One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom

One Winter Morning

I absolutely adore Isabelle Broom’s writing and when a surprise copy of One Winter Morning arrived from the lovely Laura Nichol at Penguin in return for an honest review I genuinely gave a shriek of delight.

You’ll find out why I love Isabelle Broom’s writing if you read my review of My Map of You here, A Year and a Day here and The Place We Met here. Sadly I haven’t yet managed to get to One Thousand Stars and You, but I do have a lovely personally signed copy on my shelf!

Published by Penguin on 17th October 2019, One Winter Morning is available for purchase through the links here.

One Winter Morning

One Winter Morning

Genie isn’t feeling very festive this December.

The frosty mornings and twinkling fairy lights only remind her it’s been a whole year since she lost her adoptive mother, who took her in as a baby and raised her as her own.

She’s never felt more alone – until she discovers her birth mother’s identity.

And where to find her: New Zealand, half the world away.

Travelling there could be her one chance to meet the woman who gave her up.

But will she find the answers she has been looking for? Or something she could never have expected?

My Review of One Winter Morning

Evangeline is not looking forward to Christmas and the anniversary of her adoptive mother’s death.

I knew from the moment I began reading One Winter Morning that Isabelle Broom had created another beautiful, moving and transporting novel. However, there is something that feels extra special about One Winter Morning. I’m not sure quite why, whether it is the sad catalyst for the narrative, the exploration of a grief that feels all too familiar to me, or the first person of Genie’s parts of the story, but there feels as if there is an intangible extra to this book. It has an indefinable quality that felt as if it were wrapping me in invisible tendrils and drawing me in far more than simply just being a reader.

As ever when reading Isabelle Broom’s writing, the sense of place, the vivid and evocative descriptions and the attention to detail mean that the New Zealand setting in One Winter Morning is every bit as strong a character as Tui, Genie, Kit et al. There’s a layered and visual depth that comes from such a skilled writer that made me want to book my flight immediately, even though I’ve never had a desire to visit the country before.

The characters thrum with life and authenticity; Tui in particular. I loved the way she is different and yet placed so naturally and convincingly at the heart of much of the narrative. One Winter Morning may ostensibly be Genie’s story, but every one of the people between its covers is real and knowable. I think it’s the way Isabelle Broom peels back the layers of what makes us who we are and illustrates how we have to find ourselves before we can find others that I found so moving in the characters here. The plot is driven by these people, but in a totally natural manner. There’s nothing here that couldn’t have happened in real life and yet it is written about so warmly, so genuinely and so adeptly that I was entirely wrapped up in the events.

But for me, the main success of One Winter Morning comes not through the great plot, the fabulous people or the wonderful setting, but through the sensitive, honest and humane exploration of the themes. Identity, family, love, disability, grief, healing and so on all combine to make One Winter Morning a book that not only heals Genie, but the reader too. I ended the story feeling as if I’d been given hope and warmth. As if I had found a kind of home, just like Genie.

One Winter Morning is a lovely, lovely book. I adored it and cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Isabelle Broom

isabelle broom

Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts in London before a 12-year stint at Heat magazine. Always happiest when she’s off on an adventure, Isabelle now travels all over the world seeking out settings for her escapist fiction novels, as well as making the annual pilgrimage to her second home – the Greek island of Zakynthos.

Currently based in Suffolk, where she shares a cottage with her two dogs and approximately 467 spiders, Isabelle fits her writing around a busy freelance career and tries her best not to be crushed to oblivion under her ever-growing pile of to-be-read books.

For more information, visit Isabelle’s website. You can also follow her on Twitter @Isabelle_Broom and find her on Facebook.

The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award Shadow Panel


Imagine my surprise and delight when I was asked if I would like to be one of five UK bloggers to shadow The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award and decide on a blogger winner at the same time as the award is judged and decided by writers Kate Clancy, Victoria Hislop and The Sunday Times Literary Editor, Andrew Holgate. I was utterly thrilled to be asked.

The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award

young writer award logo 2019

The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award is awarded for a full-length published or self-published (in book or ebook formats) work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, by an author aged 18 – 35 years. The winner receives £5,000, and there are three prizes of £500 each for runners-up. The winning book will be a work of outstanding literary merit.

You can find out all about The Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award, including past winners, here.

Although I’m not allowed to tell you the shortlisted books yet I can say that they all look stunning and I think the shadow panel will have its work cut out to decide a winner! I’ll be featuring the books here on the blog over the next month.

The Shadow Panel

As well as me here on Linda’s Book Bag, the other shadow panelists include:

Anne Cater, of Random Things Through My Letter Box

David Harris of Blue Book Balloon

Clare Reynolds of Years Of Reading Selfishly

Phoebe Williams of The Brixton Bookworm

You can follow everything about the award on Twitter @youngwriteryear, or by using #YoungWriterAwardShadow to see what the shadow panel is up to! You’ll find us on the Award website too.

I can’t wait to begin reading the shortlisted books. You can join in too from Sunday 3rd November when the books and authors will be announced in The Sunday Times and on the website.

How exciting!

Never One For Promises by Sarah A. Etlinger

Never one for promises

My enormous thanks to Isabelle Kenyon for sending me a copy of Never One For Promises by Sarah A. Etlinger on behalf of Kelsay Books in return for an honest review.

Never One For Promises is available directly from the publisher here and on Amazon.

Never One For Promises

Never one for promises

Never One For Promises examines relationships at a critical moment and offers insight into the connection between relationships and spirituality.

My review of Never One For Promises

A collection of twenty poems.

I’m slightly at a loss to know how to review Never One For Promises by Sarah A. Elinger because the sinuous sophistication and beauty of her language is beyond my vocabulary to describe. I’ve read and reread the poems several times and I thought this collection was utterly outstanding.

Sarah A. Etlinger’s poetic eye is perfectly attuned to life and nature. Her descriptions are glorious, particularly when referring to heat and cold. I loved the way there are many references to various kinds of beats throughout so that I found my own heartbeat and pulse becoming attuned to the rhythm of the poetry. It seems ironic too, that one of the shortest and simplest poems, Moment Before The Storm, I found the most affecting emotionally. That said, without exception, the poems in Never One For Promises reverberate with life, emotion and, I suspect, undercurrents of the poets own beliefs, loves, joys and fears.

Themes of love and insecurity, infidelity, religion and patriarchal society are conveyed by both sensual and sensuous imagery so that I found the poems curiously surprising at the same time as being eerily familiar because they conveyed many of my own thoughts in ways I could never have imagined.  There’s often a wistfulness that I found so moving.

I have to make particular mention of Unpacking The Last Box After Moving In Together. Admittedly it’s one of the longer poems in Never One For Promises, but in just two and a half pages the poet encapsulates more drama and emotion than many a short story I’ve read. Sarah A. Etlinger has an amazing talent.

I loved Never One For Promises. I frequently read and review poetry but the work of Sarah A. Etlinger is amongst the best I’ve encountered. Just wonderful.

About Sarah A. Etlinger


Sarah A. Etlinger holds a Ph.D. in English and works as an English professor. She lives in Milwaukee, WI, with her family (a husband, young son, and cocker spaniel mix). Though she hails from New England, Milwaukee is her adopted home. Her work can be found in many journals and magazines including The Penwood Review, Cliterature, and Little Rose Magazine; and she can be found discussing her work in The Poetry Professors’ podcast (episode 107). Interests other than poetry include cooking, traveling, reading, and learning to play the piano.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @drsaephd. Visit Sarah’s website for further information.

Staying in with Janet Roger on Shamus Dust Publication Day

SHAMUS DUST high-res. Oct 2019

I’m delighted that I have a copy of Shamus Dust by Janet Roger on my TBR as it looks exactly my kind of read. Although I haven’t been able to fit in a review by today’s publication date, I am thrilled to be staying in with Janet today to find out more about Shamus Dust.

Staying in with Janet Roger

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Janet. Thanks for staying in with me.

The pleasure’s mine! Thank you for the invitation.

I rather think I might know the answer to this, but what’s the book you’ve brought to tell us about?

Full spread 2nd printing

Shamus Dust of course – it’s out today.

Happy publication day Janet!

And completely by coincidence, it turns out that October is going to be the 80th birthday of Raymond Chandler’s original Philip Marlowe novel, The Big Sleep. I’ll explain the connection later, but the birthday coincidence really delighted me. It’s been a huge thrill to see many of the early reviews compare Shamus Dust (and I’d better add, favourably) with Chandler.The first review to do that takes pride of place on the book’s back cover! Believe me, for my first attempt at a hardboiled mystery that’s been a rather overwhelming response. It feels as if the book has been autographed by Bogart and Bacall!

How exciting for you. This all sounds very intriguing. Tell me, what can we expect from an evening in with Shamus Dust?

A hardboiled mystery fest from the real noir period! But seriously, setting aside the marvellous Chandler comparisons, there’s a very neat description of Shamus Dust made by a reviewer who says, Imagine Polanski’s masterpiece, Chinatown played out against the bomb sites and grimy alleys of a freezing 1947 London. I really hadn’t thought about those parallels before, but on reflection I do think the reviewer nails it.

You must be delighted with that comment Janet.

Like Chinatown, Shamus Dust unfolds as a dark tale driven by the greed and invulnerability of the powerful. Both involve criminal sexuality. Both are stories of deviant wealth and civic corruption, and both descend into routine murder for the cover-up. Also, both are told as an intimate noir mystery that unravels through the eyes of the gumshoe who’s on the case. The movie, of course (Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway) is fabulous. I’ll mention one more connection. Chinatown’s terrific screenplay –it’s often voted the greatest ever! – is by Robert Towne, an Angeleno himself, who loves Chandler’s lazy, lyrical way with a narrative. So do I, and it was this lyric style above all that I wanted for Shamus Dust. It seemed such an obvious fit for a  story that, after all, is set exactly in those years when the Marlowe novels are at their best.

You have really made me want to get Shamus Dust to the top of my TBR Janet!

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it? 


I brought you some flowers!

How lovely. Thank you!

I’ve long been a confirmed itinerant and travel constantly. All  years are lived in hotel rooms and apartments, in sleeping cars on trains, cabins on ferries and freighters – you name it. And so I do get asked how I ever settle down to writing. The answer is, truly, that I write anywhere I have to. If there’s the luxury of a desk, I’ll pull up a chair. Sometimes my view is simply a blank wall. But there are other times when I get a great big window and a view in front of it that really is worth a photograph (I never ordinarily take photos). This one looks out over Osaka, Japan, and the tulips sitting in the coffee pot made the day just perfect. A lot of my writing spaces, I’d have to say, feature flowers in coffee pots. I’m a godsend for the nearest florist!

I thought that view looked familiar. I’ve been to Osaka and am heading back to Japan again next year. I love travel too!


Now then, because the Christmas season is coming I brought this wonderfully atmospheric photo of Trafalgar Square at Christmastime 1948,taken by N. T. Stobbs. It bowled me over when I first came across it. I love the ghosting lights, and its feel of chill night rain glossing the pavement and hanging on the air. The fountains are familiar, of course, though nowadays that statue of General Gordon is on the Victoria Embankment of the Thames. (Down the road from where I’m writing this, there’s an identical version near Melbourne’s State Parliament House.) In Shamus Dust there’s a scene where the shamus stands under the lit-up tree on Christmas night, watching some GIs fooling in the snow with their girls. In fact, since we’re talking 1947 here, that Christmas tree was the first ever in Trafalgar Square. In that year the city of Oslo shipped a 20-metre Norway spruce to London, in gratitude for support given during the Second World War. It started a tradition that continues to this day. So here’s a thought. If you can’t be in Trafalgar Square one evening this Christmas, take a glass of something warming, settle in with Shamus Dust and stand under the tree lights with the shamus.

That’s a fabulous photograph. I can see why you’re so taken with it. I might just take your advice and read Shamus Dust over the Christmas break!

Roman-mosaic-Boxford (1)

And lastly, something I came across only recently. Archaeology is guaranteed to fascinate me, and what you see is part of a truly unique Roman mosaic, recently discovered by accident in a farmer’s field in a tiny place called Boxford,sixty-two miles west of London. The full story is in a blog on my website. The payoff though, is that the farmer needs his field back; and immense as the discovery is, the museums can neither find the funds to remove it or the space to accommodate it (it’s huge). So the location remains secret and the mosaic has been reburied. No more than a handful of people have seen it!

Oo. I love archaeology Janet and am fascinated by the Romans. I have some Roman coins and my husband bought me a day’s archaeological dig for Christmas one year! I’d love to have seen this mosaic.

Now, this caught my eye because something similar was a constant problem in the postwar City of London. The City is that single square mile inside London’s ancient Roman walls, the financial heart of the capital – in effect, Wall Street across the pond. In 1947, the blitz had reduced much of it to rubble. But the blitz had also revealed monumental finds from the original Roman city – and they presented much the same sorts of problem as Boxford in 2019. The difference being that in Cold War London, fortunes were at stake, the real estate involved was some of the most valuable on the planet, and its owners included racketeers as well as City grandees. Cue the apparent vice killing that gets Shamus Dust under way.

My goodness. I’ve really enjoyed hearing about Shamus Dust Janet. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it.

Shamus Dust

SHAMUS DUST high-res. Oct 2019

Two candles flaring at a Christmas crib. A nurse who steps inside a church to light them. A gunshot emptied in a man’s head in the creaking stillness before dawn, that the nurse says she didn’t hear. It’s 1947 in the snowbound, war-scarred City of London, where Pandora’s Box just got opened in the ruins, City Police has a vice killing on its hands, and a spooked councilor hires a shamus to help spare his blushes. Like the Buddha says, everything is connected. So it all can be explained. But that’s a little cryptic when you happen to be the shamus, and you’re standing over a corpse.

Published by Troubador, today 28th October 2019, Shamus Dust is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About Janet Roger

01a BH - Copy

Janet Roger is an historical fiction author, writing literary crime. She’s published by Troubador Publishing in the UK and represented by JKS Communications Literary Publicity in the USA. She trained in archaeology, history and Eng. Lit. and has a special interest in the early Cold War. Her debut novel, Shamus Dust: Hard Winter, Cold War, Cool Murder is due 28 October and is currently attracting widespread media interest.

You can follow Janet on Twitter @shamusdust, find her on Facebook and visit her website for more information.

Footnotes: A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers by Peter Fiennes


My enormous thanks to the author of Footnotes: A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers, Peter Fiennes, for offering me a copy of the book in return for an honest review, and to Margot Weale at Oneworld publishers for making sure Footnotes got to me!

Published by Oneworld on 5th September 2019, Footnotes is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

Footnotes: A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers


In each walk, a scene. In each journey, a story. To tread any well-travelled path is to step upon layers of history and to add to them. What was seen by yesterday’s rambler? Who were they? What was their Britain?

Peter Fiennes follows in the footsteps of writers, spiritualists, economists, farmers, churchmen and artists, from the eleventh century to the twentieth. Traversing past and present, he searches for signs of what his absent guides once saw and, through their words, opens up a new way of seeing what is there today. Footnotes is full of wonders and wanders, old stories and fresh connections, worn roads and wild places. It is a mesmerising quest to picture these isles anew.

Fiennes’s fellow travellers include Enid Blyton (Isle of Purbeck, Swanage, Weymouth); Wilkie Collins (Cornwall, Plymouth, Land’s End, Looe, St Ives); Ithell Colquhoun (Lamorna Cove); Celia Fiennes (Glastonbury, Wells, Bath, Bristol, Gloucester, Hereford); Gerald of Wales (Hereford, Hay on Wye, Newport, Cardiff, St Davids, Snowdonia); Somerville & Ross (north Wales); JB Priestley & Beryl Bainbridge (Stoke, Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool, Bradford, Newcastle, York, Hull); Charles Dickens (Lake District, Doncaster, London); Johnson & Boswell (Edinburgh, Skye, Aberdeen).

My Review of Footnotes: A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers

One man’s personal journey in the footsteps of twelve writers.

I opened Footnotes with some trepidation as I feared I might be about to read a worthy, but rather dry and self-conscious tome that I felt I ‘ought’ to enjoy. Not a bit of it; I was completely wrong. Peter Fiennes has a lively and witty style that made me smile often and brought me both fun and entertainment as well as considerable detail and new information. I loved the quality of the prose. The variety of sentence length seemed perfectly attuned to the effect Peter Fiennes was creating at any given time and the beauty of descriptions is matched by a humour and level of observation I thoroughly enjoyed.

It may have helped that Footnotes opens begins with Enid Blyton, whom I grew up with and whose The Ship of Adventure was the first book I read completely independently as a child in the 1960s, but I found Peter Fiennes not only transported me to my personal past, he gave me superb descriptions of the British landscape through his frequently poetic style. His depiction of what Gerald of Wales might find in modern day Cardiff, for example, is a veritable cornucopia for the senses with everything from music to vaping illustrated perfectly. In Footnotes the reader can find social history, geography, poetry, prose and considerable drama in the lives of the authors explored.

Although I treally enjoyed finding out more about the authors featured, even more I liked discovering Peter Fiennes through his own writing. There’s a real sense of a man who cares about his environment, our history and those who have, or will, pass through it. I appreciated his humour and his ability to make quite bold statements about life with sometimes quite informal language, so that reading Footnotes gave me much to ponder after I’d finished reading it.

Footnotes is a smashing read because it encompasses so many genres in one book. Part travelogue, part history, part memoir, part guidebook, part literary catalogue, it’s accessible, entertaining and erudite. Footnotes would make a super gift for any book lover.

About Peter Fiennes

peter fiennes

Peter Fiennes is the author of To War with God, a moving account of his grandfather’s service in WWI and of Oak and Ash and Thorn (Oneworld) a Guardian Best Nature Book of the Year. As a publisher for Time Out, he published their city guides, as well as books about Britain’s countryside and seaside. He lives in Wandsworth, south-west London.

To find out more you can visit Peter’s website and follow him on Twitter @pfiennes.

Menopause – A Hot Topic by Sam Bunch

Menopause a hot topic

Last year I reviewed Sam Bunch’s excellent Collecting Conversations in a post you can read here. I enjoyed Collecting Conversations so much that when Sam asked if I’d like a copy of her latest book, Menopause – A Hot Topic, in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance.

Menopause – A Hot Topic is available for purchase here.

Menopause A Hot Topic

Menopause a hot topic

Menopause – A Hot Topic is a humorous account of Sam sharing her own confusion and angst about the mystifying subject.

She’s very honest in telling you that you wont be dymystified but you will at least think, ‘Thank God I’m not alone’.

Sam has asked over 50 women to join in the conversation. They too give you their real, honest accounts of the madness that is the menopause. It’s the perfect gift for the menopausal women in your life.

My review of Menopause – A Hot Topic

A collection of thoughts and experiences based on the menopause.

Menopause – A Hot Topic is a little cracker of a book. Diminutive in size it’s perfect for slipping into a pocket or handbag and dipping into during those moments when the menopause is launching an attack on your body, mind and emotions so that you realise you’re not alone or a murderous psychopath!

Aside from some random tearfulness, brittle nails and some osteo-arthritis in my joints, the menopause has really bothered me but I just loved Sam Bunch’s book. I had no idea that it was going to be so funny. I laughed aloud at her thoughts and attitudes to her own experiences and genuinely feel that Menopause – A Hot Topic should be compulsory reading for any woman going through the menopause and for any individual who happens to be living or working with her at the time. Never mind this being ‘perfect gift for the menopausal women in your life’, all men need to read it too. I truly felt that reading Sam Bunch’s comments I was simply listening to a friend chat with me over a cup of tea. Her style is natural, engaging and so entertaining.

Similarly, I found the comments from the women Sam has interviewed absolutely fascinating. I empathised, sympathised and found so much that made me realise perhaps I haven’t escaped the menopause quite as unscathed as I thought.  In amongst all the personal experiences, however, are real gems of advice, tips and reassurances. I also really liked the illustrations and the space at the end of the book for personal reflection.

Menopause – A Hot Topic is a corker. I’d defy any woman of a certain age not to find something between its covers that makes them think, ‘YES! That’s it exactly’ being reassured and comforted in the process. I loved it!

About Sam Bunch


Sam Bunch grew up under the watchful eye of Pendle Hill in Lancashire. She moved to London in 1987 and has been there ever since. She lives with her husband and 3 children – two of which are at University. She is as a Complimentary therapist and more recently author of her first book Collecting Conversations.

You can find Sam on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @indepthchat. For more information about Sam and her books, please visit her website.

The Orangutan Who Sang by Jay Vincent


My enormous thanks to author Jay Vincent for sending me a copy of his children’s book The Orangutan Who Sang in return for an honest review. The illustrator for The Orangutan Who Sang is Stew Wright.

The Orangutan Who Sang is part of a series and these are the details:

It’s so hard for parents to speak to the tiny people in their life about a specific topic which may be troubling them… so this is the first book in a series designed for children (3-8) to have fun whilst subconsciously also addressing something that may be on their mind. These stories and illustrations are not only beautifully written but have a subtle moral message that will make hearts sing.

Look out for: I’m A Horse Of Course -In a world that’s grim and dark, can Poppet work out who she really is and why she’s different? Perhaps a special friend will help her on the way and she can bring colour, magic and sparkle to the world.

The Shark Who Barked – everyone knows that all sharks go “chomp” … well that is except for this special shark. He goes `woof ‘! Can he save his reef from the giant creatures who’ve come up from the deep and maybe have some giggles on the way?

The Orangutan Who Sang was published by Meze on October 14th 2019 and is available for purchase in all good bookshops, online and directly from the publisher here.

The Orangutan Who Sang


Olly is a shy but funky Orangutan, who has an incredible voice and loves to sing but can’t control his nerves enough to get any words out.

After falling from his perch in his favourite tree, Olly is so embarrassed, he leaves his friends and seeks sanctuary in the jungle. But will Olly discover something on his adventure that means he’s finally able to overcome his fears and do what he was born to do… sing?

My Review of The Orangutan Who Sang

Olly has been embarrassed and now he can’t sing in front of his friends.

The Orangutan Who Sang is simply charming.

Firstly, it’s the perfect size and length of story to share with a class of young children or at bedtime, but more importantly The Orangutan Who Sang has a valuable message about self-confidence, friendship and belonging that will resonate with any child. Poor Olly represents any one of us, young or old, who has suffered shyness or embarrassment and his experience gives an ideal opportunity to talk about experiences and feelings in a safe and impartial way so that children can come to realise they are not the only ones who may be afraid, shy or unhappy. With the positive ending, The Orangutan Who Sang provides hope to children too.

I thought both the rhyme scheme and the rhythm of the narrative worked incredibly well and I really liked the onomatopoeic elements so that there are several opportunities for children to learn about language, especially as a couple of the words are more challenging so that vocabulary is extended. The manner with which children are addressed with questions throughout the story, and in the set of twelve at the end of the book, involves them directly, making The Orangutan Who Sang educational and fun, especially as numeracy is woven in too through the counting.

I thoroughly appreciated the link between humans and the animals at the end of the book because I think it affords a brilliant chance to consider the relationship between humans and the natural world in real life.

I must also say how wonderful Stew Wright’s illustrations are as they complement the story flawlessly. I think the expressions on Olly’s face would give lots of chance to talk about feelings.

The Orangutan Who Sang is a super children’s book.

About Jay Vincent

As a father trying to navigate the pitfalls of parenthood, James (Jay) Vincent wrote these books originally as some fun stories to help his daughter through her first years at school, but they soon became a passion. As a child who had his fair share of trauma at school himself, it was only when they were read aloud to a pre school group did he realise he had a natural ability to write and bring magical worlds to life.

You can follow Jay on Twitter @JKidsauthor.

Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac

messy wonderful us

That’s it! I can’t wait any longer. I’ve been waiting for four months and I HAVE to share my review of Catherine Isaac’s Messy Wonderful Us otherwise I might just spontaneously combust.

I adored Catherine Isaac’s You, Me, Everything which I reviewed here and was delighted to chat with her about that book on Linda’s Book Bag in a post you can read here. Consequently, when I found a proof copy of her latest book Messy, Wonderful Us in my goody bag at a Simon and Schuster blogger evening I was thrilled. You can see what happened at that evening here. Today I’m delighted to share my review of Messy, Wonderful Us.

Messy Wonderful Us will be released by Simon and Schuster in ebook on 28th November 2019 and in paperback on 5th March 202 and is available for pre-order through these links.

Messy, Wonderful Us

messy wonderful us

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.

The dazzling new novel from Richard & Judy book club author Catherine Isaac, Messy, Wonderful Us is a story about the transforming power of love, as one woman journeys to uncover the past and reshape her future.

My Review of Messy, Wonderful Us

Cystic Fibrosis researcher Allie is on a professional quest; but a personal one may just be as important to her.

Now, when I read You, Me, Everything by Catherine Isaac I thought it was fantastic and as a result I approached reading Messy, Wonderful Us with some trepidation. I was afraid I’d be disappointed. I am quite prepared to admit I was a complete idiot. Messy, Wonderful Us is sensationally good and I am going to find it hard to conjure up the superlatives I need to express my absolute enjoyment and engagement with this brilliant book.

The plot is so adroitly constructed that I was desperate to know the outcomes but simultaneously I didn’t want the book to end because I found it so moving and affecting. I was so immersed in the narrative that I’m sure I believed myself to be Allie herself, rather than someone reading about a fictional character. Messy, Wonderful Us is a book that has touched my soul and left an indelible mark. There are surprises along the way in the story that I found utterly captivating, but for me the greatest enjoyment came through Catherine Isaac’s sublime characterisation. Allie, Ed and Peggy all broke my heart at some point in the reading.

One of the elements I also really enjoyed was the sense of a quest. Allie is looking for details about her own background at the same time as working towards a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. The level of information about the research process is perfectly balanced, giving just enough to captivate the reader without bogging them down in excessive detail. This is such wonderful writing. Similarly, the quality of description for the Italian settings in particular is flawless. Every sense is catered for so that there’s a cinematic feel to the narrative and making me desperate to visit the same places as Allie and Ed. A further concept of quest comes through Ed’s need to assess his marriage and future in a sub plot that thrums with desire, guilt and responsibility. There are other themes I’d love to comment upon, but to do so would spoil the story. Let’s just say the painting of a social history is wonderful too.

Messy, Wonderful Us is exactly my kind of book. It’s emotional. It’s brilliantly researched. It’s a fabulous story. It’s simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. I rather think I might now be a little bit in love with Catherine Isaac and her writing. I cannot recommend Messy, Wonderful Us highly enough. I adored it.

About Catherine Isaac


Catherine Isaac was born in Liverpool, England. She studied History at the University of Liverpool, then Journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University, before beginning her career as trainee reporter at the Liverpool Echo.

She rose to the position of Editor of the Liverpool Daily Post and wrote her first book, Bridesmaids, while on maternity leave, under the pseudonym Jane Costello. Her nine subsequent novels were all Sunday Times best-sellers in the UK.

You Me Everything was her first book writing as Catherine Isaac.

She lives in Liverpool with her husband Mark and three sons. In her spare time she likes to run, walk up mountains in the Lake District and win at pub quizzes, though the latter rarely happens.

You can visit Catherine’s website for more information and follow her on Twitter @CatherineIsaac_. You’ll also find Catherine on Facebook.

Cover Reveal: When Stars Will Shine, Compiled by Emma Mitchell

When Stars Will Shine

Thanks to friend and fellow blogger Shell Baker for the invitation to take part, I’m absolutely delighted to be participating in the cover reveal for another charity book here on Linda’s Book Bag today. When Stars Will Shine is an anthology of Christmas themed short stories complied by lovely Emma Mitchell who has provided a short note to accompany this cover reveal:

A Note From Emma Mitchell:

As the blurb tells us, When Stars Will Shine is a multi-genre collection of Christmas themed short stories complied to raise money for our armed forces and every penny made from the sales of both the digital and paperback copies will be donated to the charity.

Working closely with Kate Noble at Noble Owl Proofreading and Amanda Ni Odhrain from Let’s Get Booked, I’ve been able to pick the best of the submissions to bring you a thrilling book which is perfect for dipping into at lunchtime or snuggling up with on a cold winter’s night. I have been completely blown away by the support we’ve received from the writing and blogging community, especially the authors who submitted stories and Shell Baker from Baker’s Not So Secret Blog, who has organised the cover reveal and blog tour.

When Stars Will Shine is available for pre-order now and will be published on 9 December 2019.

There isn’t anyone in the country who hasn’t benefited from the sacrifices our troops, past and present, have made for us and they all deserve our thanks.

Let me tell you more about the book:

When Stars Will Shine

When Stars Will Shine

When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from some of your favourite authors who have joined forces to bring you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war stories that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost, gained, and found, When Stars Will Shine has something for everyone. And with every penny being sent to support our heroes, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Rob Ashman, Val Portelli, and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!

When Stars Will Shine will be released on 9th December 2019 and is available for pre-order here.

I can’t wait to read When Stars Will Shine so do please come back to Linda’s Book Bag on 22nd December when I will be sharing my review.

New Releases from @orionbooks #booksandbubbles


I love attending events to hear about new books coming along so when this fabulous invitation dropped into my inbox from the lovely Alainna at Orion I was thrilled. Despite my train being delayed 40 minutes, as soon as I walked in to Drink, Shop, Do and was greeted by author Cathy Bramley I knew I was going to have a wonderful time.

In fact, I must apologise for not thanking the Orion team sooner for a brilliant evening on Wednesday. I was giving a talk to a local group on blogging yesterday, before attending a charity event with TV gardener Adam Frost in the evening so I didn’t get chance to write up my thanks.

orion 1

I picked up my glass of Prosecco, had a chat with a couple of Orion’s lovely team and wandered to see what fantastic books were coming up. What a feast for the eyes!




The first item I collected was the catalogue of releases coming from January – July 2020 and I cannot believe what a wonderful set of books awaits us. With everything from fiction to non-fiction, young adult to adult, Sci-Fi and Fantasy to Women’s Fiction, there is something for every reader in the Orion Publishing Group. If you’d like to look for yourself, the catalogue can be found here.

It was so interesting to hear different publicists enthusing and recommending books and to chat with new to me authors as well as catch up with Veronica Henry, Cathy Bramley and Helen Rolfe amongst others.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend for as long as I’d have liked because of the earlier train delay, but I was thrilled to come away with a lovely goody bag and several wonderful books.


The books I have added to mt TBR include:

For Emily by Katherine Slee

For Emily

A little dedication goes a long way.
That’s why Catriona Robinson, the country’s favourite children’s author, always dedicated her books to those who touched her life the most – not least Emily, her reclusive granddaughter.

Emily never thought too much about these dedications. But when Catriona dies unexpectedly, each one becomes a cryptic clue in a breadcrumb trail that apparently leads to her lost, unpublished manuscript.

It’s a mystery only Emily can solve. But to do so she will have to walk in her grandmother’s footsteps, into the wider world she’s spent her whole life hiding away from . . .

Published on 5th September 2019, For Emily is available for purchase here.

The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

The Family Gift

Freya Abalone has a big, messy, wonderful family, a fantastic career, and a new house.

But that’s on the outside.

On the inside, she’s got Mildred – the name she’s given to that nagging inner critic who tells us all we’re not good enough.

And now Freya’s beloved blended family is under threat. Dan’s first wife Elisa, the glamorous, manipulative woman who happily abandoned her daughter to Freya and Dan’s care and left the country, has elbowed her way back into their lives.

But Freya knows that when life gives you lemons, you throw them right back.

Can Freya put her family – and herself – back together? Find out in Cathy Kelly’s warmest, wisest and funniest book yet…

Published yesterday, 17th October 2019, The Family Gift is available for purchase through these links.

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

Christmas at the beach hut

Everyone adores Christmas . . .

Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and under-appreciated by her family. The present-buying, decorating and food shopping have all been left to her. So she wonders … what would happen if she ran away and left them to it?

Lizzy heads to her favourite place: a beach hut on the golden sands of Everdene. There she meets an unlikely collection of new friends, all running away from something. But the spirit of Christmas gets under Lizzy’s skin: soon the fairy lights are twinkling and the scent of mulled wine mingles with the sea air.

Back at Pepperpot Cottage, her family are desperate to find her. For Christmas isn’t Christmas without Lizzy. Can they track her down in time and convince her she means the world to them, every day of the year?

Christmas at the Beach Hut will be published on 15th November and is available for pre-order here.

Would Like To Meet by Rachel Winters

Would Like to Meet

Long-suffering assistant Evie Summers will lose her job unless she can convince her film agency’s biggest and most difficult client, Ezra Chester, to finish the script for a Hollywood romcom. The catch? He hasn’t started writing it.

Suffering from ‘writer’s block,’ he will only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. Forget internet dating, Evie can only meet a man the way that Sally met Harry, or Hugh Grant meets anyone. Cue her entering into one ridiculous romcom scenario after another. But can life ever be like the movies?

Of course, real life is never that straightforward . . .

Out under this cover in ebook on 26th November 2019 and paperback on 30th April 2020, Would Like To Meet is available here.

The Matchmaker by Catriona Innes

The Matchmaker

For Caitlin Carter, love means business.

She’s taken matchmaking back to basics. There is no swiping left. No creepy location tracker. Definitely no unsolicited pics of areas of the anatomy no one wants to see. She’s made dating great again: personal, patient… and profitable. Her startup is going from strength to strength, with clients wanting to find the love she has with her own husband Harry, and she even has celebrities wanting to use her services…

Caitlin is living the perfect life.

Except it’s all a perfect lie. And Caitlin doesn’t know how long she can keep it up.

In an era of social media and dating apps, when we have never been more connected yet more isolated, The Matchmaker is a story about love, loss and loneliness, and learning to accept your reality.

Published by Orion imprint Trapeze on 28th November 2019, The Matchmaker is available for pre-order here.

The River Home by Hannah Richell

The River Home TBR

The river can take you home. The river can take you under…

In their ramshackle Somerset home, its gardens running down to the river, the Sorrells have gathered for a last-minute wedding.

Lucy is desperate to reunite her fractured family. Eve is fighting to keep her perfect life together. Their father hovers at the edge of events with his second wife. Their mother, Kit, a famous author whose stories have run dry, still seethes with resentment towards her youngest child. And Margot, who left home eight years ago under a black cloud, is forced to come face to face with her darkness…

As the family come together for a week of celebration and confrontation, their relationships are stretched to breaking point. Can you ever heal the wounds of the past? Or will it always rise up to haunt you – like the echoes of a summer’s night, like the relentless flow of a river…

The River Home will be published on 19th March 2020 and is available for pre-order through these links (and if my proof is anything to go by that cover will be a stunner!)

A Patchwork Family by Cathy Bramley

A patchwork Family TBR

Love, friendship and family come in all different shapes and sizes…

Gina has been going with the flow for years – she’d rather have an easy life than face any conflict. She runs her childminding business from her cottage at the edge of The Evergreens, a charming Victorian house and home to three octogenarians who have far too much fun for their age.

But when The Evergreens is put up for sale, Gina and the other residents face losing their home. To protect her business and save her elderly friends from eviction, Gina must make a stand and fight for the first time in her life.

As Gina’s ideas for saving The Evergreens get bigger and bolder, she starts to believe it might just be possible. The only thing is, does she believe in herself?

Also published on 19th March 2020, A Patchwork Family is available for pre-order here.

Like A House on Fire by Caroline Hulse

I don’t even have a ‘to be revealed cover’ for this one yet so I’m including Caroline’s previous book, The Adults available through these links!

the adults

George and Stella’s marriage is over. They can’t decide exactly when that happened (Was it the coke can? Or that comment about Jurassic Park?), but they both agree that it has.

A couple of months after the separation, Stella’s mother, Margaret “The Force of Nature” Foy sends out invites for her murder mystery anniversary party – with George on the invite list. Stella hasn’t told her parents about the divorce, she couldn’t bring herself to. And with her father’s business shutting down, Margaret’s recent cancer diagnosis, and some very odd behaviour from her older sister Helen, now is clearly not a good time.

All they have to do is make it through the day without their secret being discovered. And in doing so, they may find each other again – or see their past and future both go up in flames…

Like A House on Fire will be published on 30th April and is available for pre-order here.

I’m well aware what a privilege it is to be invited to these events and I know how lucky I am to attend. Once again, I’d like to thank the Orion team for inviting me and I hope Linda’s Book Bag readers find some lovely new reads through this post.