The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Evie Epworth

Now, I wasn’t going to read The Miseducation of Evie Epworth yet because I am inundated with books for blog tours. I had invited Matson Taylor to stay in with me to chat about the book instead. However, I thought I’d have a quick look at the first page, got hooked and read the whole book before I knew where I was! Consequently, not only am I staying in with Matson today, but I have a review for you too.

Staying in with Matson Taylor

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Matson. Thanks so much for staying in with me. I rather think I know, but which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Evie Epworth

I’ve brought along my first novel: The Miseducation of Evie Epworth. It’s my only novel so far but I hope in a couple of years I’ll be bringing along a follow up!

I hope so too. Congratulations on this debut Matson. I’ve just read The Miseducation of Evie Epworth and loved it. I can’t wait to see what happens in her life next.

What can we expect from an evening in with The Miseducation of Evie Epworth?

People have been saying how much the book has made them laugh so I think you can expect to get through quite a few tissues! There’ll be lots of tears of laughter and some tears of sorrow too. I wanted the book to be fun but at the same deal with some quite emotional topics, to have a heart as well as raise a smile.

Evie certainly does all those things Matson. I loved it.

You can also expect to meet some very strong female characters – a product, I think, of my Yorkshire upbringing (we’re taught at a very early age who’s the boss!). And food. You should expect lots of food. It’s everywhere in the book – there are even some recipes…

Oh there are. And those women…

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

fruit cake

Well, I’ve mentioned the food already (which, of course, I’ll bring along – I’m a dab hand at all the recipes now after lots of testing) so I’d like to bring another two things along.


One is a dog… any dog! I love dogs. There are a couple of dogs in the book and I really enjoyed writing about them – one of them, Sadie, is based on a real dog and writing about her brought back some lovely memories. The other thing I’d like to bring along is a book about the sixties – the music, the fashion, the films, the tv shows… The book is set in 1962 in a little village in Yorkshire and you can feel what we understand as the 60s getting stronger as the story unfolds. This was one of the key things I wanted to explore in the book – how the sixties didn’t actually start on January 1st 1960 – there was a strange hinterland for a couple of years where the decade still clung on to the 1950s, at least culturally. I like the idea of exploring how a decade ‘grows up’ and finds its identity (just as when we’re growing up there’s a period between being a child and being an adult – and that’s why Evie is 16 1/2 – she’s bang smack in the middle of that age at which we’re trying to work out our own identity).

I couldn’t agree more, Matson. And being a child of the 60s myself I found the era very evocative. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about The Miseducation of Evie Epworth. Before I share my review, let me give blog readers all the details.

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth

Evie Epworth

July, 1962

Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?

The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.

If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.

Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth will be published by Simon and Schuster imprint Scribner on 23rd July 2020 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

My review of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth

Evie isn’t sure who or what she wants to become.

It was a real joy to meet Evie Epworth and to travel back in time to the 1960s. There’s a wonderful authentic feel of the era that not only creates an enjoyment in reading The Miseducation of Evie Epworth but rekindled so many of my own memories that it added an extra layer of magic – and there is even a touch of real magic in the story. Matson Taylor uses music and fashion, television and a vivid depiction of life in a small Yorkshire village so that it is like stepping aboard a time machine and being transported back in time. I loved the Yorkshireness of the narrative too which comes through brilliant dialogue and attitude, and brings everything from the prosaic to the magical in a blend of humour and emotion. I finished reading The Miseducation of Evie Epworth feeling I had had incredible fun. Very few books make me laugh aloud but this one did frequently and I loved it. I may even have shed a small tear too.

Evie herself is a glorious character. Her exploration of identity is what so many of us will have experienced and can relate to, because her narrative voice rings out from the page. As the book came to a close I was completely satisfied by its resolution for Evie, but simultaneously desperate to know what happens next in her life.

The other characters are an eclectic bunch of vivid and varied personalities. I thought the way Matson Taylor brought in Evie’s mother gave her a real presence and the scenes set in the past add a layer of mystery to the read. However, it is Christine who so ignited my reader response. She is utterly awful. I wanted to climb into the pages of the book and do her physical harm! I think it speaks for the quality of Matson Taylor’s writing that he was able to engender such a response.

Indeed, the writing is brilliant. The structure of the novel, the use of upper case letters in unusual places, the variety of sentence length and naturalistic dialogue, the realistic and often surprisingly poetic description all add up to a fabulous read. I even loved the tiny illustrations. There’s a smashing balance of humour and pathos in The Miseducation of Evie Epworth that makes it all the more effective. I thoroughly enjoyed considering the themes of friendship and enmity, love and dislike, education and practicality and so on that are woven through a thoroughly entertaining story. There’s also a strong moral sense behind the writing too that I felt added a layer of depth I wasn’t expecting. To say more would spoil the plot but this is a book to revel in on many levels!

I loved Matson Taylor’s The Miseducation of Evie Epworth because I believed completely in Evie and her life. I was diverted from the cares of the world and taken back to the era of my youth just brilliantly. It was a real joy to read The Miseducation of Evie Epworth and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Matson Taylor


Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team.

Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. Previously, he talked his way into various jobs at universities and museums around the world; he has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers. He gets back to Yorkshire as much as possible, mainly to see family and friends but also to get a reasonably-priced haircut.

He has always loved telling stories and, after writing academically about beaded flapper dresses and World War 2 glow-in-the-dark fascinators, he decided to enrol on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is his first novel.

For more information, follow Matson on Twitter @matson_taylor_ or visit his website. You’ll also find him on Instagram.

If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? by Anatoli Scholz

if cats could talk

Anyone who knows me also knows I am a passionate cat lover so when Ben Cameron at Cameron Publicity asked if I’d like a copy of If Cats Could Talk … Would They Cry? in return for an honest review I couldn’t resist.

If Cats Could Talk … Would They Cry? is available for purchase here.

If Cats Could Talk … Would They Cry?

if cats could talk

On the morning of the 17th, after a particularly sleepful night, Julie Galles woke up to find herself transformed into a cat. Still half asleep, she watched a set of ginger and white paws stretch out on the beige duvet cover and felt every inch of her body yearning for a good scratch. She yawned and shook her head, a set of gray whiskers flickering in the corners of her eyes. Overcome by a sudden tedious thought, she took a gander around the room, followed by a relieved exhale on the note that nothing else had changed. Her little studio apartment was the same she had left it the night before…

If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? introduces Julie Galles. An introvert in an extrovert’s world, Julie is stuck in a rut – until the day she wakes up as a cat. Can a feline perspective help her to reconnect with humanity?

A modern ‘Metamorphosis’ that speaks to the themes of our time – isolation, identity, and desperation for connection. Magical realism with an off-beat charm.

Beautifully illustrated with playful vignettes by Spanish artist Félix Diaz de Escauriaza.

My Review of If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry?

I’m not entirely certain how to review If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? because I found it a really curious read. I’m not sure if I fully understood all its meanings it , but I found it curiously hypnotic so that I had to read it in one sitting.

On one level Anatoli Scholz has produced an entertaining, straightforward narrative (if that can be said of a story where an adult protagonist becomes a cat over night) set within quite traditional boundaries of time, one day, and place, Paris, that is resolved highly satisfactorily. But saying that is to do an injustice to a novella packed with symbolism, allegory and meaning. I found it fascinating. I also thought the illustrations were wonderful because they convey considerable meaning and emotion in their simplicity.

It is Julie’s transformation into a cat that helps the reader develop a clear picture of what she is like as a person. Her emotional distance from meaningful relationships, her attitude to her father, mother and sister, her habitual workaday life are all very prosaic and familiar and yet there is a poignancy that generates real empathy. She needs this curious metamorphosis to understand herself and those around her. I found this a moving aspect of If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry?.

I thoroughly enjoyed the feline elements of If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? too because, as a passionate cat lover, they felt highly authentic to me. Julie’s heightened senses illustrate just what we frequently miss in our daily lives so that not only is this Julie’s story, but it is one from which we can all learn.

If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? is an unusual novella. I suspect my reading has only scratched the surface of its possibilities. The symbolism is intelligent and engaging and I think each reader will bring their own interpretation and understanding. For example, I have no idea if the tunnels of the catacombs were intended to represent rebirth, but that’s what they signified to me. To say too much more about plot and action and my interpretations would spoil the read for others, but it is highly thought provoking.

I found If Cats Could Talk… Would They Cry? intriguing. It won’t suit all readers but I’d strongly recommend reading it for yourself to find the answer to the title!

About Anatoli Scholz


Born in Moscow, Anatoli Scholz was raised and educated all over the western hemisphere, including the US, Germany, and France. When he was growing up his parents received donations from Doctors Without Borders. Now he writes stories about gaps in our societal membrane.

For more information, visit Anatoli’s website or find him on Facebook.

You Don’t Know Me by Sara Foster

You Don't Know me

I’m very fond of a psychological thriller so when Lucy at Legend Press asked me if I’d like to be part of the launch celebrations for You Don’t Know Me by Sara Foster I readily agreed. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Legend Press on 30th June 2020, You Don’t Know Me is available for pre-order here.

You Don’t Know Me

You Don't Know me

Lizzie Burdett was eighteen when she vanished. Noah Carruso has never forgotten her: she was his first crush; his unrequited love. She was also his brother’s girlfriend.

Tom Carruso hasn’t been home in over a decade. He left soon after Lizzie disappeared, under a darkening cloud of suspicion. Now he’s coming home for the inquest into Lizzie’s death, intent on telling his side of the story for the first time.

As the inquest looms, Noah meets Alice Pryce while on holiday in Thailand. They fall in love fast and hard, but Noah can t bear to tell Alice his deepest fears. And Alice is equally stricken, for she carries a terrible secret of her own.

He’s guarding a dark secret, but so is she.

My Review of You Don’t Know Me

Alice and Noah both have secrets.

There’s a really interesting structure to You Don’t Know Me that makes for an entertaining plot. Although there was a little too much about the relationship between Alice and Noah in the early part if the book for my taste, I thoroughly appreciated the way it reflected their need to escape their pasts, and avoid their futures, through a more hedonistic present. It makes the reader fully aware that there is much more to be revealed about both these young people. The use of podcasts to unfold the narrative is a clever device as it unlocks detail for the reader, as well as for the characters, whilst maintaining the suspense. The more I read, the more drawn in I became and I found You Don’t Know Me entertaining.

I thought the attention to detail in the settings was very vivid and found myself transported back to Thailand through Sara Foster’s meticulous appeal to the senses. Food in particular felt realistic and I liked the way it ‘fed’ Alice and Noah’s early relationship in both a literal and metaphorical way. The way the heat of Bangkok mirrors the heat of passion between Alice and Noah emphasises the depth of their feeling. I found the Thai setting very authentic.

The most appealing aspect of Don’t Know Me for me was the exploration of theme. Lizzie’s disappearance illustrates how someone can shape and influence us long after the event and the concept of shame, secrecy and guilt adds depth to the narrative. Don’t Know Me is an intriguing consideration of how we never really know others fully.

I thought Don’t Know Me was an unusual book. It doesn’t fall readily into a particular genre for me as there is romance, intrigue, crime, mystery and a psychological aspect so that it can be read on many levels. I think it’s all the better for being difficult to pigeonhole!

About Sara Foster


Sara Foster is the bestselling author of five psychological suspense novels. Born and raised in the UK, she worked for a time in the HarperCollins fiction department in London, before turning her hand to freelance editing, and writing in her spare time. Sara now lives in Western Australia with her husband and two young daughters, and is a doctoral candidate at Curtin University.

You can follow Sara on Twitter @sarajfoster or visit her website for further information.

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You Don't Know Me Blog Tour

Let’s Get Published by Val Penny

Cover Lets Get Published

As many of you know, I have finished a first draft of a novel that I have simply left languishing since. Recently I was part of the cover reveal for Let’s Get Published by Val Penny and so it gives me enormous pleasure to be reviewing a book that might just get me back into writing as well as blogging!

My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. I am delighted to share my review of Let’s Get Published today.

I also have a super guest post from Val 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.

My Review of Let’s Get Published

A practical guide to getting published.

Val Penny’s Let’s Get Published is a really helpful little book that asks essential questions of an aspiring writer and then steers them to the right answers for them. She considers all aspects of writing from identifying readership and defining genre to publicity and drafting, writing a synopsis and submitting. Val Penny does not shy away from difficulties authors may face, such as being too painfully shy to promote their own books by standing in front of a large audience and delivering a speech or reading, and by raising awareness of the reader as a writer she is assisting the road to publication. There’s a piece of advice about writing a synopsis that was a complete lightbulb moment for me, but I’m not going to share it – you’ll have to read Let’s Get Published to find out what it was!

What I enjoyed most about Let’s Get Published was the way Val Penny gives gravitas and status to all forms of writing and all approaches to getting published. Times have changed and self-publication or hybrid approaches are no longer the Cinderella ways to get your book to a reader. Similarly, her use of quotations by and references to, other authors gives excellent kudos to her advice, making for an entertaining as well as informative read.

Let’s Get Published is a little cracker of a book. Eminently readable and packed with hints and tips, Val Penny has a straight-forward, no-nonsense style that creates confidence in her reader. Coupled with the excellent advice given I would heartily recommend Let’s Get Published to any aspiring author because the book is relevant to writers of any genre. I’m just plucking up the courage to send Val’s suggested questions to a beta reader. See you in print!

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 ChaseHunter’s RevengeHunter’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.

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let's get published (3)

From Venice With Love by Rosanna Ley

From Venice with Love

I just adore Rosanna Ley’s writing so I’m thrilled to be part of this blog blast for her latest book, From Venice with Love.

If you’re a regular blog visitor, you’ll know Rosanna Ley features here almost as much as much as I do!

I wrote about having afternoon tea with Rosanna Ley at the Covent Garden Hotel  when Her Mother’s Secret was released in this blog post.

My review of Her Mother’s Secret is here.

I wrote about a fabulous Quercus fiction event here when I came away with an early copy of the The Lemon Tree Hotel. My review of The Lemon Tree Hotel is here.

Rosanna Ley’s Last Dance in Havana was one of my books of the year in 2016 and you can find out all about that here and read my review here.

It was also my huge pleasure to host Rosanna on Linda’s Book Bag when The Little Theatre By The Sea was released and she wrote a glorious guest piece about her travel and research in this post.

So you can see why I was so pleased to be invited to be part of today’s event for From Venice with Love!

From Venice with Love is out today in paperback and is available for purchase through the links here.

From Venice with Love

From Venice with Love

The bestselling author of The Lemon Tree Hotel returns with an enchanting new holiday read about family bonds and following your heart, wherever it might take you…

With her marriage in danger of falling apart, Joanna returns home to the beautiful but dilapidated Mulberry Farm Cottage in rural Dorset, where her sister Harriet is struggling to keep the Farm afloat and cope with their eccentric mother.

When Joanna discovers a bundle of love letters in the attic, written by a watercolourist named Emmy, she is intrigued and sets out to discover Emmy’s true story. Emmy’s letters take Joanna to the picturesque alleyways and bridges of Lisbon, Prague, and the most romantic place of all: Venice – where a whole new magical world seems to unfold in front of her.

Meanwhile, back at Mulberry Farm Cottage, a mysterious prowler adds to Harriet’s problems and interrupts her search for a perfect partner. Will she ever find true love? Where will Emmy’s mesmerising pathway lead? And more importantly, will Joanna and Harriet be able to rescue the cottage and finally be able to re-discover their sisterly bond?

My Review of From Venice with Love

Sisters Joanna and Harriet have some self discovery to make.

It’s an absolute joy to return to a Rosanna Ley novel. I enjoyed From Venice with Love because it took me out of the cares of today’s world into another time and place so completely.

As I have come to expect from Rosanna Ley’s writing, there is a smashing sense of place through her vivid and evocative descriptions so that I could recognise the places in Lisbon, Prague and Venice that I have been to. This added an extra layer of enjoyment as it transported me out of lockdown and enabled me to travel safely, evoking memories I had forgotten. That said, a reader doesn’t have to have any knowledge of the settings in From Venice with Love to be able to visualise them completely because of the quality of the writing.

I loved the plot. There’s a wistfulness and poignancy underpinning the storyline that I found very affecting. Rosanna Ley has blended familiar elements like divorce and financial worries with a more mystical aspect which suggests the power of imagination. The swirling effects of the past ripple into the present, making for a magical and enchanting read that is completely believable.

I found the characters very realistic. I was in love with Owen from the very beginning. Joanna and Harriet could represent sisters in any family and the blend of love and distance between the two of them made me wish I could step into the pages of the book and advise them personally. Harriet is less instantly likeable and that makes her personal development through the story all the more engaging and fulfilling. I  found Emmy, who belongs firmly in the past, a wonderful catalyst for present events. Indeed, reading From Venice with Love made me think more about those in my own past who have shaped who I am today.

The themes of From Venice with Love feel gloriously mature and sensitively presented so that I think there is something for any reader. Rosanna Ley illustrates how marriage, relationships and love are not straightforward and do not always match the public presentation we provide to others, or are given in return. Sibling rivalry, memory, identity, self-acceptance and belonging echo through the pages and for me, that journey of self discovery that Joanna, Harriet and Nicholas all need is beautifully defined, making for an enormously rewarding read.

I really enjoyed from Venice with Love. Rosanne Ley entertained and engaged me completely, distracting me from the cares of today’s world and affording an escapist respite with characters I cared about. What could be better than that?

About Rosanna Ley


Rosanna Ley is the bestselling author of novels including Return to Mandalay and The Villa, which sold over 310,000 copies. In February 2015 Return to Mandalay was shortlisted for the RNA Award for the Epic Romantic Novel. She has written numerous articles and short stories for magazines, and her novels have been published in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Lithuania, Turkey and the Czech Republic. The Villa is also published by Quercus in the US.

Rosanna has also worked as a creative writing tutor for over 20 years. She has led courses for colleges and universities in England, and runs her own writing retreats in the UK and abroad in Italy and Spain. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in Creative Writing for Personal Development in order to support this. She also runs a manuscript appraisal service to appraise and mentor the work of new writers.  She is married with children and lives in Dorset.

You’ll find out more about Rosanna Ley on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter @rosannaley. You can also visit her website.

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From Venice with love Blog Tour

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews

Sunny days

My enormous thanks to Millie Seaward at Little Brown for sending me a surprise copy of Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews. I cannot believe it has taken me so long to get round to reading one of Carole’s books, but I’m so glad I’ve now got going.

Published by Sphere on 25th June 2020, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes is available for purchase through these links.

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes

Sunny days

Jodie Jackson is all at sea, in every sense.

On a ferry bound for the Isle of Wight, she’s leaving her London life, her career, and her husband behind. She’d like a chance to turn back the clocks, but she’ll settle for some peace and quiet on her brother Bill’s beautifully renovated houseboat, Sunny Days.

But from the moment Jodie steps aboard her new home, it’s clear she’ll struggle to keep herself to herself. If it isn’t Marilyn, who cleans for Bill and is under strict instructions to look after Jodie, then it’s Ned, the noisy sculptor on the next-door houseboat. Ned’s wood carving is hard on the ears, but it’s made up for by the fact that he’s rather easy on the eyes.

Bustled out of the boat by Marilyn and encouraged to explore with Ned, Jodie soon delights in her newfound freedom. But out of mind isn’t out of sight, and when her old life comes knocking Jodie is forced to face reality. Will she answer the call or choose a life filled with Sunny Days and Sea Breezes?

My Review of Sunny Days and Sea Breezes

Jodie is running away from her problems.

A confession. Although I’ve heard excellent things about Carole Matthews’ writing I have always slightly shied away from her books thinking they might be a bit too lightweight and formulaic for my taste. I have to be completely honest and say I couldn’t have been more wrong. I absolutely adored Sunny Days and Sea Breezes and it is one of my favourite books this year because it is such a lovely book.

Carole Matthews has a wonderfully accessible style, coupled with a fast pace of storytelling that makes Sunny Days and Sea Breezes eminently readable because of her effortless ability to bring complete joy to her reader. Jodie’s problems are by no means trivial and the depth of emotion she is experiencing will resonate with even the hardest hearted reader. Sunny Days and Sea Breezes made me laugh, shed a cheer and actually cheer aloud and raise a triumphant fist into the air. I genuinely could not set this book aside. I ensnared me completely and transported me to the Isle of Wight and Bill’s boat so that I felt a loss when I had finished reading. I’ve always fancied a trip to the Isle of Wight and Carole Matthews has given me a lovely glimpse of what a visit might be like. I also think it’s a sign of a captivating book when I keep wondering what the characters are doing now I’m no longer reading about them.

And what characters they are. Even the most minor character was a real, rounded, individual. I loved the occasional direct approach to the reader by Jodie so that she quickly became a friend I cared about rather than a character in a book. Her first person story is very affecting and I desperately wanted her to have literal and metaphorical colour back in her life. Speaking of colour, in Marilyn Carole Matthews has created a totally relatable, vibrant individual whose vivid depiction leaps from the page. I adored Marilyn’s attitude, her dress sense and her quirky malapropisms because her very presence in Sunny Days and Sea Breezes lifts the heart and soul of the reader. She’s utterly glorious and I rather think I want to be her.

There is, as might be expected, a love story underpinning the narrative which I found maturely written and utterly believable. But Sunny Days and Sea Breezes has so much more to offer too. There are themes of love in many forms, loss and betrayal, friendship and identity that give a human, and indeed humane, depth to the story that I found captivating. Carole Matthews somehow made me feel she had written Sunny Days and Sea Breezes just for me personally.

I honestly cannot stress enough how wrong I was to think Carole Matthews’ writing would not be for me. I truly loved every minute of reading Sunny Days and Sea Breezes because both my heart and mind were fully invested in the story to the extent that I think I may have found a new to me favourite writer. Don’t miss this glorious book. It’s just wonderful.

About Carole Matthews

Carol MAtthews

Carole Matthews is the Sunday Times bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the top ten bestsellers The Cake Shop in the Garden, A Cottage by the Sea, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights, Million Love Songs and Happiness for Beginners. In 2015, Carole was awarded the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award. Her novels dazzle and delight readers all over the world and she is published in more than thirty countries.

For more information, visit  Carole’s excellent website, follow Carole on Twitter @carolematthews and Instagram or find her on Facebook.

Cover Reveal: The Eliza Doll by Tracey Scott-Townsend

The Eliza Doll Twitter

Just at the point when I realise I simply cannot add another thing to my blogging commitments along comes a cover reveal for an author I know and really like personally and whose writing I adore, Tracey Scott-Townsend. Add in the fact the reveal is being co-ordinated by friend Kelly at Love Books Group and I can’t resist. Consequently, here I am sharing the cover and details of Tracey’s brand new book, The Eliza Doll.

Tracey was last here on Linda’s Book Bag as we stayed in to chat about The Vagabond Mother in a post you’ll find here. Tracy also stayed in with me to tell me about another of her books, Another Rebecca, in a post you can read here. I have also had the pleasure of reviewing some of Tracey’s poetry in her anthology So Fast and you can read that review here.

Let’s see what Tracey has in store for us this time.

The Eliza Doll

Eliza Doll cover

Ellie lives in a campervan with her dog, Jack, selling her handmade dolls at craft fairs. There is one doll that she can’t bear to finish until she comes to terms with the truth of what has happened.

The Eliza Doll is an uncompromising family drama about upheaval, off-grid living and living on the dole in 1980s England.

Set in East Yorkshire and Iceland from the eighties to the present.

The Eliza Doll is available for purchase here.

Knowing what I do about Tracey’s writing I’m sure The Eliza Doll will be a fabulous read.

About Tracey-Scott-Townsend


Tracey Scott-Townsend is the author of six novels — the most recent The Vagabond Mother (January 2020) and Sea Babies (May 2019) — all published by Wild Pressed Books and Inspired Quill Publishing. Reviews often describe her novels as poetic or painterly.

She is also a poet and a visual artist. She has a Fine Art MA and a BA (Hons) Visual Studies. She has exhibited paintings throughout the UK (as Tracey Scott). She has a long career as a workshop facilitator with community groups and in schools.

Tracey is co-director of an up-and-coming small independent publisher, Wild Pressed Books, which has a growing roster of authors and poets.

Mother of four grown-up children, Tracey spends as much time as possible travelling the UK and Europe in a camper van with her husband and two dogs, writing and editing while on the road.

You can find out more about Tracey by visiting her website, finding her on Facebook and following her on Twitter @authortrace.

Staying in with Ian Wilfred on One Summer in Spain Publication Day

One Summer in Spain

There’s a special reason that I’m thrilled to welcome Ian Wilfred to Linda’s Book Bag today. Not only is it publication day for Ian’s latest book, One Summer in Spain, but Ian is one of the most generous and supportive authors around, always sharing for others and helping them promote their books. If anyone deserves support in return it’s Ian and I’m delighted he’s here today to stay in with me.

Staying in with Ian Wilfred

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag at last Ian. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, (as if I didn’t know) which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

One Summer in Spain

Hi Linda. Thank you for inviting me to stay in with you. I’m bringing my new summer book One Summer in Spain because it’s out today!

Congratulations Ian and happy publication day. What can we expect from an evening in with One Summer in Spain?

You’ll get plenty of travel. The beginning of the book is set in the UK and tells the story of 25 year old Gemma who has just dropped out of university for the second time. She really doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. Gemma had had a job which she was successful with but her problem is, she gets bored.

I think many of us can relate to that Ian!

The book starts when Gemma helps an elderly lady, Dulcie, who has had a fall. One thing leads to another and she ends up being Dulcie and her best friend Rupert’s housekeeper. They end up going to Spain for a six month holiday which is a lot of fun.

I think we’d all like a trip to Spain right now Ian.

Several friends and family keep popping over for holidays which leads to dramas and a few problems for Gemma, especially with Dario. Dario rather likes Gemma, but he comes with a little bit of a secret.

Ooh. Intriguing.

The big question is, does everyone end up having a good summer, and what happens when the holiday has to an end?

Now of course, I’ll have to read One Summer in Spain to find out!  What else have you brought along this evening Ian and why have you brought it?


As you see, I brought Lottie our West Highland Terrier with me today.

I was hoping you’d bring Lottie. I see so much of her on social media and she’s an absolute superstar.

I’m shocked how well behaved she is now. When we move to Norfolk nearly seven years ago getting a dog was top of my list. I was never allowed one as a child. We are very blessed that we are only a five minute walk from a beach so as you can imagine Lottie, who should be white, most of the time is a very sandy yellow.

I bet she loves the beach. She’s quite a character!

There’s a  funny story about her. When we went to get her the first day she was only 12 weeks old, so we took a blanket and a soft toy that we could rub the smell of her mum and the other puppies on so that she wouldn’t miss them.  That was all OK but now, 6 years later, the soft toy gets carried around for about half an hour after she has eaten. Every time, we are terrified the toy will go missing.

You’re sure she doesn’t think she’s human and not a dog!


Also I’ve brought a photo of Parga in Greece as it’s mine and my husband’s favourite place in the world. We have been so many times over the last twenty plus years. It is very special and not many people know it.

I’m glad you said that as I have to confess I’d never heard of it. It looks glorious.

My perfect summer in Greece

It was the inspiration for my two Greek summer reads set on the fictional island of Holkamos. I’ve had readers ask me if Holkamos is Parga so I’ve had to own up and say yes.

Now you’ve made me want to go to Greece as well as Spain Ian. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about One Summer in Spain.

Thank you so much for letting me stay in with you Linda. I feel bad I’ve not brought a cake or some biscuits but then you have been licked to death by Lottie and after all, there’s a lot less calories!

Too true! And extra calories are really what I don’t need! Let me give blog readers all the One Summer in Spain details:

One Summer in Spain

One Summer in Spain

Twenty-five year old Gemma is still unsure where her life is leading. Her parents are exasperated at the way in which she flits from one thing to another. A chance encounter helping Dulcie, an elderly lady who has had a fall in the street, leads to Gemma becoming housekeeper to Dulcie and her friend, Rupert.

Following a lottery win, Dulcie and Rupert rent a Spanish villa for six months and Gemma goes with them for a working holiday. It’s all one long adventure for the three of them, filled with fun days out, nights in the best restaurants and plenty of laughter.

Dario, the local taxi driver becomes fond of Gemma. Likewise, she thinks a lot of him too, but he harbours a secret.

Jamie, Dulcie’s grandson, pops over to Spain to check on his grandmother, but she’s not his only reason for visiting.

Craig, an old friend of Gemma’s, is also an acquaintance of Dulcie and Rupert. When he visits from England, Gemma’s life becomes a little uncomfortable.

How can One Summer in Spain change everyone’s life? Will it be for the good, and how do their lives pan out after the six month holiday is over?

One Summer in Spain is available for purchase here.

About Ian Wilfred

Ian Wilfred

Ian Wilfred’s debut novel Putting Right The Past is set on the island of Tenerife and was published in 2013. Since then he has gone on to publish other books set in his beloved Norfolk, the Greek islands and Martha’s Vineyard.

In 2020 Ian has chosen a new location for his next feel good read; he’s heading off to sunny Spain.

Ian lives on the Norfolk coast with his husband and west highland terrier. He is a member of the Romantic Novelist Association.

You can follow Ian on Twitter at @Ianwilfred39 for more information.

Breakfast at Bronzefield by Sophie Campbell

breakfast at Bronzefield

For several years I used to be a volunteer lay visitor for Cambridgeshire police, visiting police station cells unannounced and checking to ensure detainees were being held in accordance with P.A.C.E. So, when Sophie Campbell told me about her book, Breakfast at Bronzefield, I was fascinated. I’m delighted to have an extract from Breakfast at Bronzefield to share with you today as well as my review.

Published today, 22nd June 2020, Breakfast at Bronzefield is available in all good bookshops including in Waterstones, Foyles and WHSmith and online including here.

Breakfast at Bronzefield

breakfast at Bronzefield

‘Fascinating and provocative’. LoveReading UK

‘Powerfully written… you give me hope.’ Dame Sally Coates

‘Eye-opening, thoughtful and determined. A thoroughly engaging piece of work that will challenge what you think you know about prisons and prisoners.’ Dr. Lamiece Hassan

HMP Bronzefield, the UK’s largest women’s prison: notorious for bent screws and drugs:

But what’s the truth behind the headlines?

Forced into signing an NDA when she arrived there on remand, former public schoolgirl Sophie risked extra time on her sentence by documenting her experiences of life inside.

Backed up by recent research and statistics, Breakfast at Bronzefield offers a powerful glimpse into a world few see: riots; unethical medical prescribing; and prison barons – key figures behind prostitution and drug-smuggling.

In a world where anything goes and being rehabilitated simply means saying ‘sorry’ right up until you’re released, how will Sophie cope on the outside, where she is expected to play by different rules? Will she succeed in creating the life she wants? Or, like most prisoners, will she end up back where she started?

An Extract From Breakfast At Bronzefield

{BEGINNING OF} CHAPTER 1. Non-Disclosure

I don’t think I was the first person to arrive at HMP Bronzefield who had to ask more than once where on earth they were. The female officer sitting in front of me, who’d been halfway through taking my fingerprints and creating my ID card, simply repeated the same name that the magistrate had said when I was told I’d be held on remand until my trial in the Crown Court: HMP Bronzefield.

Perhaps if I’d still lived in London or been clued up about the latest goings‑ons in the Criminal Justice System I’d have known immediately what sort of place I’d been thrown into: the largest women’s prison in the UK, which since its opening in 2004 had become infamous for women, and even babies, dying there. Bronzefield also suffered from the usual prison scandals, such as drug misuse, prostitution and out‑of‑control lifers, and housed transwomen who, before their transition, had been sentenced for rape. I was blithely ignorant of all this. The only prison I knew anything about was HMP Holloway, and that was only because I’d been told, at the girls’ school I’d attended, about the number of suffragettes who had been sent there in their struggle for female equality. Later I was surprised to learn that Holloway had closed in July 2016, a good few months prior to my arrival at Bronzefield.

The officer paused from her duties to hand over a document for me to sign. On closer inspection, it appeared to be a non‑disclosure agreement, forbidding me from contacting the media about anything that happened in Bronzefield, at the risk of having extra days added on to my sentence. I wondered how the ‘extra days’ penalty worked if someone was being held on remand. I could say that since it’s privately run, Bronzefield doesn’t do public scrutiny, but that code applies to all prisons more or less, as I’d later learn for myself. The female officer stared at me impatiently, making it clear that unless I signed, my processing couldn’t continue. I have no idea what would have happened had I refused to sign. No doubt I’d have been taken to Seg (the Segregation Unit) until I changed my mind. Eager to get on with things, I signed my name unwillingly, even though I knew it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference. No one has ever been able to stop me from doing something if I put my mind to it. Besides, at the time I had greater things to worry about than what I assumed originally was massive paranoia on the part of the prison.

Finding out I’d be held on remand for two counts of GBH – GBH without intent and GBH with intent – and multiple charges of assault against police had come as a blow seeing I was not, as the prosecutor had said, ‘homeless’, nor did I have a history of violence. When the prosecutor had stated this aloud in open court, I thought it made me sound like a female version of Al Capone minus the pinstripes and fedora hat. I should have said something. My duty solicitor should have spoken up, but he hadn’t. When we’d been given a brief window to speak in private prior to the court hearing, he had made it clear that now was not the time to correct any inaccurate statements that the prosecution intended to rely on; statements that they had drafted on a Monday morning, seeing as I had spent the whole weekend in a police cell.

I suppose the reason why my solicitor wasn’t bothered about correcting inaccuracies was because he knew my case was bound for the Crown Court anyway due to the nature of the charges. However, just because my case had to be held in Crown Court, it wouldn’t necessarily have meant bail would have been out of the question, had he made an effort to prove I wasn’t itinerant. But the address printed on my driver’s licence was based in the north of England. Perhaps that meant the same to the police and the judiciary as being without a home. It also didn’t help that when I was arrested down in London, I had two brightly coloured suitcases with me. One transport officer responsible for loading women’s belongings onto the prison van joked that it looked like I was off to Ibiza, and he hadn’t been far off. In any case, it seemed to me that the courts rarely asked for a prosecutor to prove that a defendant was homeless, probably because the impression most of us have of people who end up in court is that they struggle with various forms of homelessness, from sleeping rough to sofa surfing.

Surprisingly, in 2014, a study was carried out that examined the accommodation status of roughly 2,169 newly arrived prisoners in England and Wales: 16 per cent of them owned or part‑owned their property; 59 per cent of them were renters, 12 per cent lived rent‑free; 7 per cent were either homeless or living in temporary accommodation; while the remaining 6 per cent refused to disclose.

I again tried, questioning the prison officer as to where exactly I was.

‘Ashford,’ she finally answered. I tried hard to picture the place on a map, but my mind was blank. I knew I was somewhere in between a Tesco, situated near a busy roundabout, and Heathrow Airport. When I’d been brought here from the court in the ‘Sweatbox’, the nickname given to the white Serco prison vans, I’d muttered ‘For Christ’s sake’ under my breath when my eyes had fallen upon a brightly coloured plane bound for some place in Europe. I should have been on a plane like that two days before – the day I’d been arrested. I still had my plane ticket hidden inside my suitcase. At the time I’d considered myself lucky that the police hadn’t found it, back when I’d assumed I’d make bail and have the chance to leave the UK for good.

My Review of Breakfast at Bronzefield

An account of a woman’s time on remand and as a prisoner.

I confess I didn’t think I’d have time to read Breakfast at Bronzefield but I thought I’d just dip in and before I knew it I was hooked and had read the whole book. Partly that is because Sophie Campbell has such an engaging style of writing and it is as if the reader is sitting with her listening to her accounts rather than reading about them. It’s the mixture of sometimes bleak honesty, engaging anecdote, witty and sharp observation and erudite composition that makes Breakfast at Bronzefield so engaging. She’s unafraid to tell things as they are and to voice an opinion even when it might not sit easily with the views of others – it’s one of the character traits that gets her moved around so much in prison.

Different to other memoir style writing I have read where the author presents a simple linear structure, Breakfast at Bronzefield is looser. There’s definitely a beginning, middle and end, as Sophie is processed through the prison system, but there’s a more thematic approach too that I found fascinating. I was appalled by some of the things I read because thankfully I have no experience of life on remand or in prison. Sophie Campbell is unafraid to present topics like drug and sexual abuse, friendship and socio-economic contributions to the lives of those she encounters. I thought the mixture of personal anecdote mixed with meticulous research and properly attributed facts was riveting.

Although I was thoroughly convinced by the writing which is backed by almost scientific end notes and a bibliography, most of all I was touched by the presentation of humanity. Sophie Campbell may be writing about her own experiences as a female prisoner, but at the same time she manages to be the voice of all women in that situation. Certainly some adhere to the stereotypical low intelligence or perpetual offender picture that society often has, but she debunks the blanket approach so many of these women endure as if they are almost sub-human. Her comment that those with mental health issues behind their offending are more likely to end up in prison than getting mental health help stopped me in my tracks.

Breakfast at Bronzefield is impossible to classify. Part memoir, part social and political treatise, part history and part confession to some extent, it shines a terrifyingly piercing spotlight on life in a woman’s prison. I found it captivating, engrossing and not a little disturbing. However, more than an interesting and engaging read, I think Breakfast at Bronzefield is an important book that affords humanity to those all too frequently dehumanised and forgotten. I really recommend it.

About Sophie Campbell

sophie campbell book

Sophie Campbell is the winner of the Arts Council England Time to Write grant, the Koestler Flash Fiction and Short Story award and an Associate Member of the Society of Authors. This is her first book.

For more information you can follow Sophie on Twitter @SophieCBooks. You’ll also find her on Instagram.

Tree Magic by Harriet Springbett

Tree Magic

I’ve been intrigued by Harriet Springbett’s Tree Magic for a while but with a TBR of well over 900 physical books and more than that again lurking on my Kindle I didn’t think I’d get round to reading it. However, I’m very pleased that Tree Magic has arrived at the top of my TBR and I can share my review today, not least because I don’t feature enough young adult fiction here on the blog.

Published by Impress, Tree Magic is available for purchase here.

Tree Magic

Tree Magic

Escape from difficult family dynamics is teenager Rainbow’s desire. When she discovers a strange gift for communicating with trees, she thinks she’s found her salvation. Even better, a mysterious but gentle man living in her Dorset village helps develop her powers.

But when tragedy strikes, Rainbow’s life is torn apart, creating parallel worlds in the process. In one life, the vulnerable Rainbow strives to salvage her family. In the other, her alter-ego, Mary, flees her past. Over the next few years the two versions of Rainbow follow very different lives. The source of their grief, however, is the same – a confession buried deep within their memories.

Could France offer more than a mere escape? As the two worlds draw closer and memories resurface, Rainbow and Mary’s futures must be determined. Can they receive the healing they need? Or will the renewed pain be too much to bear? Only by risking their lives will they know.

My Review of Tree Magic

Rainbow finds she has a talent involving trees.

Tree Magic may be written for a target audience some forty years younger than me but it didn’t prevent me from finding it an engaging and entertaining book. In fact, it widened my horizons as I was prompted by the story to do some research of my own into the Amrita background behind the narrative. I thought the narrative style was so good because the prose is quite simple but conveys complex considerations so that both literal and metaphorical elements are accessible. The smatterings of French language also add to the authenticity.

Tree Magic explores adolescent themes with understanding and sensitivity. Rainbow’s need for identity, her desire to find out about her father, her relationships with her mother and Bob, and with her contemporaries, all combine to create elements that young adult readers in particular will be able to relate to, making this a personal read. By the end, readers come to realise how choices and decisions can lead us on different paths, giving us different lives.

There’s an interesting structure to Tree Magic as Rainbow and Mary’s narratives interweave and again this serves to illustrate the choices we have in life. I much preferred Rainbow to Mary and yet Mary gained my sympathy and empathy far more because her vulnerability is more raw despite, or rather because of, her harder personality. I was intrigued as to how the narrative would unfold as the two girls’ stories drew together.

As someone with no spirituality whatever, I found these aspects presented in Tree Magic fascinating. I very much enjoyed the allegory shown through Rainbow’s ability to effect change in trees that we all have an impact on nature and the environment. This is a very powerful aspect of Tree Magic.

Tree Magic is an unusual and thought provoking book for young adults that is also entertaining and engaging for older readers too, because Harriet Springbett has a deft touch in showing the inner turmoil we can all face but she also leaves the reader feeling uplifted and satisfied.

About Harriett Springbett


Harriet Springbett’s childhood on a small farm in West Dorset gave her an early exposure to nature, which continues to inspire her writing.

She qualified as an engineer but, during a Raleigh International expedition in Chile, she realised she preferred words to numbers. She abandoned her profession, moved to France, studied French and then worked as a project manager, feature writer, translator and TEFL teacher. She now lives in Poitou-Charentes with her French partner and their teenage children.

Since her first literary success, aged 10, her short stories and poetry have been published in literary journals and placed in writing competitions, including a shortlisting in the 2017 Bath Short Story Award.

Harriet leads writing workshops, has judged the Segora international short story competition and blogs here.

You can follow Harriett on Twitter @HarriSpringbett. You’ll also find her on Facebook.