoming novel The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge that I simply couldn’t resist being part of her blog tour, particularly as she encouraged me to get on with my own writing too. I’d like to thank Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate.

Not only do I have my review of The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge to share with you today, but there is a smashing giveaway for UK readers to enter at the bottom of this blog post too.

The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge is available for purchase on Amazon UK and  Amazon US.

The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge

The bistro-cover-FINAL copy

When Olivia goes to manage Finn’s failing bistro, will they end up sharing a table for two, or will it be a recipe for disaster?

Olivia Fuller longs to manage one of the restaurants in her father’s chain and to break free to live the independent life she’s wanted for so long. When her father finally puts his trust in her and sends her to a failing restaurant in Devon, she’s confident she can prove herself capable of doing the job.

Finn Anderson is about to lose his beloved seaside bistro, unless the bank can find a buyer to dig him out. When George Fuller offers Finn a deal, he has no choice but to accept if he wants any chance of getting his bistro back one day. And then the new manager arrives…

Even after meeting the prickly chef and discovering his complete lack of business skills,

Olivia is confident she can turn the struggling business round. But as Olivia and Finn start working together, a mutual attraction develops between them, and soon, nothing is going according to Olivia’s plan.

When there’s a real chance that the bistro might be sold off, Olivia and Finn determine to fight for it, united by their hard work and their growing feelings for each other.

But can they save the bistro and be together, or does destiny have a different path in mind?

A feel-good contemporary romance set in a bistro beside the sea in Devon.

My Review of The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge

Olivia’s first opportunity to prove herself within her father’s business may bring more challenges than she anticipated.

What a lovely, uplifting and escapist story Julie Stock has written here.

There’s a real warmth in The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge so that, although there are doubts and difficulties experienced by the characters, the reader feels assured that the outcomes will be positive. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story develops, and actually found it surprisingly feminist even though it is a romantic tale. Olivia has had to prove herself in what is a very male dominated corporate world and hold her own in a new environment. She may fall in love along the way but she’s certainly no push over and I appreciated her feisty character that made me support her all the way. She’s by no means perfect, being as stubborn as her father and occasionally hasty so that she felt all the more real. I found Finn very appealing and the cast of minor characters gave me people I liked and vehemently disliked so that in this microcosm of Julie Stock’s story it felt as if a much wider world was represented making for a hugely entertaining read.

I so enjoyed the themes woven into the The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge too. The perils of running a small business, guilt, loss, the sense of local community, corporate greed, sexism and family relationships all feature as well as romance at the heart of the story. This provided such rich texture to an already highly entertaining story in an absorbing plot.

The Devon setting is delightful. Descriptions made me want to get in the car and drive there immediately. I’m hoping there will be more to come about the characters in The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge as I feel as if I’ve been introduced to people and a place I want to know more about.

The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge is a lovely read. It took me away from the cares of life and made me feel happy. Smashing stuff.

About Julie Stock

DSCN8886 - Version 2

Julie Stock writes contemporary feel-good romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace in March 2017. Over You (Sam’s Story) and Finding You (Jenna’s Story), her follow-up novellas to From Here to Nashville were published in 2018, making the From Here to You series complete. She has also published a boxed set of the From Here to You trilogy of books. Julie’s latest novel, The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge, is out now.

You can find out more about Julie via her website , by finding her on Facebook or following her on Twitter @wood_beez48. Julie is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

If you’d like to sign up to Julie’s newsletter list, you can do so here.  As a thank you, you’ll be able to download Before You, the prequel story to the From Here to You series, for free.

When she is not writing, she works in communications. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

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The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridget Full Tour Banner


The Bistro Giveaway Prize

Win a signed copy of The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge and goodies (UK Only)

The prize will contain:

A signed paperback copy of The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge

Notebook with a The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge front cover.

The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge postcard magnet.

The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge bookmark

A bag of Devon fudge

For your chance to in these lovely goodies please click here.

Please note that this giveaway is run independently of Linda’s Book Bag and that I will not retain your details, nor am I responsible for the dispatch of the prize.

Moments by Daphne Denley


I’m rather partial to poetry so when Daphne Denley got in touch to ask if I’d like a copy her autobiographical collection of verse Moments I had to say that I would!

Moments will be published by Crumps Barn Studio on 29th August 2019 and is available for pre-order here.



This collection of poems is an autobiography in verse. In turns heartfelt, familiar and beautifully observed, Daphne explores each of life’s Moments – and in the process shows us how, even in the worst of times, hope can return in the end.

My Review of Moments

A collection of personal poems on all aspects of life.

Although I think the structure of these personal and touching poems in Moments won’t appeal to all readers, I found it incredibly interesting. Daphne Denley’s syntax is frequently truncated, reflecting the speed with which life goes by, as if there wasn’t time to add in pronouns or articles that would make the words easier to read and more flowing. I thought this was a brilliant technique, as it not only conveyed the emotions within the poems, but I had to read more carefully to follow the author’s meaning and thereby gained a greater insight to Daphne Denley’s work and her life. I loved the fact she made me think and work quite hard because it gave greater gravitas to her words. I also appreciated the many questions in the poems as the writer struggles to come to terms with what is happening in her life and to her husband.

As so many aspects of life – from simply looking at clouds to more complex personal issues like health and bullying and greater global concerns, such as the power of the planet – are subjects of these poems, there is something in Moments for every reader. When I read Stress, for example, it felt as if Daphne Denley had dived into my head and conveyed exactly what was happening in my own life at that point. I have to confess to being rather undone by that particular piece.

At the risk of being accused of sexism, I do think these poems will resonate more with women than men. Equality? for example, where the voice feels as if she has created a rod for her own back by trying to prove she can be all things to all people is something several women of a certain age will relate to most strongly.

Moments is an interesting and frequently moving collection, but also one with a powerful message. Daphne Denley encourages her readers to be themselves and to make the most of every moment building positive memories for the future. What could be better than that?

About Daphne Denley

Daphne Denley portrait_sml

Like many of us, Daphne Denley is a fully signed-up apprentice of mid-life mayhem. She is a mother trying to adjust to her daughter’s grown up tastes. And she is a loving wife who has had her life turned upside down by her husband’s devastating diagnosis.

You can follow Daphne on Twitter @DaphneDenley.

The Times and The Sunday Times 70th Anniversary Cheltenham Literature Festival


Thanks to Midas PR, I’m very excited to bring Linda’s Book Bag readers details of The Times and The Sunday Times 70th Anniversary Cheltenham Literature Festival which takes place from 4th to 13th October 2019.

About The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival


The world’s first literature festival celebrates its 70th birthday in 2019. It still leads the way in celebrating the written and spoken word, presenting the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers, while inspiring over 9,000 school children with a love of books through its Literature for Schools programme. All set in a beautiful Regency town with free pop-up events galore and festivities continuing late into the night.

Cheltenham Literature Festival is a charity delivering a pioneering year-round educational programme including its flagship Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils outreach project which is being rolled out nationally this year enabling teachers and their pupils to rediscover the joy of reading. The award-winning Beyond Words is a creative writing project working with vulnerable young people unable to access mainstream education in Gloucestershire. Cheltenham Festivals supports Amnesty International in the development of Words That Burn, a national human rights poetry project, and develops new talent with programmes such as Write Now, a unique mentoring, workshop and networking project that nurtures young people’s creative writing abilities.

Details of the full programme can be found here.

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is delighted to announce the unmissable line up for 2019, marking the 70th anniversary of the world’s oldest literature festival, which is leading the way in engendering a love of reading in young people.

The Festival will bring more than 900 of the best writers, thinkers and performers of our time to the vibrant Regency town, setting the scene for once-in-a-lifetime conversations to take place over ten extraordinary days of unique experiences, critical debate and literary revelry.

From 4 – 13 October, the Festival Village will host an unparalleled literary line-up including this year’s recipient of The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, Colm Tóibín, the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, the highly anticipated Booker shortlist, as well as the most exciting emerging talent on the scene.  Dynamic debut novelists include Candice Carty-Williams, Ronan Hession, Elizabeth Macneal, Jessica Andrews and Season Butler as well as the Festival’s showcases of the best new writing in Fiction at 7, Debuts and Cocktails and Proof Parties.

As part of the ‘Seven at Seventy’ anniversary celebrations the Festival welcomes Chris Tse, Kanako Nishi and a raft of international authors to the Cheltenham stage, as well as showcasing unearthed archive audio content, introducing a literary audio trail of Cheltenham, and street art courtesy of Cheltenham Paint Festival on the theme ‘Hurrah for Books’.

There will be up-to-the-minute political analysis fresh from the party conference season courtesy of David Cameron and David Lammy, with The Times debate – joined by Jess Phillips and Rory Stewart – questioning the future of our political parties, and The Sunday Times considering White House contenders with Adam Boulton and Sarah Baxter.

From current affairs to food, history to fashion, sport to art, science to travel, the Festival guarantees something for everyone with the fun extending long after dark with the eclectic Off The Page series of curated events, including a Game of Thrones quiz night, US story-telling sensation The Moth, jazz and poetry fusion group Tongue Fu, an evening celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell and a vibrant spoken word strand. And for one night only the irreverent Lit Crawl returns to take over the streets, pubs and bars of Cheltenham.

The perfect family day out, this year’s Festival includes a packed programme of world class authors and illustrators to inspire toddlers to teens, with The Woodland Trust Wild Wood filled with beloved characters, storytellers and activities, plus a Secret Seven Mystery Trail celebrating 70 years of the world’s favourite detective club. The Festival’syear-round education programmes, inspiring a love of reading and creative writing, also culminates in October with 9,000 school children on site taking part in Literature for Schools.

New partner Sky Arts will broadcast across the final week with live coverage, interviews and events from a bespoke Sky Arts Studio on site. The venue will be a free pop-in space where festival attendees can be part of the filming and take part in other creative activities. Elsewhere on site there will be free events for all ages around the Festival village, The Huddle, hosting an array of talks and brains teasers, including Daily Crossword, Cheltenham Writes and Very Short Introductions, and The Chatterbox, where guests can become secret agents by decoding mysterious messages around the Festival.

Booking for the Literature Festival opens to Cheltenham Festivals Members at 10am on Wednesday 28 August and general booking opens at 10am on Wednesday 4 September.

Featured speakers include:















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This year marks 70 years since Cheltenham Town Hall hosted the world’s first literature festival and started a global, cultural phenomenon. As part of ‘Seven at Seventy’ celebrations, the Festival welcomes Guest Curators Max PorterYomi Adegoke & Elizabeth UviebinenéDominic SandbrookTessa HadleyAnthony AnaxagorouLeslie Vinjamuri; and Robin Stevens. Lending their unique voices and wealth of expertise to the programme, events include Sandbrook’s selection of the seven most influential British novels of the last 70 years, Anaxagorou’s rising stars in poetry and spoken word, a series of mystery events by Stevens, and a curated acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today from Max Porter.

Seven high profile authors will be reflecting on their breakout book in a special series of Cheltenham trademark ‘Celebrate With…’ events: Howard Jacobson on The Finkler QuestionRobert Harris on Fatherland; Jessie Burton on The Miniaturist; Herman Koch on The DinnerTracy Chevalier on The Girl With a Pearl EarringAlexander McCall Smith on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; and Jung Chang on Wild Swans. There will also be seven showcases celebrating new writing talent, including Jessica Andrews and Ronan Hession, as well as looking ahead to the breakout names for 2020 such as Deepa Anappara and Evie Wyld.

Literature festivals around the world have joined the celebration bringing their leading authors to Cheltenham including Chris Tse, Wana UdobangKanako NishiEsme WangNicole FlatterySarah Henstra and Hernán Ronsino. The celebration of international literature continues with 70 global book festivals recommending one title they would like Cheltenham audiences to add to their bookshelves to form a ‘Reading the World’ reading list.

Building on last year’s inaugural ‘Podcast in Residence’ role, Literary Friction take on the 2019 residency and there will be seven unique podcasts featuring archive audio content from the past seventy years, as well as partnerships with seven further bookish podcasts. 



Fiction fans will be spoilt for choice with a stellar line-up of literary superstars including Colm Tóibín, Ian McEwan, David Nicholls, Jung Chang, Ali Smith, Elif Shafak, Jojo Moyes, and Bernardine Evaristo. The Cheltenham audience will enjoy a celebration of the biggest books of the year such as Candice Carty-Williams (Queenie), Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory), Bridget Collins (The Binding) and Damian Barr (You Will Be Safe Here) as well as new reads from Howard Jacobson, Victoria Hislop, Kevin Barry, Jessie Burton. George AlagiahTom Bradby and Peter Hanington will draw upon their frontline experience to share fiction as thrilling as their day jobs, Richard Roper and Beth O’Leary celebrate feel-good fiction, Deborah Moggach and Jenny Éclair examine the baggage of inheritance and family ties, Chris Power and Sarah Hall will reveal the art of the short story, plus last year’s Guest CuratorSebastian Faulks becomes our latest literary castaway as he returns with ‘Desert Island Reads’. There will also be the opportunity to hear from The Times and The Sunday Times Literary Editors, Robbie Millen and Andrew Holgate.

The Festival welcomes a host of killer women at the top of the crime and thriller genre including Patricia CornwellLouise DoughtyOyinkan BraithwaiteDenise Mina and Erin Kelly, with Jessica Fellowes and Kate Weinbergdiscussing the secrets to plot a thrilling mystery. For further suspense, Alex North and CJ Tudor explore the dark side of human nature; Herman Koch and Louise Candlish discuss the appeal of writing toxic characters; the husband and wife writing duos behind pseudonyms Nicci French and Ambrose Parry will be revealedand masters of the genre Mark Billingham, Christopher Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Stewart Neville and Luca Veste discuss the future of the crime writing.

There is also plenty for historical fiction fans, including Philippa Gregory on her period page-turner Tidelands, Tracy Chevalier on her beautifully orchestrated new book, A Single Thread, set between the two Great Warsas well as Robert Harris (The Second Sleep), Stacey Halls (The Familiars) and Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale).



From George Eliot to Orwell, Chaucer to the Moomins, we are celebrating some of our most-loved classics as well as revealing the answers to burning questions such as: who are literature’s worst parents, which dystopian thrillers are most relevant now, and can words still pack a punch in the age of Twitter with Simon Schama. BBC Radio 2’s Book Club with Mariella Frostrup and guests will be exploring how novels have always been a revolutionary agent of social change ahead of the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and Tessa Hadley, Colm Tóibín and Bernardine Evaristo are explaining the pleasures and motivations of re-reading.

Acclaimed actors Christopher Eccleston and Sheila Hancock will be joining Allie Esiri to celebrate Shakespeare’s dazzling body of work, actress Maureen Lipman remembers the inimitable Joyce Grenfell and her Hurrah for Booksperformance at the first ever Cheltenham Literature Festival in 1949, Kathy O’ShaughnessyJuliette Atkinson and Rebecca Mead mark George Eliot’s bicentenary by delving into her fascinating life and work, plus Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia Jansson will share readings from the intimate letters of the beloved Moomins creator. Lara Prescott is joined by Boris Pasternak’s great niece Anna Pasternak to discuss the startling true story behind one of literature’s most memorable love stories Doctor Zhivago, and the Festival celebrates the life and writing of the much-loved literary figure Patrick O’Brian with his step-son Nikolai Tolstoy.



The Festival is thrilled to welcome a multitude of music superstars including the masterful Andrew Lloyd Webber, Blondie legend Debbie Harry, Status Quo front-man and founder Francis Rossi and WHAM’s Andrew Ridgeley who will reflect on his life-long friendship with George Michael. Mark Radcliffe shares how music can transform our lives, Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis reveals the untold stories from the festival and there will be an evening of musical magic to celebrate Joni Mitchell.

Screen icon Helena Bonham Carter will discuss her exceptional and singular career, and there will be secrets from behind the scenes with Richard Curtis discussing his love of The BeatlesOscar-winning Dustin Lance Black on his deeply personal story of coming out to his Mormon mother, plus screenwriter Julian Fellowes and producer Gareth Neame on the much-loved Downton AbbeyDick Clement and Ian La Frenais, creators of beloved comediesPorridge and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet will look back on their long careers, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper will discuss the BAFTA winning success of This Country, David Suchet will reflect on a career spent behind the camera, and beloved documentary maker Louis Theroux will share his strangest times in television. Comic Relief co-founderLenny Henry will be leading the laughs, with more to come from the likes of David MitchellRichard AyoadeKaty Brand and Paul Merton.



In an exclusive Festival commission, Guest Curator Max Porter brings together Kerry Hudson, Niven Govinden, Momtaza Mehri and Rachael Allen with musicians Alula Down to create an acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today. Guest Curator, poet and Out-Spoken founder Anthony Anaxagorou presents his Dream Team of Mona Arshi, Jack Underwood, Caroline Bird, Wayne Holloway-Smith and Kei Miller. The Cheltenham audience will hear from further vibrant voices in the poetry and spoken work scene including Rob AutonMatt Abbott, Ben Norris, Rachel Nwokoro, Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola, alongside Chris Tse, Paul Muldoon, Brian Bilston, Pam AyresJulia CopusJoe Dunthorne, new Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, and Scottish Makar Jackie Kay will be selecting her top ten of the most exciting BAME writers working in the UK today. The literary revelry continues after dark with a Game of Thrones Quiz Night, music from the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, some wonderfully and wildly misinformed insight from character comedian Christopher Bliss, and more from the much-lauded Bang Said The GunTongue Fu and The Moth.



David Cameron will appear in the first event for his memoir For the Record, discussing his life, career and perspectives on the EU referendum and the future of Britain’s place in the light of Brexit. Joining Cameron on the exceptional Current Affairs line-up is David LammyJess Phillips, Caroline Criado-PerezJames O’Brien, Gina Martin, Laura Bates, Nimko Ali, The Times editor John Witherow, The Times and The Sunday Times journalistsDaniel Finkelstein, Rachel Sylvester, Matt Chorley, Sarah Baxter and Phillip Collins, with a glimpse behind the broadcast scenes from Emily MaitlisJohn HumphrysNick Robinson and Ed Stourton.

The Festival looks outwards to Erdogan’s Turkey with Hannah Lucinda Smith and novelist Elif Shafak, to Trump’s America and his approach to global affairs with Chatham House’s Leslie Vinjamuri, to China and opportunities for women with Carrie Grace, the challenges India faces with Robin Niblett and Champa Patel; and to Putin’s Russia with Mark Galeotti, Peter Pomeranstev, and BBC Newsnight International Editor Gabriel Gatehouse.

Mostly Lit podcast host Derek Owusu and Jeffrey Boakye consider the experience of black men in Britain today, and Guest Curators Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené explore how it feels to be a black woman in a predominantly white space. Anthony Anaxagorou is joined by Mariam Khan and Chimene Suleyman to discuss how art and activism can be best combined to create positive social change, Jérôme Tubiana, David Constantine and Hashi Mohamed explore astounding accounts of human endurance and faith against overwhelming odds and terrible injustice, and Aeham Ahmad will be playing the piano on stage as he shares memories of performing in the streets of war-torn Syria.


Colin+Grant+Homecoming c. Dominic Martlew-S

Moving individual stories of the Windrush generation will be shared from Colin Grant and Amelia Gentleman, literary critic Bart Van Es and biographer and historian Jeremy Dronfield will chronicle how the trauma of the holocaust gave rise to astonishing stories of courage and survival, plus there will be further historical insight from Guest Curator Dominic Sandbrook, William DalrympleGiles Milton with Anthony Seldon and polling expert Deborah Mattinson asking who was the most disastrous prime minister in British history. Virginia Nicholsonconsiders the experience of women in the 60s, The Favourite author Ophelia Field and Anne Somerset explore Queen Anne’s life, and the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth II is given a fresh take by author, historian and television presenter Kate Williams, plus novelist Katie Hickman will reveal the extraordinary lives of the British women who made their way to India and changed history. For ancient history aficionados, Mary Beard and Llewellyn Morgan will join author and classicist Peter Stothard to celebrate the power of Roman poetry on lifestyle and philosophy, whilst Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Daisy Johnson and Natalie Haynes will explore how we relate to myths in the modern life.


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Cheltenham’s famous Art Deco restaurant The Daffodil will be transformed into a mecca of global foodie delights. Audiences will be transported around the world with mouth-watering Middle Eastern recipes from Yasmin Khan, sumptuous Moorish cooking courtesy of Ben TishDishoom chef Naved Nasir and co-founder Shamil Thakrarcooking up a feast of Indian delight, and native Russian flavours from Alissa Timoshkina. Festival favourite Tom Kerridge will be sharing his foodie tips for a happier lifestyle and Valentine Warner records his journey through grief told in recipes of love and memories. There will be flavour mash-ups from Bake Off’s Liam CharlesRukmini Iyer(The Quick Roasting Tin) will demonstrate the art of hassle-free cooking, Pam Corbin shares her pioneering jams, pickles and preserves and there will vegan delights from Rachel Ama (Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats) plus Henry Firthand Ian Theasby Johnson (BOSH). Plus, Jancis Robinson (The World Atlas of Wine) will be revealing the art of pairing a delicious three-course meal with matched wines.


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Queer Eye will meet Bake Off with Tan France and Nadiya Hussain discussing their upbringings and new memoirs and Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer will talk life, friendship and the joys of fishing. Comedian Jen Brister (The Other Mother), Christine Armstrong (The Mother of All Jobs) and Matt Coyne (Man Vs Toddler) will share hilarious anecdotes and chart the ups and downs of sharing life with tiny humans.

Emily Dean and confirmed cat lover David Baddiel will be discussing tales of grief and recovery, The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen will share tales from the farm, and Jordan Stephens, Clementine Inti Chavez Perez andCapser Walsh will discuss what it means to be a man in society today. Tom BradbyMarina Benjamin and sleep scientist Nicola Barclay will anatomise the cause, consequence and potential cures for insomnia, plus Guest Curators and authors Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené (Slay in Your Lane), vegan chef Rachel Ama, pilates and wellness coach Isa-Welly and Amy Thomson will help the audience strike the perfect balance in our busy lives, ranging from our approaches to digital health, to what we eat.

There will be gardening tips galore from Anne Chambers, Vanessa Berridge, Clare Foster, Rowan Blossom andCaroline Donald, and the doyenne of English interior design, Nina Campbell, will impart her wisdom. Lovers of classic fashion will be taken on a beautifully illustrated tour through the V+A’s blockbuster DIOR exhibition by curator Oriole Cullen and Condé Nast chairman Nicholas Coleridge will reflect upon his thirty-year career. There will be an exploration of feminist art and fashion from V&A curator Jenny Lister and drag queen Crystal Rasmussen and drag king Daisy Hale will explain how the art of pushing gender boundaries has taken hold of pop culture. The Times Fashion Editor Anna Murphy advises on how not to wear black and three of the country’s top names in beauty – facialist Alexandra Soveral, make-up artist Hannah Martin and hair stylist Kiki Koh – will be on hand.


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A host of sporting legends will grace the stages of Cheltenham this year kicking off with Welsh rugby titan Sam Warburton, and for cricket fans there will be England’s greatest batsman Alastair Cook, plus Prashant Kidambi and Philip Collins. The Festival will celebrate inspirational women who have pushed themselves to the limits of their endurance, including record-breaking ultra-running phenomenon Mimi Anderson, the first woman to complete the infamous Transcontinental Race, Emily Chappell and Lara Prior-Palmer, the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win The Mongol Derby.


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This year’s Art & Design series explores everything from the architecture to illustration, including a very special discussion about Lucian Freud with his daughter Esther Freud, revered British illustrator Charlie Mackesy on his favourite pieces, Turner Prize-nominated artist Tai Shani celebrates rebel female muses, and ‘Cold War Steve’ Chris Spencer explains why we need satirical art now more than ever. Grant Wilson and Naomi Wood will examine the Bauhaus movement’s cast of characters in its centenary year, Andrew Hill and Emilie Taylor take a look at Ruskin’s contemporary legacy, and Jason Webster and Claudia Hopkins show how Spanish art is inescapably intertwined with the country’s turbulent history. Kate Bryan shares the dazzling and explosive stories behind some of art’s most influential romantic relationships, Ossian Ward illuminates the Old Masters as well as the dramatic vibrancy of contemporary art, Marit Paasche and Clare Hunter recognise the political and protest power of sewing, Jackie Bennett studies the intimate relationship between artist and garden, plus Angela Summerfield and Christiana Payne look at the role of trees in inspiring some of our greatest artworks.


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The Cheltenham audience will find enlightenment and fascination in all schools of philosophical thought, with Richard Dawkins expanding further on atheism in Outgrowing GodPeter Stanford exploring the reasons behind why so many of us still believe in angels, and historian Tom Holland describes Christianity’s transformative legacy on Western thought. Author Karen Armstrong will argue the importance of rediscovering global scriptures, and A.C Grayling will take the audience through the epic journey’s and traditions of Western and Eastern philosophy – from Buddha, Confucius and Socrates to Mill, Nietzsche and Sartre.



In this year’s Science line-up, Martin Rees offers a provocative and inspiring look at the future of humanity, andArthur I. Miller contemplates on what it means to have original thought, creativity and consciousness in the age of machines. Rick Edwards and Michael Brooks will explore the science of death and mass destruction through some of our best-loved Hollywood blockbusters, and Angela Gallop, one of the world’s most eminent forensic scientists, will discuss her ability to reconstruct violent events and how she solved so many intractable cases. David Nottshares his extraordinary experience as a trauma surgeon in the world’s most dangerous war zones, Christie Watsonreflects on twenty years in nursing, and Nicci Gerrard alongside Wendy Mitchell ask important questions about how we love, care for and value those who suffering from dementia.


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An inspirational list of speakers will share their unique journeys including Sue Perkins on the Mekong, Adam Weymouth on his solo canoe odyssey along the Yukon River, Raynor Winn will revisit her 630-mile walk on the South West Coastal path, comedian Dom Joly will trace his hike across Lebanon, and Monisha Rajesh will recount her 45,000-mile adventure on the world’s most remarkable railways. Great historical adventures will be retraced by travel writer Alastair Humphreys who reflects on Laurie Lee’s iconic journey from the Cotswolds through Spain, and author and filmmaker Jacki Hill-Murphy recounts the achievements of early female explorers including Victorian nurse Kate Marsden’s epic trip across Siberia.

BAFTA winning naturalist, writer and television presenter Steve Backshall will share his exploration of undiscovered worlds and former British Army Officer and explorer Levison Wood will whisk the audience through the heart of Middle East. Writer Luke Turner  and journalist Emma Mitchell will demonstrate the healing power of nature, editorClare Gogerty and explorer Erling Kagge will show us how to travel in a way that enhances your connection to the world, adventurers Mark Boyle and Ben Fogle will explore the joys without modern technology, plus writers Philip Marsden and Dan Richards will discuss fulfilling life-long travel ambitions and why we remain drawn to the wild, and The Sunday Times travel team, including Susan D’Arcy, will be sharing their expert knowledge.



Activist, journalist and curator Scarlett Curtis will be joined by an exciting line-up of inspirational contributors from her new anthology It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies) to discuss what their mental health means to them; Chief Survival Instructor to the British Military, John Hudson, gives lessons for everyday life taken from the first-hand accounts of near disaster experiences; Matthew Syed shares his radical blueprint for creative problem-solving; Ella Risbridger and Bella Mackie share how alternative therapies of cooking and jogging helped them in their mental health recoveries; and YouTubers Hannah Witton, Khalaf and Instagram star Megan Jayne Crabbe encourage discussions about body image, imperfections and being confident in your own skin.



The packed Family programme has more selection on offer than ever including the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, with a world of mythical creatures and a special event with festival friends revealing what lies inside their notebook pages. The incredible programme also welcomes the legendary Malorie Blackman and her highly anticipated new Noughts & Crosses novel, presenter Dermot O’Leary and illustrator Nick East with the latest escapades of Toto the Ninja Cat, and some horrendously horrid fun with Francesca Simon. There will be crime capers with Guest Curator Robin Stevens, adventures galore with Helen Skelton, Abi Elphinstone and Candy Gourlay, plus much more from the likes of Danny Wallace, Dougie Poynter and Konnie Huq.

For littles ones there will be family fun with multi-award winning Oi Puppies! duo Kes Gray and Jim Field, and the Festival will be marking the birthdays of some famous characters including Kipper, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Elmer, as well as the 30th anniversary of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt with the great Michael Rosen. There will be family shows I Believe in Unicorns, The Rainbow Fish, The Greatest Comic-Making Show On Earth and Maisy Mouse, for spoken word and music lovers the Tongue Fu for Kids band will be performing, while Mark Llewelyn Evans introduces the thrilling story of opera.

Budding young creatives can take top tips from the best in the business with workshops on everything from fairy-tale animation to writing adventures and detective move making. Plus the Festival is hosting its first ever ‘Big Family Book Quiz’ to challenge book knowledge, creativity and nonsense know-how! And if that’s not enough for YA fansJuno Dawson, Holly Bourne, Matt Abbott, Jenny Downham and Dean Atta will be taking to the Cheltenham stage.


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This year’s extraordinary ‘Literature for Schools’ programme includes Cressida CowellFrancesca Simon, Chris Riddell, Hilary McKay, Kit De WaalKiran Millwood Hargrave and Anthony Anaxagorou amongst many others, including Guest Curator Robin Stevens leading a series of mystery events. Spoken word artist Sophia Thakur will be performing with students from the Festivals’ year-round outreach programmes – Beyond Words, Write Now and Amnesty’s Words that Burn – in the Young Writers’ Showcase, and authors taking part in Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils – the Festival’s flagship education project supporting teachers with a national network of free reading groups – will be igniting creativity with workshops from Vashti HardyJoe Todd-Stanton and Emma Carroll. Plus the first of the new books selected for the 2019/20 programme will be revealed during the Festival!


Title Partners: The Times and The Sunday Times

Principal Partners: Baillie Gifford; Cunard; Sky Arts; Thirty Percy, University of Gloucestershire; Waterstones. Woodland Trust.

About The Times
The Times, founded in 1785, is Britain’s most trusted newspaper and the UK’s number one quality daily newspaper. A premium brand recognised world over, The Times is the home of authoritative, credible, and award-winning journalism.

At the 2019 Press Awards The Times was named Daily Newspaper of the Year, The Times Magazine won Magazine of the Year, T2 was chosen as Supplement of the Year, Columnist of the Year for Deborah Ross, Foreign Reporter of the Year to Anthony Loyd, and chief reporter Sean O’Neill won both Scoop of the Year for his investigation into Oxfam and News Reporter of the Year.

About The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times, founded in 1822, is Britain’s best-selling quality newspaper. It celebrated its 10,000th edition in May 2016 and has won a clutch of awards for its Insight team investigations unit, its foreign reporting and its magazine features and interviews, in particular.

At the 2019 Press Awards The Sunday Times won Sunday Newspaper of the Year, the political editor Tim Shipman was named both the Political Reporter of the Year and Political Commentator of the Year, and Decca Aitkenhead was selected as Interviewer of the Year.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it?

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurin


When a copy of Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain dropped through my letterbox as surprise post I loved the look of it and meant to read it weeks ago – not least because our honeymoon was in Paris and we returned for our silver wedding too. Sadly life got in the way but I’m so pleased I finally got to it. My enormous thanks to the folk at EDPR for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Vintage 1954 is available for purchase in all the usual places as well as directly from the publisher, Gallic Books, here.

Vintage 1954


When Hubert Larnaudie invites some fellow residents of his Parisian apartment building to drink an exceptional bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, he has no idea of its special properties.

The following morning, Hubert finds himself waking up in 1950s Paris, as do antique restorer Magalie, mixologist Julien, and Airbnb tenant Bob from Milwaukee, who’s on his first trip to Europe. After their initial shock, the city of Edith Piaf and An American in Paris begins to work its charm on them. The four delight in getting to know the French capital during this iconic period, whilst also playing with the possibilities that time travel allows.

But, ultimately, they need to work out how to get back to 2017, and time is of the essence…

My Review of Vintage 1954

An unlikely group of people sample a 1954 vintage wine that leads to unusual consequences.

Vintage 1954 is a little cracker of a book. It’s curious mix of the slightly quirky avant garde, balanced alongside a traditional fairy tale style with humour and romance added to the mix, that makes it an utter delight. I found it warm, witty and very entertaining. I actually found it difficult to accept that this is a work in translation because of the smooth and flawless text.

I really enjoyed the slightly fantastical plot and the manner in which the past echoes in the present in Vintage 1954.  I thought the conceits of time travel, UFOs and science that underpin this book were handled with astute, yet slightly tongue in cheek, perception so that I found myself smiling much of the time as I read.

However, it was characterisation that so held me transfixed. Whilst the human figures are warm, well crafted and endearing – as too are the dogs – and I loved them all, it is Paris that totally captivates the reader. In Vintage 1954 Paris is not a setting; it is a living, breathing entity from 1954. Brought alive by historical, social and political references as well as the peppering of real people, it is the descriptions of the very essence of Paris that are such a joy. Reading this slim book placed me at the heart of that wonderful city with such vivid charm that I felt immersed in a bygone era. It is as if Antoine Laurain his distilled the whole of Paris into his writing.

I also found the themes beautifully woven throughout. This may be more of a novella than a full novel, but look carefully between the pages and you’ll find national identity, history, faith, love, truth, identity and real value. The manner in which all the perfectly wrought cast find their own truths is so uplifting. Gold and jewels may be elusive, but love and friendship are their own rewards.

I haven’t read Antoine Laurain before and had no idea what to expect, but the quality of the prose, the transporting descriptions, the captivating characters and the unadulterated pleasure I found in Vintage 1954 have made me realise I have missed out. That’s something I need to rectify as soon as I can. Vintage 1954 is a glorious book.

About Antoine Laurain


Antoine Laurain is a novelist, screenwriter, journalist, director and collector of antique keys. A truly born and bred Parisian, after studying film, he began his career directing short films and writing screenplays. His passion for art led him to take a job assisting an antiques dealer in Paris. The experience provided the inspiration for his first novel, The Portrait, winner of the Prix Drouot.

Published on the eve of the French presidential elections of 2012, Antoine’s fairytale-like novel The President’s Hat was acclaimed by critics, readers and booksellers, who awarded it the Prix Landerneau Découvertes. The English translation was a Waterstones Book Club and ABA Indies Introduce pick, and a Kindle Top 5 bestseller. This novel, full of Parisian charm, was the winner of the Prix Relay des Voyageurs, a prize which celebrates the enjoyment of reading. Since then, The President’s Hat has been adapted for television in France.

Antoine’s novels have been translated into 14 languages, including Arabic and Korean. Sales of his books across all formats in English have surpassed 155,000 copies. And The Red Notebook (2015) has become one of Gallic Books’ bestsellers both in the UK and the USA.
Also published: French Rhapsody (2016), The Portrait (2017), Smoking Kills (2018) and Vintage 1954 (2019).

Getting Creative with Alison Bruce


Many of you will recall that I recently wrote a blog post about the Deepings Community Library which is in the running for a financial community award through Persimmon Homes. You can find out all about that here and there’s still time to vote if you haven’t already!

As I explained in that post, the Deepings Library has become the centre of a vibrant bookish community, closely linked with Deepings Literary Festival. So much happens every week but I’m now getting excited about a very special writing workshop with successful crime writer Alison Bruce which is coming up on September 19th in the Deepings Library from 2-5PM.

Having interviewed crime writer Alison Bruce here and listened to the fascinating story of her road to publication here, I’m thrilled that I shall be attending this event with Alison.  She will be leading what is likely to be a fantastic writing workshop covering aspects of character and plot as well as sharing what she has learnt through her writing career.

Although Alison is a crime writer, and you can read my review of one of her books, Cambridge Black, here, I know from first hand experience that she has so much wonderful advice for both emergent and established authors, that writers in all genres will benefit from her expertise. Given that I have been allegedly writing my own novel for some time I’m hoping she will give me the impetus to get it finished!

If you’d like to come along, tickets are £10 including refreshments for the workshop on Thurday September 19th from 2-5 PM at the Deepings Community Library. Call 01778 346528 for more details or to book your place.

You can find all of Alison’s books here, but her latest novel is the psychological thriller, I Did It for Us, published by Little Brown Imprint Constable and available here.

I Did It For Us

i did it for us

From the first time I saw them together I knew it felt wrong. I didn’t like the way he touched her or the self-conscious way he played with Molly and Luke. Joanne saw none of it of course. So I did it to prove to her that she was wrong. I did it for us.

Emily’s instincts tell her that best friend Joanne’s new boyfriend is bad news. Emily fears for Joanne. Fears for Joanne’s children. But Joanne won’t listen because she’s in love. So Emily watches, and waits . . . and then she makes a choice.

But Emily has a past, and secrets too. And is she really as good a friend to Joanne as she claims?

About Alison Bruce

alison bruce

Alison Bruce is the author of eight crime novels and two non-fiction titles. Her first novel, Cambridge Blue (2008), was described by Publishers Weekly as an ‘assured debut’ and introduced both detective, DC Gary Goodhew, and her trademark Cambridge setting. She went on to complete the DC Goodhew series with a further six novels before writing the psychological thriller I Did It for Us.

Alison was born in Croydon and grew up in Wiltshire before moving to Cambridgeshire in 1998. Alison worked as an electroplater, taxi driving and band promoter and spent ten years working in the IT industry before leaving to concentrate on completing her first novel.

Alison is a proud supporter of local libraries and is the patron of Lakenheath Library in Suffolk. Alison teaches creative writing at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.

You can follow Alison on Twitter @Alison_Bruce and visit her website for more information.