More Than Marmalade: Michael Bond and the Story of Paddington Bear by Rosanne Tolin

More than MArmalade

Now, if you know me well you’ll know I love Paddington Bear. I used to spend all my pocket money as a child on Michael Bond’s books, once got thrown out of a teachers’ library for laughing too loudly at one of the stories (Paddington Takes the Test) and still have all my childhood copies. My husband can occasionally be tempted to read the books to me, doing different voices for all the characters!

With all of that in mind I couldn’t believe my luck when Rodsanne Tolin got in touch to ask if I would review her debut children’s book More Than Marmalade: Michael Bond and the Story of Paddington Bear and I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Chicago Review Press on 3rd March 2020, More Than Marmalade: Michael Bond and the Story of Paddington Bear is available for purchase here.

More Than Marmalade: Michael Bond and the Story of Paddington Bear

More than MArmalade

Michael Bond never intended to be a children’s writer. Though an avid reader, he was by no means a model student and quit school at 14. He repaired rooftop radio transmitters during the bombing of Britain in World War II and later joined the army. He wrote about the war and more, selling stories here and there.

One day, while searching for inspiration at his typewriter, hoping for a big story that would allow him to write full time, a stuffed bear on top of the shelf–a Christmas present for his wife–suddenly caught his eye. Bond poured his personal feelings about the events of his era–the refugee children his family had hosted in the countryside, a war-torn country in recovery, the bustling immigrant neighborhood where he lived–into the story of a little bear from Peru who tries very, very hard to do things right. The result was A Bear Called Paddington.

An incredible true tale, More than Marmalade: Michael Bond and the Story of Paddington Bear is the first biography about the writer behind the beloved series. Author Rosanne Tolin reveals how world history, Bond’s life, and 1950s immigrant culture were embedded into Paddington’s creation, bringing middle-grade readers a delightful, informative, and engaging book with a timely message of acceptance.

My Review of

More than Marmalade: Michael Bond and the Story of Paddington Bear

A biography of Michael Bond aimed at middle grade readers.

It was a real pleasure to read More Than Marmalade. I’ve loved Paddington stories for over half a century and Rosanne Tolin pays a fond, entertaining and interesting tribute to the man who created the bear – Michael Bond.

Although some of the vocabulary is American in style (such as elevator and sidewalk) it is totally accessible to children on both sides of the Atlantic, affording an opportunity for independent reading as well as sharing with adults. Indeed, adults will enjoy this book just as much as children because it brings back memories and transports them to their initial pleasure of discovering Paddington Bear. I liked the short chapters as I feel a child could easily read one on their own. The tone is light but still manages to impart weighty themes and issues including the treatment of Jews and the effects of the second world war in society, so that reading More Than Marmalade is a treasure trove of factual detail and narrative colour. I liked the added photographs too because they give authenticity to the text.

There’s a super sense of who Michael Bond was and what kind of man he became from that book and train obsessed child. As a lifelong Paddington fan, I didn’t discover new facts but I was reminded of details I had forgotten so that I derived great pleasure from reading More Than Marmalade.

More Than Marmalade is more than a book about Michael Bond. It’s part history, part geography, part comedy and part tragedy as well as a fond and well researched insight into the man behind the bear. I found it very entertaining and really enjoyed it and I think any other Paddington fan of any age would too.

About Rosanne Tolin

rosanne tolin

Born and raised in St. Louis, MO, Rosanne Tolin is a wife, mother of four, avid runner and author. While studying law abroad in London, she subsisted mainly on a diet of tea and toast, and frequented Paddington Station. An experienced and well-respected journalist, she has focused her work primarily on children’s publications. She was the former creator and editor of an ALA notable children’s website, managing editor of Guideposts for Kids magazine, and a Hoosier State Press Award-winning features writer. When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs in the Indiana Dunes.
To find out more, follow Rosanne on Twitter @RosanneGTolin or visit her website.

The Naughty Dog: A Catalogue of Disasters and General Mayhem by Maverick Ashbrooke

The Naughty Dog

I love featuring both adult and children’s books here on Linda’s Book Bag and would like to thank Maverick Ashbrooke for sending me a copy of The Naughty Dog: A Catalogue of Disasters and General Mayhem in return for an honest review.

Published by Austin Macauley on 29th November 2019, The Naughty Dog: A Catalogue of Disasters and General Mayhem is available for purchase in all the usual places including here.

The Naughty Dog: A Catalogue of Disasters and General Mayhem

The Naughty Dog

The Naughty Dog is the story of a very misunderstood Doberman dog.

Naughty dog was found in a junk/scrap yard, living in an old car and lying on rags. He was rescued by a man called Eddy and sent to a family who found it hard to love, but through various accidents and mishaps, naughty dog helps to bring the family closer together and opinions gradually change about naughty dog and how he may not actually be naughty!

It also tells the story of his close friendship with a little boy called Arthur and how they both have fun and grow up together, learning about life and themselves, with further adventures from Arthur’s family, Grandpa Jed, Grandmother Little Bea, Uncle Eddy, his Dad-Peanut the Ice-cream Man, Great Auntie Moria and many more characters who are influenced by the presence of naughty dog.

With short stories about naughty dog and Arthur, such as ‘The Exploding Lighter’, ‘Bonfire Night and the Bully Who Screamed like a Girl’, ‘Arthur’s Dad-Peanut the Ice-cream Man’, ‘The Tortoise That Was Mistaken for a Pie’, ‘The Disappearing Turkey’, ‘The T-Shirt Gas Mask’ and many more, they will make you laugh, cry, shock you and keep you engaged throughout.

For children who want to know about owning a Doberman dog, family life in the 1970s onwards and for adults who want a trip down memory lane, this book won’t disappoint!

My Review of

The Naughty Dog: A Catalogue of Disasters and General Mayhem

A collection of short stories featuring a naughty dog – or two!

I have one slight criticism I’d like to get out of the way before I review The Naughty Dog fully. I found some of the sentences rather lengthy with too many semi-colons to support all children reading independently.

That said, The Naughty Dog is a humorous collection of highly entertaining stories. Children aged 8-11 in particular will love the scrapes that Dog gets into, from pooing in front of Albert’s would be girlfriend to chewing shoes. There’s humour aplenty in these stories so that they are very uplifting and diverting. Lots of weighty themes arise too, that would enable adults sharing The Naughty Dog to explore with youngsters, such as behaviour, swearing, death, friendships and so on. The final story leaves the reader wondering just what will happen next for Dog so that there is ample opportunity for discussion and imagination.

However, whist The Naughty Dog is a book that could perfectly well be shared with children, and I’m sure they’d thoroughly enjoy it, for me it works best as an adult collection. So many elements really bring alive the 1970s from the clothes to the music, television to That’s Life’s talking dog that I was transported back to my youth. I kept thinking, ‘Oh yes. I remember that’ as the references and allusions underpinned the stories so that reading The Naughty Dog brought a smile to my face and memories flooding back.

The Naughty Dog is a fun and entertaining set of stories that remind the reader just what it was like to be a child in the 1970s. I enjoyed it and think it works for children of all ages – even as old as me!

About Maverick Ashbrooke


Maverick Ashbrooke’s has always possessed a creative mind via mediums such as art and craft, also studying and working as an engineer up to his late 20s. He then decided to look at how people’s minds worked and trained as a therapist. For the past 16+ years, he has worked as a therapist in the North East of England, where he also currently resides. However, having an imagination has always meant he wants to do more in his life and this is where his writing came to light over the last few years after losing his father suddenly.

Maverick Ashbrooke is hopeful this first book will lead to more in this area and has many more ideas to take this story forward. He has had dogs throughout his life, and much of this story is from his own childhood, also fiction and from stories he has heard over the years from other dog owners, to combine this first book and coming books in the future.

Maverick Ashbrooke continues to walk his current Doberman and has stories to tell of his antics as a close member of his family unit.

You can follow him on Twitter @MaverickAshbrke. and find him on Facebook.

A Saint In Swindon by Alice Jolly

With the change in working practices of late, far fewer physical books have been dropping through my letterbox, so when a copy of A Saint in Swindon by Alice Jolly arrived in surprise post I was thrilled. I’m delighted to share my review today and would like to extend my enormous thanks to Alice for sending me a signed copy of A Saint in Swindon.

I’ve long loved Alice Jolly’s writing. Indeed, my review of her Dead Babies and Seaside Towns was one of the early posts here on Linda’s Book Bag when I was delighted to interview Alice too. I have Alice’s Between The Regions of Kindness waiting patiently on my TBR but if it is half as good as her Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile that I reviewed here, I’ll be in for a treat. 

Written in collaboration with Swindon Artsworld Reading Group, A Saint In Swindon was published by Fairlight Books on 4th May 2020 and is available for purchase through the links here. You’ll also find reading and writing notes in the same place. 

A Saint in Swindon

When a stranger arrives in town, with a bulging blue bag and a whiff of adventure, the neighbourhood takes notice. When he asks for his meals to be sent to his room and peace and quiet for reading, curiosity turns to obsession.

Each day he stays there, locked in his room, demanding books: Plath, Kafka, Orwell, Lawrence, Fitzgerald, James, Bronte (the eldest), Dickens, Dumas, Kesey – on and on, the stranger never leaving his room. Who exactly is he? What is he reading? And will it be able to save us from the terrible state of the world?

Written by award-winning author Alice Jolly, and based on an idea by the book lovers of Swindon town, this funny and, ultimately, dystopian tale, reminds us of the importance of literature in an increasingly dark world.

My Review of A Saint in Swindon

An enigmatic man at the bed and breakfast will cause quite a stir.

Now let me get this out into the open. I don’t much like dystopian fiction. However, I am a huge fan of Alice Jolly’s writing and it comes as no surprise to me that if anyone can persuade me to read a narrative with a dystopian undercurrent she can. And did. In spades. I thought this long short story of just under 90 pages was utterly sublime and I loved every word of it. 

I am in total awe of how much content there is in A Saint in Swindon. It’s a brilliantly crafted story set in the searing, maddening heat of the future when water is running out. How we have affected the planet, and how it in turn affects us, is just one thread in this rich and multi-layered little book. There are so many entertaining and thought provoking aspects that I suspect I could read it many, many times and find something fresh and new on each occasion.

An eclectic mix of concepts and themes like religious fanaticism, feminism, independence, power and corruption, sexuality and sensuality swirls around the plot so that reading A Saint in Swindon is a delightfully fascinating. I loved the way the plot is multi-layered so that we get moments from the past eddying in the futuristic present, making for a captivating story. 

There’s an almost metaphysical conceit through the imagery of literature so that there is immense joy in simply encountering much loved books and authors. Literature lovers and book groups alike will adore A Saint in Swindon. But this is no self-important text that will only appeal to those with an interest in literature. Through the books and their references is enormous humour and wit so I found myself laughing aloud on many occasions.

The literary references are perfect in creating the narrator’s character too. I kept thinking of Victoria Wood as her voice rang loud, clear and oh so entertainingly. It may be because she is described as a fifty-something woman that I identified with her so readily, but I was with her every step of the way. I thought her acerbic comments were fabulous. Her rhetorical questions, her Tuesday afternoon arrangement with Len, her matter of fact tone and the way she devours the books brought me incredible entertainment. I can see myself returning to this slim book any time I need cheering up because there’s so much to relate to and much that is tongue in cheek whilst having serious undertones. The writing is pitch perfect.

I am in awe of Alice Jolly’s craft. She seems to be able to write in any style or genre with flawless aplomb and A Saint in Swindon is a shining example of her brilliance. I loved it unreservedly. 

About Alice Jolly

alice jolly

Alice Jolly is a novelist and playwright. Her fourth novel Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile was runner up for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2019. That novel was also on the longlist for the Ondaatje Prize and was a Walter Scott Prize recommended novel for 2019. Alice has also won the Pen Ackerley Prize and the V.S.Pritchett Prize. She teaches creative writing at Oxford University.

Find out more about Alice on her website or by following her on Twitter @JollyAlice. You can also find her on Facebook.

Cover Reveal: Let’s Get Published by Val Penny

Cover Lets Get Published

It’s far too long since Val Penny featured here on Linda’s Book Bag, so what better way to welcome her back than by helping reveal her latest book Let’s Get Published? With so many of us writing and wondering how to take our work to the next stage, I have a feeling Val’s Let’s Get Published might be just what we need. My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group for inviting me to participate in this cover reveal.

Val was last here with a super guest post celebrating her thriller Hunter’s Chase in a post you can read here.

Let’s Get Published is available for purchase here. Let’s find out more:

Let’s Get Published

Cover Lets Get Published

At last, a book that is easy to read and tells it how it is!

The book was written to assist authors to maximise their success when submitting work to agents or publishers, to help authors consider their priorities and preferences for getting work into print. To advise authors on how to identify the agents and/or publishers they want to approach.

It should also assist with editing their manuscript fully prior to submission. The book offers advice about how to prepare a submission package to give an author the best chance of success.

The road to becoming a successful author is not easy, but it is rewarding. Let this book take you on the journey.


I rather think I just might Val. Sounds exactly what I need!

About Val Penny

author pic 2

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.


Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fifth novel in the series, Hunter’s Secret, is published by darkstroke. Her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published is available now.

Val Penny has a smashing blog of her own here. You can find more information by following Val on Twitter @valeriepenny and finding her on Facebook.

Hello, Again by Isabelle Broom

Hello Again

It was back in February when I last welcomed lovely Isabelle Broom to Linda’s Book Bag in an interview as part of the Romantic Novelists Association 60th birthday celebrations. You can read that interview here. Regular blog readers will know how much I love Isabelle Broom’s writing so when the e-book publication of her latest novel Hello, again was brought forward I set aside my self-imposed Netgalley ban and requested it. My enormous thanks to the team at Hodder for approving that request!

You can read my review of Isabelle’s book One Winter Morning here, my review of My Map of You hereA Year and a Day here and The Place We Met here. I still haven’t read my cherished personally signed copy of One Thousand Stars and You, but I intend to as soon as I can!

Hello, again will be published by Hodder in ebook on 4th June and paperback on 9th July 2020 and is available for pre-order here.

Hello, again

Hello Again

Philippa Taylor (Pepper to her friends) has big dreams. When she closes her eyes, she can picture exactly who she ought to be. The problem is, it’s about as far away from her real life in a small coastal town in Suffolk as she can imagine.

So when her elderly friend Josephine persuades Pepper to accompany her on a trip to Europe, she jumps at the chance to change her routine. And when Pepper bumps (literally) into the handsome Finn in Lisbon, it seems as though she might have finally found what she’s been looking for.

But Pepper know all too well things are rarely as they seem. Her own quiet life hides a dark secret from the past. And even though she and Finn may have been destined to find each other, Pepper suspects life may have other plans as to how the story should end.

A romantic and sweeping story about friendship, love and realising that sometimes it’s about the journey, not the destination.

My Review of Hello, Again

Pepper has never left the country and it’s about time she did.

I always have incredibly high expectations of Isabelle Broom’s writing and once again she didn’t disappoint. From the very first page I was completely enchanted by the romantic, descriptive and emotional writing so that Hello, again made me smile, weep and gladdened my heart. I thought it was wonderful.

As I expected, I was completely transported to the settings of the book through the painterly attention to detail, the weather, the colours, sights and textures that Isabelle Broom always manages to meld into evocative pictures in the reader’s mind. Aldburgh, Lisbon and Barcelona are very familiar to me and in Hello, again they are so vividly presented that I found myself transported out of lockdown and back to glorious streets, making me feel as if I had had a city break and had even visited Hamburg where I’ve never actually been. I found this element of Hello, again completely distracting so that all the cares of the real world vanished.

I thought the story in Hello, again was so romantic without being remotely saccharine. There’s a realism too that is incredibly satisfying because I believed completely in the outcomes. There’s palpable, vibrant life here that makes the reader feel as if they are part of the action. It might sound mad to say so, but I felt as if I somehow ‘belonged’ with Hello, again; as if I had found my place in the world.

I loved Pepper. I loved her dress sense (or lack of it) her self-deprecating personality, her creativity and her relationships, but above all I loved the way she developed as an individual through the narrative, teaching herself and the reader that although our past may help shape who we are today, it doesn’t have to constrain who we might become in the future. This was such a heartwarming theme that it makes me feel emotional just thinking about it after I’ve finished the read. Although this is a romance and Jorge and Finn help drive the action with Otto providing brilliant light relief, it is Isabelle Broom’s exploration of womanhood that touched me so completely. She understands the complexities of relationships that women have and the way in which they judge themselves and others. I was so ensnared by the women here that I wanted to hold each one at some point in the story to provide emotional support. I forgot that these were not real people because I cared about them so much.

The themes of Hello, again are thoughtful, sensitively handled and beautifully written so that the story tugged at my heart, rekindled memories and illustrated to me to the positive potential of my life. Apart from longing to try creating a mosaic of my own, I felt as if Isabelle Broom had looked deep inside my mind, had seen what I needed to read about, including love, friendship, relationships, self-belief, guilt, forgiveness and identity and that she had somehow written Hello, again just for me. It felt intensely intimate and personal.

I loved Hello, again. Reading it brought me joy and happiness. It’s just the kind of book the world needs right now and Isabelle Broom is the perfect author to write it. Just glorious.

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.

Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

Back in November I was delighted to participate in the cover reveal for Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth, since when I have been desperate to read it. Today I’m finally sharing my review. My enormous thanks to Jo Liddiard at Headline for sending me a copy of Heatstroke in return for this honest review.

Heatstroke will be published by Headline Review on 28th May 2020 and is available for purchase here.



The summer burns with secrets…

It is too hot to sleep. To work. To be questioned time and again by the police.

At the beginning of a stifling, sultry summer, everything shifts irrevocably when Lily doesn’t come home one afternoon.

Rachel is Lily’s teacher. Her daughter Mia is Lily’s best friend. The girls are fifteen – almost women, still children.

As Rachel becomes increasingly fixated on Lily’s absence, she finds herself breaking fragile trusts and confronting impossible choices she never thought she’d face.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

Intoxicating and compulsive, Heatstroke is a darkly gripping, thought-provoking novel of crossed boundaries, power and betrayal, that plays with expectations at every turn.

My Review of Heatstoke

In the heat of the summer nothing will ever be the same again for Mia, Lily and Rachel.

What a fabulous book! Heatstroke is exactly my kind of read because it’s intensely character led but still has a gripping and frequently unnerving plot. I loved it.

Hazel Barkworth has an exquisite literary skill that creates the atmosphere of unbearable heat superbly. It isn’t just the weather that smoulders with feverishness so effectively in Heatstroke, but the relationships and events build a tension as if a storm is about to break, that made it impossible for me to put the book aside until I had devoured it in a couple of sittings. The descriptions are wonderful so that I could feel the heat, the passion and the tension every bit as much as Rachel does. Heatstroke is claustrophobic, intense and brilliantly entertaining.

Obviously I won’t say too much about the plot because I’d hate to spoil the read but when Lily goes missing the clever structure of the novel provides an almost voyeuristic viewpoint that is as uncomfortable to read on occasion as it is mesmerising. Heatstroke made my flesh creep but I didn’t want to stop reading.

And it is Rachel who creates much of this sensation of disquiet because the more she is revealed, the more compelling she becomes until I found myself both hating and loving her simultaneously. She is monstrous in some ways, simply being a woman and a mother in others, and yet much as I wanted to denounce her and dislike her I was hypnotically drawn to her. Hazel Barkworth’s skilful portrayal of females is a masterclass in characterisation.

However, the themes underpinning Heatstroke are what make it so mesmerising. Obsession, sexuality, family, friendship, adolescence, trust, loss and a laser like presentation of female behaviour provide layer upon layer of depth and interest. Reading Heatstroke is akin to seeing an object at the bottom of a swimming pool. Although you know what it is, refractions distort it until reality is blurred so that reading Heatstroke is a bit like having heatstroke where rationality can feel just out of reach. I suspect I could read the book several times and find something new every time.

Oppressive in atmosphere, fabulously intimate and definitely disturbing, Heatstroke is a completely compelling read that held me captivated. I thought it was outstanding.

About Hazel Barkworth

Hazel Barkworth

Hazel Barkworth is a graduate of both the Oxford University MSt in Creative Writing and the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-Writing Course. She lives in London with her partner, and works as a cultural consultant. Her debut novel Heatstroke will be published by Headline in 2020.

You can find Hazel on Instagram and Twitter @BarkworthHazel.

A Wedding at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

The Wedding at the Beach Hut Cover

My goodness, the world has changed since I caught up with Veronica Henry last October at an Orion event that you can read about here. I’ve long loved Veronica Henry’s writing but since I began blogging I haven’t read enough of her work so I’m delighted to help begin the launch celebrations for her latest book, A Wedding at the Beach Hut. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate.

You will find my review of Veronica’s A Night on the Orient Express here.

Published by Orion on 28th May 2020, A Wedding at the Beach Hut is available for pre-order here.

A Wedding at the Beach Hut

The Wedding at the Beach Hut Cover

Escape to Everdene Sands, where the sun is shining – but is the tide about to turn?

Robyn and Jake are planning their dream wedding at the family beach hut in Devon. A picnic by the turquoise waves, endless sparkling rosé and dancing barefoot on the golden sand . . .

But Robyn is more unsettled than excited. She can’t stop thinking about the box she was given on her eighteenth birthday, and the secrets it contains. Will opening it reveal the truth about her history – and break the hearts of the people she loves most?

As the big day arrives, can everyone let go of the past and step into a bright new future?

My Review of A Wedding at the Beach Hut

Robyn’s past is about to meet her future!

I just adored A Wedding at the Beach Hut. Veronica Henry has written the perfect escapist, emotional and ultimately uplifting story that took me away from the troubles of the world into another time and place where I could lose myself completely. Reading A Wedding at the Beach Hut was pure bliss.

There’s a wonderful plot here that sweeps along, drawing in the reader so that they feel they are catching up with old friends and making new ones that they won’t forget. Although I had confidence that there would be a positive ending to the story befitting the genre, I was thoroughly entertained in getting to that ending. It’s tricky to articulate but I felt an affinity with the narrative that made it very affecting and emotional. I confess I cried on more than one occasion.

Veronica Henry has such a deft touch in her descriptions that makes them visual and evocative. There’s a scenic quality that is quite spellbinding. I loved the natural tone of the direct speech because it made me feel as if I were listening in to, not reading about, the people in A Wedding at the Beach Hut, making me fall in love with them all. I thought the balance of genders and ages was just perfect. Although she’s a more subsidiary character, Gwen in particular appealed to me because she illustrates that independence doesn’t have to mean isolation. I ended the story wanting to know what happened to them all after I’d closed the book as they felt real and vivid and Veronica Henry made me care about every one.

There’s an elegant maturity to the themes in A Wedding at the Beach Hut that is so fabulous. I can’t outline them all as it would spoil the read, but making the most of life and the opportunities that are presented, love, identity, family and belonging are just a few of the threads that are presented so beautifully that I felt their resonance physically as well as intellectually. This is such warm, wonderful and emotional writing.

A Wedding at the Beach Hut is an absolutely lovey book because Veronica Henry has given her readers a flawless example of women’s fiction at its most enchanting. I absolutely adored it.

About Veronica Henry

veronica henry

Veronica Henry has worked as a scriptwriter for The Archers, Heartbeat and Holby City amongst many others, before turning to fiction. She won the 2014 RNA Novel Of The Year Award for A Night on the Orient Express. Veronica lives with her family in a village in north Devon.

Find out more by visiting Veronica’s website or following her on Twitter @veronica_henry. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

FINAL Wedding at the Beach Hut BT Poster

Staying in with with Chris Calder

Celeste Three Is Missing Cover

It’s always a pleasure to discover books and authors outside my usual reading choices so I’m delighted to welcome Chris Calder to Linda’s Book Bag today. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this tour.

Celeste Three Is Missing

Staying in with Chris Calder

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

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

Celeste Three Is Missing Cover

Hi Linda, the book is called Celeste Three is Missing. I chose this one because it is set partly in the US and partly in Europe; something that should help to broaden its prospective reader appeal.

It certainly will – especially in these days of limited real travel! So, what can we expect from an evening in with Celeste Three is Missing?

This was the third of my novels; I have written five so far. The story is set in the near future, when Celeste Three is the world’s first passenger-carrying space plane. Despite the title, the narrative is not really about the craft; the plane is the means by which the determined protagonist brings to justice a monstrous Russian oligarch who murdered his friend years before and has since used his wealth and power to evade justice. For once, the Russian has stepped out of his tight security cocoon and booked a flight on Celeste.

That sounds exciting. How did you come up with the idea for the space plane?

I have been an aviation nut all my life and had been following the progress of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic craft since its inception. It is likely that in the near future something similar will be taking wealthy joy-riders around the world. That thought generated a ‘what if’ moment. What if the space plane disappeared? How? Why? And that gave me the idea for the story.

Are there any interesting sub-plots in the story?

A few, as there are in most thrillers, I suppose. My favourite is the developing romance between John Sturgess, the original test pilot for the Celeste project who has been dismissed from flying duty and Julie Fallon, a feisty private investigator who has been given the job of getting to know him in order to find out if he could be persuaded to fly the plane again. Here is a brief extract. The context is that Julie had driven John to his home after he had drunk too much alcohol the previous evening. She has stayed overnight:

Julie looked around the kitchen and found the coffee pot, mugs and milk. “Homogenized,” she sniffed, disparagingly. It would have to do. In the fridge were  a carton of eggs, butter and some tired lettuce that was useless for any kind of breakfast. She found a box of cereal in a cupboard and was looking for crockery when a bleary John Sturgess shuffled in. He was wearing an orange bathrobe, socks that hadn’t been removed the previous night, and a weary expression. His hair was tousled like a schoolboy’s. Julie grinned.

“Morning, John,” she said brightly. “And what gets you up at the crack of ten o’clock?”

He slumped into a chair, put his head in his hands and groaned. “Uhhhh.”

“Coffee coming up. What do you want for breakfast? I found eggs and cereal. No toast, unless you tell me where you hide the bread.”

“Coffee.” He moaned again. “I feel like shit.”

Julie put a hand on her hip and made a happy face. “Sorry, I’m fresh out of shit, the eating kind, I mean.”

Sturgess frowned and sat up straight. “Say, what the hell you doing here, anyway?”

“You want me to go?”

He was massaging his forehead with one hand. He raised the other. “No. No, I didn’t mean that.”

“Then what did you mean, John?”

“Christ, I dunno, gimme a break. Oh, my head.”

Julie poured coffee into a mug. “No milk, black is what you need right now.” She handed him the mug. He reached for it and his robe came open.

She grinned again. “Nice view.”

He put the mug down, pulled the robe together quickly and tightened its belt.

“And another thing. What you done with my pants?”

“Hung  ’em up with your coat. Before you ask, I slept in the spare room and I didn’t take advantage of you last night.”

He managed a weak smile. “You brought me home. Thanks…hell, I can’t even remember your name. I guess you think I’m a real horse’s ass.”

“Uh-huh. It’s Julie. Julie Fallon.”

“Julie, yeah. Thanks, Julie.”

“My pleasure.” She grinned. “Specially the last part.”

He looked at her and shook his head slowly. “You know, you’re something else.”

“I know. Now, you want some breakfast? It’ll have to be quick, I need to call a cab.”

“You’re going?” He seemed disappointed.

“I have to get my stuff and check out of the hotel. Then straight to the airport.”

“Will you be coming back?”

“Maybe. Depends on my client.”

She saw his face fall and immediately felt sorry for him. “OK, give me your number; I’ll call you if I do.”

Intriguing! We now want to know what happens to them!

What else have you brought along and why?

A couple of photographs; my part in a promotion by a tobacco company in 1966. I was a finalist in the Woodbine Flying scheme. A long, long time ago. (Sigh!) I had done a bit of gliding, so was delighted to have been selected. In those days nearly everybody smoked and of course, most photos were in monochrome. So much for my technicolour memories. These photos recorded my first flight in a powered light aircraft. Happy days!

In your writing career, is there something that you regret doing, or regret not doing?


Without a doubt, what I regret most is not starting to write books earlier in my life. In fact I might never have become a novelist at all had I not been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer shortly after retiring to live in France.

I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?

Following major surgery I found myself surrounded by lovely folk with whom I could not communicate. My French language skills at the time were, frankly, awful. Frustrated, I picked up a pen and drafted the bones of the story that became PAYBACK, a light thriller based loosely on some of the more interesting and bizarre incidents in my time as owner of a small engineering business. The book was published a year later and four more have followed since. Age does not necessarily bring wisdom, but it does provide the priceless benefit of life experience; something that cannot be bought. Perhaps not surprising, then, that I have become passionate about encouraging older folk to use their life experience and start writing. It’s never too late!

As someone approaching 60 who has only a first draft of their first novel I’m glad to hear that Chris! So, what are you working on now?

I try always to have two stories in progress at the same time. When the muse dries on the main one, I fall back on the second. It works for me. Currently I have a novella in progress, a comedy about an English soccer club manager from the East End of London whose meteoric rise to fame and fortune is followed by a disastrous slump in his career. He takes on the job of managing the national team of a West African nation. I’m enjoying writing it immensely.

That sounds like a lot of fun. 

Finally, is there anything that you would change, if you could, about the process of writing and publishing as you have experienced it?

Writers should welcome and cherish good reviews, and swallow hard and learn from bad ones. But sometimes even good reviewers seem to lose sight of the fact that in dialogue, there is a big difference between what the character says and what the writer may say in real life. Authentic dialogue is fundamental to establish the nature of a character. A highly-rated reviewer once objected to what she termed “too many f-bombs” in one of my books. Personally I hate that four-letter word. OK, maybe the character could have had less dialogue, but I stand by its use in that context. Rant over!

Brilliant! Thanks so much for staying in with me Chris, and telling us more about your writing and Celeste Three is Missing.

Thank you, Linda, for your company this evening and for giving me the opportunity to be introduced to your readers and followers. As a writer of fiction I try always to entertain, divert and amuse. I welcome contact from readers and always respond promptly to their messages, happily acknowledging that I have benefited enormously from their input.

Celeste Three is Missing

Celeste Three Is Missing Cover

The world’s first earth-orbit passenger plane, the sensational Celeste Three, takes off from its base in Arizona, also the only place where it is designed land. On a routine flight the craft disappears.

On board is Viktor Karenkov, billionaire oil magnate who has used his wealth to evade prosecution for a murder he committed years earlier. Gregory Topozian, the murdered man’s friend, has been waiting for a chance to bring Karenkov to justice. With dogged determination and considerable ingenuity, he conceives an audacious plan.

Getting the craft down in total secrecy is key. And someone has to pay the huge costs  involved.

You can buy Celeste Three is Missing on Amazon US and Amazon UK

About Chris Calder

Celeste Author Photo

After ten happy years of retirement in rural France, Chris Calder is back in England. He came late to writing novels, penning his first whilst incarcerated in a French hospital following cancer surgery. At the time he spoke little French. Unable to communicate effectively with the staff, he spent his time fleshing out his first novel. Five more have followed; light thrillers leavened with humour. Best of all, the cancer is now history.

Chris knows that readers of fiction expect to be diverted and entertained. He loves feedback and believes passionately that taking on board readers’ views improves what what he does. You can email him at Go on, he’d love to hear from you.

For more information you can follow Chris on Twitter @CalderAuthor or find him on Facebook. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Celeste Three Is Missing Full Tour Banner

When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby

When We Fall Final Cover

I’m trying hard not to accept new blog tours and posts at the moment as I am inundated. However, when Anne at Random Things Tours invited me to be part of the launch celebrations for Carolyn Kirby’s new book, When We Fall, I knew I had to be involved. It’s just over a year since I reviewed here Carolyn’s The Conviction of Cora Burns which I absolutely loved so I knew I’d be in for a treat with When We Fall. It’s an honour to be helping close the tour.

Carolyn was interviewed about When We Fall by author and critic Barry Forshaw (@barryforshaw3) on 7th May and you can catch up with that interview here.

When We Fall published on 10th April 2020 by No Exit Press and is available for purchase here.

When We Fall

When We Fall Final Cover

From the acclaimed author of The Conviction of Cora Burns, longlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award

‘A poignant story of love, betrayal and impossible moral choices’ – Nick Rennison, Sunday Times

England, 1943.Lost in fog, pilot Vee Katchatourian is forced to make an emergency landing where she meets enigmatic RAF airman Stefan Bergel, and then can’t get him out of her mind.

In occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman hosts German officers in her father’s guest house, while secretly gathering intelligence for the Polish resistance. Mourning her lover, Stefan, who was captured by the Soviets at the start of the war, Ewa is shocked to him on the street one day.

Haunted by a terrible choice he made in captivity, Stefan asks Vee and Ewa to help him expose one of the darkest secrets of the war. But it is not clear where everyone’s loyalties lie until they are tested…

Published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day and based on WWII war atrocity the Katyn massacre, When We Fall is a moving story of three lives forever altered by one fatal choice.

My Review of When We Fall

Vee’s fog bound emergency landing will change her life.

I absolutely loved When We Fall. Firstly, the quality of Carolyn Kirby’s writing is so good because it has a modern freshness whist retaining an authentic period feel too so that it was easy to be totally immersed in the narrative. Descriptions are so subtly included that they paint a picture in the reader’s mind that transports them to the setting and action as if they are part of the events too.

Also adding to the credibility and authenticity is the meticulous research that has gone into the book. I confess I had no idea about the particular historical event that underpins this novel, but I finished When We Fall educated, entertained and emotionally connected to the people and the era. When We Fall truly is an hypnotic presentation of the period.

I found the entire story utterly gripping. Nearer the end my heart was thumping, partly because I wasn’t convinced that the outcomes would be ones I wanted. I was completely invested in the characters and knowing that the events were founded in historical fact somehow made these fictional people all the more real. Although there are several vivid peripheral characters, the focus on Vee, Ewa and Stefan feels intimate and precise, making for an immersive, totally engaging read. I thought Vee was magnificent. She embodies a feminism ahead of her time whilst retaining a vulnerability that made me concerned for her throughout.

I actually found Stefan quite difficult to like despite the attraction Ewa and Vee feel for him and that is what makes When We Fall such a wonderful book. I may not have liked the male lead character but I cared about him, understood his behaviour and wanted him to succeed because of Carolyn Kirby’s fantastic writing.

Obviously war is central to the narrative, but the themes presented are beautifully woven into the story. Loyalty, love, identity, bravery, sexism, nationalism, passion, grief and so on, form a compelling maelstrom that draws in the reader and won’t let them go. Alongside the history in When We Fall is mystery and a love story too so that there is something for any reader.

I devoured When We Fall over a weekend. This isn’t to say it is an easy and insubstantial read, but rather that Carolyn Kirby hypnotises the reader, making them desperate to know what will happen to the characters and holding them spellbound until the very last word. When We Fall is one of those novels that stays with the reader long after the pages are closed. I loved it.

About Carolyn Kirby

carolyn kirby

Carolyn Kirby’s debut novel The Conviction of Cora Burns was begun on a writing course at Faber Academy and went on to win the Bluepencilagency Award for unpublished novels. Published in March 2019 by No Exit Press in the UK and Dzanc Books in North America, the novel has been getting praise from reviewers and journalists. The Sunday Mirror called it; ‘A great historical novel with bite,’ and it was chosen by The Times as an historical fiction book of the month.

Before being a full-time writer, Carolyn worked in social housing and as a teacher. She has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in Oxfordshire.

You can visit Carolyn’s website or follow her on Twitter @novelcarolyn and Facebook.

When We Fall BT Poster

Staying in with M. N. Grenside


It’s my very great pleasure to be part of the Love Books Group blog tour for M. N. Grenside today. Thanks to Urbane Publications and to Kelly, I’m staying in with Mark so that he can tell me all about his latest book.

Staying in with M.N. Grenside

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Mark and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Hi Linda, hope you keeping well and safe.

I am thanks Mark, especially with all this wonderful weather. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?


Tonight I am bringing along my debut thriller FALL OUT; the first in a franchise of thrillers set in the movie industry.

Oh, interesting. So, what can we expect from an evening in with FALL OUT?

You can expect a late night firstly as I hope you can’t put it down! It’s a fresh look at the thriller genre. In the same way as Dick Francis wrote stories with horse racing as the backdrop or Grisham used the law, I have used my experience in film and TV to write a thriller with an Entertainment Industry backdrop

That sounds great – an example of write what you know then. Tell me more.

The story starts out with the murder of a successful screenwriter who has just completed his latest script Fall Out, destined to be a huge hit and the best work of his career. However we discover it is much more than that; for a select group of people he has sent it to it’s a death sentence with a reveal of one of the last centuries greatest crimes. As the quote on the top of each screenplay reads:

The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed’. HONORÉ DE BALZAC

Now I’m intrigued Mark…

FALL OUT gently lifts the veil on not only how films get made but on the true story of one of the greatest crimes of the last century.

Does that mean you’re blending fact and fiction?

The story has a number of characters from a Talent Agent, Completion Bond Executive, Stunt Men, a designer of parties and stands in Cannes, a writer, a Producer, a sixty-year-old Filipino and the last person you would expect as a hit man… I’d get sued if I told you whom they are based on!

Maybe when Linda’s Book Bag readers have gone you can whisper…

In addition, I have used both well researched historical facts laced with a healthy dollop of fiction to create a hybrid book where hopefully the reader finds it difficult to separate reality from fiction. There is action, exotic locations, Da Vinci code type clues and I hope some fascinating glimpses at art, food and organized crime.

FAll OUT sounds very exciting. Tell me about the main characters.

It has two leads… Producer Marcus Riley and Designer Melinda ‘Mako de Turris’, who spark off each other. I hope there is a lightness of touch and humor which I believe is missing from thrillers today. As a film and TV Producer, dialogue that crackles and descriptive scenery are important to me. It’s a very visual read with a number of spectacular locations that I hope are both fascinating and different.

I love a visual read. Just what we need as travel is limited at the moment too. But tell me a little more about your background that has fed into FALL OUT.

After a brief stint in Kidnap Ransom and Extortion Insurance at LIoyds of London, I started my TV and film career working for Jim Henson and the Muppets. Over the years I made a number of movies, mini-series and series for worldwide TV, with productions for both US and UK networks. Somehow in the mid noughties, I also ended up being a  channel owner buying the international version of The Hallmark Channel. That was sold to NBC and I returned to producing. The last project was Treasure Island for SKY and NBC Universal with Eddie Izard, Donald Sutherland, Elijah Wood, Philip Glenister and Rupert Penry Jones!

Nothing unusual then! Honestly Mark, that’s some career!

This all gives me an insider’s view to the workings of the Entertainment Industry to give verisimilitude to the backdrop of  FALL OUT. On that front, I hope I succeeded with already some very kind endorsements from people in the Industry. These include a number of award-winning Producers of Oscar nominated movies and Emmy Award winning drama shows, home grown support from the CEO and owner of Hammer Films, the founder of Talk Radio, Broadcaster Emma Forbes and former CEO of Channel 5 and senior Exec at ITV and Sky Dawn Airey.

You must be thrilled with that. Who knows. We may see FALL OUT on screen sometime… But with all that experience why did you write THIS particular book?

Well, I unearthed a dark side of history on a visit to Asia. On its own it lacked a real story that is relevant today to wrap around it. So I chose the movie business; something everyone is fascinated about, yet the Industry itself keeps so may secrets to itself.

And on a personal basis, making movies by nature is a very collaborative business. I just wanted a chance to do something where I am in complete control! So if it’s a success I will no doubt be insufferable!

I think you’ll deserve that moment of being insufferable!

I have been very lucky with support. From the Publishers, my wife and friends and even from bestselling authors including Damien Lewis. I hope I have succeeded blurring the lines between truth and fiction with a fast paced but very different kind of thriller. As well as imparting some knowledge about really how our business works. Most important is your readers enjoy the ride!

I think FALL OUT sounds so intriguing. I really need to get my hands on a copy now!

What else have you brought along and why?

In addition to my writing I am an entrepreneur. I and two friends founded a CBD company Dragonfly Biosciences in 2016 so I have some CBD for you.

I’ve never tried a CBD product so that will be interesting for me.

I also love to cook and entertain so I have some favorite recipes. Parmesan soup, Lamb baked in hay and rhubarb and white wine jelly!

Parmesan Soup

Ingredients: (Serves a very generous 4-6)
2 white onions (coarsely chopped)
50 g unsalted butter
200 g Parmesan (freshly grated)
1 litre chicken stock
2 litres cream
1 litre milk
50 g lardons of unsmoked bacon (finely chopped)
10 branches of chives (finely chopped)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
2 tbsp croûtons (fry some diced small cubes of country bread in olive oil until golden)
200 ml Madeira or Marsala
Salt and pepper (for seasoning)
Crusty country white bread

Coarsely chop up the onions. Melt the butter in a large pot, add the onions and sizzle away on a low heat for 10 minutes.

Add 150 g of freshly grated parmesan, chicken stock, milk and cream. Simmer on a low heat for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop finely the bacon or simply use the cubed lardons. Fry for 5 minutes until crispy. Put to one side. Finely chop the chives and shallots. Put to one side aside.

When the soup is ready, add the remaining parmesan. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Mix in a food processor, and strain through a sieve. Season with salt and pepper. Keep the soup warm. Add the Marsala stirring the mixture

Place the shallots, chives, croûtons and bacon in a soup dish, serve soup immediately.

Cut bread into large chunks. Simply the most glorious soup to warm you up!

Lamb in Hay

Ingredients: (Serves six)
1 3 KG leg of lamb
100 g soft butter
1 small bale of fresh hay (you can get it in any pet shop)

Take your roasting tray. Place silver foil underneath the base, not inside the tray and leave it attached to the roll and place roll beside the tray.

Make a bed of hay in it. Place your leg of lamb in it. Smear the top with the butter so the other ingredient can stick to it.

Crush a couple of cloves of garlic into small bowl. Add the content or a decent spring of rosemary, salt, pepper. Use scissors to finely chop up into a paste. Then add to the top of the lamb.

Next put more hay to the top. Using the silver foil then wrap at least twice round this mound of lamb and hay making sure there are no openings or gaps. If there are the hay will catch fire.

Pre-heat over to near max 475f/240c/gas 9. Slam in the lamb for 2.45hours.

Be simply amazed at the tenderness and wonderful aroma and taste. Magnificent!

Rhubarb and Muscat Jelly

1 kg rhubarb
325g caster sugar
500 ml water
Juice and finely grated zest one large or two small oranges
325ml Muscat wine (or similar, Beaume de Venise etc)
9 leaves of gelatine

Prepare an over tray with some silver foil over base around 30cm x 20cm and 5cm deep. Preheat oven to 5/190c/370f

Chop rhubarb in to chunks as long as your thumb and place in tray. Sprinkle over the sugar orange juice zest and water. Bake for an hour. Take out and let rest.
Then strain into a jug. Will be about 700ml of liquid. Keep the pulp for another day to reheat and have with vanilla ice cream for a pie or trifle. You can freeze it if wanted. Add more wine until you get about 900 ml of liquid.

Gently oil a jelly mould it you want to turn this out when set or simply get a pretty glass bowl.

Soak the gelatine in water in a dish till soft. Then take two ladles full of rhubarb and wine mixture and place in saucepan. Bring to boil then remove. Drop in softened gelatine then whisk till dissolved. Add to rest of mix and stir.

Then either pour into jelly mould or bowl. Put in the fridge for a couple of hours to set and chill.

Serve with crème fraiche and a chilled glass of Muscat!

Oh, you can come again if you’re going to cook. What a glorious meal Mark!


Here are a few photographs from the book of things you may have thought I made up but are real! Mako’s Riva Melinda II, Death Flowers, Chrysanthemum Stones and the writer’s house on Venice Beach that belonged to Dudley Moore

flower 1 flower 2 death flower

I have never heard of chrysanthemum stones before and I really wouldn’t mind living in that villa.


My other passions of classic cars and scuba diving are a little difficult to bring with me! Come out to Malta though and we will dig out a car, go for a drive then have a dive. And I’ll tell you more about the follow up, The Bastion! Some of it is set here.

Now that sounds a plan. Thanks so much for a really fascinating evening. You get that Parmesan soup served Mark and I’ll tell blog readers a little more about FALL OUT:



The Player meets Get Shorty in this thrilling debut from Mark Grenside.

An LA screenwriter is killed shortly after completing his latest script, FALL OUT – a thriller destined to be a blockbuster but written with a secret double purpose. Echoing events from the past the screenplay is sent to a very specific group of people and will change their lives forever. All are connected to a movie that had abruptly stopped shooting in the jungles of the Philippines years before. FALL OUT exposes the truth about a conspiracy and murder that led to a half-a-billion-dollar fortune for a select few.

Follow the story of Producer Marcus Riley, who sets out on an increasingly dangerous quest to get FALL OUT made. From a powerful Agent’ s office in Hollywood, hidden treasures in Belgravia and a remote chalet in the Swiss Alps to murder at the Cannes Film Festival, Marcus teams up with designer Melinda (Mako) de Turris as they and the other recipients of the screenplay are pursued by an assassin from the past.

With clues cleverly concealed in the screenplay, Marcus and Mako unravel a lethal puzzle that for some will bring death, others the truth and ends in a cave with a shocking secret…..

Published by Urbane books today 21st May 2020, FALL OUT is available for purchase here.

About Mark Grenside


Mark Grenside began his working career straight out of school at Lloyds of London, specializing in Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion Insurance. At 25 it was time for a career change and to dump the suit and tie so he started his media career working for Jim Henson and The Muppets. From that moment on he has been involved in Entertainment and nearly every aspect of it. Mark then went on to create and produce a number of television series and mini-series. At the same time he started a music management company launching million seller artist Neneh Cherry. In 2004 he arranged a $250 million buy-out of the Hallmark Channel International which was then successfully sold to NBC. He returned to producing a number of movies and mini-series.

He has recently somehow morphed into a serial entrepreneur and is now a co-founder of seed to shelf CBD producer Dragonfly Biosciences ( and a founder in two separate digital companies…. but has also seen a very good return from his love of cooking in an expanding waistline.

A probably unhealthy amount of time and money is lavished on a collection of classic cars that he has raced all over the world. He enjoys risk and has parachuted in New Zealand, scuba dived in the Pacific, hang-glided in the Himalayas and even tobogganed down the Cresta Run. In nearly every case chasing after his wife who is utterly fearless!

He is now writing the follow up to FALL OUT, entitled The Bastion. In addition he writes also puts out a humorous blog with subscribers in more than 40 countries. Mark has two grown sons, two daughters in law, three grandchildren and lives with his wife, a pug and a French bulldog in Malta.

Visit Mark’s blog for more information. Mark has just joined Twitter @MNGrenside too.

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Fall Out poster