10 Amazing Books, Which ‘Everyone’ Read in the 90s: A Guest Post by Billy Moran, Author of Don’t Worry, Everything is Going to Be Amazing

It’s some weeks since I stayed in with Billy Moran to chat about Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing in a post you can see here. Having so enjoyed that evening, when Howard Davidson at Sauce Materials Books asked if I’d like to participate in this new blog tour, I couldn’t resist. I’m delighted to share a guest post from Billy today, all about 10 Amazing Books, Which ‘Everyone’ Read in the 90s.

Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing… is available for purchase from AmazonWaterstones and Bookbub.

Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing

Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing

Chris Pringle: simpleton, casualty or local hero?

Propped up by biscuits, benefits and a baffling faith in his plan, he lives in a world where every day is obsessively the same: wedged in his recliner, watching murder mysteries, taking notes. Until the day a serious and peculiar crime stumps the local police – and Chris announces he can solve it.

Accompanied by a loyal crew of chancers, committed to making amends, and pursued by a depressed Detective Inspector, trying to join the dots, Chris heads back to the raves of his past, where a heart breaking personal tragedy lies abandoned. But what exactly is Chris Pringle looking for? Has he really worked out the way to find it? And what will happen if he does?

A quirky, nostalgic, heart-warming mystery for fans of Gail Honeyman, Agatha Christie, Jennifer Egan, Ian Rankin, Matt Haig, Irvine Welsh, Ben Aaronovitch, Dave Eggers, Jon Niven, John Kennedy Toole, Belinda Bauer and Harland Miller.

10 Amazing Books, Which ‘Everyone’ Read in the 90s

 A Guest Post by Billy Moran

When you’re as old as Linda and I are – Linda said this to me, don’t be cross! – along with getting seats on buses, once of the positives, is that you can talk about the 80s and 90s, and people at least might believe you were actually there. So here I am on a hugely popular book blog, followed by all sorts of people of all sorts of ages, making foolish claims – foolish, because of course there aren’t really books which ‘everyone’ read in the 90s…and there will be some of the below which many of you who are old enough definitely did not read – because this is a slightly personal list too, covering the cult and the mainstream, the cuddly and the rebellious, and my love of books which take you into some brilliantly drawn ordinary lives and tell you an extraordinary story – or vice versa.

This year, I finally had my debut mystery novel published. It’s been a real high point in what has otherwise been a rubbish few months, for Covid and other reasons. Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing is set partly in the 1990s, and entirely inspired by my experiences at that time, with a murder mystery thrown into the mix. I hope this selection of 90s reads gives you an idea of how much that time inspired me, but also of the questions it posed me which I’ve been trying to answer ever since, namely – how exactly do you go about being happy, when your past let you down? A decade is a long time and a lot can happen – we’ve had a pretty bad start to this one, but I think that bodes really well for what might happen next.

Whether you’ve read all these books before or none of them, I hope there’s something in here for you – because if there is, I think you might like my book too. Happy reading! Billy.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

An evocative, beautiful love story and episode in European history rolled into one, this is the book that spawned a zillion Kefalonian holidays (guilty), making it one of the all-time great beach reads.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh’s breakthrough novel doesn’t sound a likely candidate for a decade-defining book – the misadventures of a bunch of heroin addicts – but its richly-drawn cast of characters (who transferred so well to the big screen in Danny Boyle’s film adaptation), and gritty, concise and darkly hilarious colloquial language, somehow captured the imagination of a niche, largely non-reading audience, before then going big. While Generation X– a much better book than the hype and bright pink cover may suggest – attempted to speak for a generation, the protagonists of Trainspotting had little they wanted to say, apart from leading light Mark Renton. They were a nihilistic bunch, each with their own cod philosophy sure – violence (Begbie), selfishness (Sick Boy) failure (Spud) – but together they simply believed not that life had picked on them, but that it was rubbish. The rave scene that inspires Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing was born of the same disillusionment, but came with the hope that if everyone was left alone to pull together, life could actually be not just better, but amazing.

Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

I’m not sure you can get more 90s than Bridget Jones – an ordinary girl flailing around in a supposedly feel-good, upwardly mobile era, which is really delivering her nothing in the way of substance. Rene Zelwegger’s stellar big-screen method performance has done the book’s timeless longevity no harm at all, but Helen Fielding’s book truly does capture the 90s, in this funny, touching modern British classic.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This one had a long tail – it was maybe as big in the 00s as it was in the 90s, and that reflects its status as a slow burner classic. This is a book which truly stayed with me. It slowly immerses you in gathering claustrophobia and pulls you under – it’s a cold, creepy winter book, and you’ll find yourself thinking about it for a long time afterwards. I loved The Goldfinch, but for me, it wasn’t a patch on this.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

Harry cannot be omitted from this list – arguably the second book in the series deserves a place, because it was the queuing up for its release which turned JK Rowling into the global celebrity she is today, but I’ve gone for her debut outing, where it all began. I’ll always love great kids’ books – part of the magic of fiction for me is the recapturing of the wide-eyed wonder I felt when I first fell in love with reading (under the covers, with a torch and Fantastic Mr Fox).  A shout-out also goes then to Northern Lights(and Artemis Fowl slightly later) for backing JK up, and helping launch an era of truly great kids fantasy writing.

Holes by Louis Sachar

This cult YA novella grew to be a global phenomenon like Wonder did may years later. I loved its neat little story.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

This classy tome captured imaginations worldwide with its intricate descriptions of life inside a Japanese Geisha house.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

This immediately felt like a classic, and to many, will immediately feel like a classic from the 80s, because of its ‘banker’ protagonist and his world of excess.  But the timing of its release (1991) is telling. Like all the best writers, Bret Easton Ellis doesn’t just reflect times past, he predicts times to come. For me, the hopefulness of the early 90speaked in 1992, an idea central to Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing. The joy of liberation that 1988-1989 generated across the world, eventually got hijacked by the power-and-money hungry, and 1993-1997 (the Loaded magazine/Brit Pop years which gave birth to the celebrity culture we know today), saw life getting more and more conservative, and less and less kind. American Psycho’s protagonist is a psychopath – no-one’s to blame for that, he is not a product of his times – but whilst Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko reflected greed, Patrick Bateman tells the darker story of what often comes after hope.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

High Fidelity or Fever Pitch? A tough choice for me: music or football? I’ve chosen music because my own book is inspired by music, and it appeals to my not-so inner geek, and the fantasy me and all my mates had of spending our lives hanging around record shops, trying to be cool but failing drastically, as real life passed us by. Good times!

No Logo by Naomi Klein

And finally I’m going off piste a bit – please don’t be piste off. No Logo is non-fiction, but its status as one the first books to successfully challenge the negative aspects of globalisation- negatives which sadly remain very much in effect, 25 years later – is undeniable. I thought of going for Prozac Nation for my non-fiction 90s entry – but that felt less relevant to me, or to life in Britain.

*

Thanks so much Billy. Fascinating choices. I’ve only read five of these books but you’ll just have to guess which ones they are!

About Billy Moran

Billy Moran is an award-winning television writer for shows including Horrible Histories. He grew up in the West Country, where his teenage years were rudely interrupted by the Second Summer of Love. Since then he has been embracing mysteries, craving solutions and writing lots of lists. He lives in London and has two children, two cats, one football team and several favourite detectives. Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing is his debut novel.

You can find Billy on Goodreads.

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The Lost Smile and Remarkable Women in Verse by Julia Stebbing

Now, I’m not really taking on additional books and blog posts at the moment as I’m finding life a bit overwhelmingly busy, but when Julia Stebbing got in touch about her new children’s books and publishing venture I was so intrigued by Remarkable Women in Verse that I simply had to take a look. My grateful thanks to Julia for sending me a copy of Remarkable Women in Verse and The Lost Smile in return for an honest review.

Both Remarkable Women in Verse and The Lost Smile are available for purchase here.

The Lost Smile

The Lost Smile – a tale of friendship. When Jasper Cat loses his smile, his four friends come to the rescue. Where can it be? Enjoy reading how Robbie Robin, Mimi Mouse, Freddie Flea and Dora Dalmation help Jasper Cat in his search to find it. An engaging and beautifully-illustrated story of friendship and kindness, written in delightful rhyming verse.

My Review of The Lost Smile

Jasper cat has lost his smile.

The Lost Smile is an utterly lovely story for young children. It’s actually quite lengthy so that there is real substance to the story, but at the same time, the rhyme makes it accessible and entertaining so that it holds the attention very effectively. I thought the balance of illustration to text was perfect and the illustrations themselves fit the narrative delightfully. There are some brilliant touches such as the portraits on the walls being of cats in Jasper’s home, making for plenty to explore with children. The illustrations have a charming naïve style that children will enjoy and adults appreciate. Aside from the story itself, pictures and text refer to shape and colour with nature being very prevalent so that there’s quite a lot to discuss with children outside of the boundaries of trying to find Jasper’s smile. Indeed, The Lost Smile has sufficient content to reward several readings. At the end of the book, as an added bonus are some colouring pages that make The Lost Smile interactive and creative too.

There’s so much in The Lost Smile that can educate as well as entertain. I loved the use of language so that children are exposed to such devices as alliteration, onomatopoeia, full and near rhymes and so on, that help develop their own reading, language and understanding. I can envisage promoting numeracy through counting the number of Rosinda’s babies for example, or the items found under the bed.

However, what I liked most about The Lost Smile was that because Jasper is feeling low and his smile has vanished, the story affords the opportunity to discuss feelings and emotions in a safe way with children and I thought the underpinning message that all the animals support one another in the search modelled positive behaviours really well. This is a book about being kind and considerate.

The Lost Smile is a a really beguiling children’s book that I thoroughly recommend. Young children will love it.

Remarkable Women in Verse

Imagine you are Rosa, a black child growing up in Alabama, barred by law from attending the same school as white children; Helen, a playful toddler who suddenly cannot see and hear; Anne, brought up in an almshouse who becomes Helen’s governess, and the only person able to get through to her; Florence from a wealthy family, seeking a career in nursing against the wishes of her parents.

Each story, told in rhyming verse, guides you through their early upbringing towards a particular iconic moment or time in their lives, and beyond, showing how they overcame their situations and the impact their achievements made. As one reader said, “It’s easier to remember when read in verse.”

My Review of Remarkable Women in Verse

The stories of Rosa Parks, Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, and Florence Nightingale told in verse form.

What a clever idea. With strong female characters, the perennial problems of racism and the current focus on health, Remarkable Women in Verse couldn’t be more timely or relevant to today’s society.

All three sections in Remarkable Women in Verse have the same high quality rhyme and rhythm throughout so that the stories of what these women achieved become accessible and interesting. The ex English teacher in me would love to use them for choral speaking with a class to develop oracy, as a stimulus for children taking other characters from history and attempting their own verse portraits of them and as a basis for other creative writing so that I think there is considerable mileage in Remarkable Women in Verse, not just for individual readers but for classroom use too. This book may only be less than thirty pages long, but the depth of research and factual information is extremely impressive. I could see history teachers using the verses as a way in to the past, especially for those children less keen on reading. With the glossary sections at the end of each woman’s story, vocabulary and understanding are further enhanced.

However, I don’t wish to make Remarkable Women in Verse sound like an overly worthy or turgid educational text. It isn’t. It’s an exciting, fact-filled exploration of important women from the past presented in an engaging and captivating style. I thought it was unusual and excellent.

About Julia Stebbing

Julia has always lived in north London and was brought up in Stanmore. Opposite her house were only fields and the local school was a mere 5-minute walk. The spinney nearby provided opportunities for jumping a stream, picking blackberries, and hiding in the woods. Switch to three children later, husband David, and seven grandchildren – 3 girls and 4 boys. She used to write song lyrics and now loves writing children’s stories, especially in rhyming verse. S

he has published two books, The Lost Smile, a picture book which is the first in a series of The Fabulous Five. Remarkable Women in Verse tells the story of Rosa Parks, Helen Keller and her governess Anne Sullivan, and also Florence Nightingale.

Find out more on Sticky Bun’s website here and on Facebook.

The Unravelling of Maria by F J Curlew

My enormous thanks to F J Curlew for inviting me to participate in her blog tour for The Unravelling Of Maria and for sending me an ecopy of the book in return for an honest review.

The Unravelling Of Maria is available for purchase here.

The Unravelling Of Maria

Lovers separated by the Iron Curtain.

Two women whose paths should never have crossed.

A remarkable journey that changes all of their lives.

Maria’s history is a lie. Washed up on the shores of Sweden in 1944, with no memory, she was forced to create her own. Nearly half a century later she still has no idea of her true identity.

Jaak fights for Estonia’s independence, refusing to accept the death of his fiancée Maarja, whose ship was sunk as she fled across the Baltic Sea to escape the Soviet invasion.

Angie knows exactly who she is. A drug addict. A waste of space. Life is just about getting by.

A chance meeting in Edinburgh’s Cancer Centre is the catalyst for something very different.

Sometimes all you need is someone who listens.

My Review of The Unravelling Of Maria

Maria’s life is about to change.

Given that I usually don’t enjoy stories with multiple perspectives and different time frames I think it speaks volumes for F J Curlew’s The Unravelling of Maria that I loved this book because the beautiful quality of the writing drew me in and held my attention completely. By the end of the book I had been so captivated by the stories of Maria, Angie and Jaak that I was extremely moved.

Those different timeframes and perspectives are elegantly wrought into a beautiful narrative that is part history, part love story, part tale of endurance and suffering and part love letter to Estonia. There’s such a poetic beauty to F J Curlew’s descriptions, even when she is uncovering the less glamorous side to Edinburgh or conflict, that never becomes hyperbole, but rather touches each of the reader’s senses and immerses them in the settings and story. I was incredibly impressed. The Unravelling of Maria also made me feel quite ignorant. Shamefully, I had no real concept of Estonia’s history and in reading The Unravelling of Maria I feel I have been cleverly educated as well as entertained.

The plot is perfectly balanced because The Unravelling of Maria illustrates horror and joy, love and hate, inhumanity and compassion with such finesse that it feels as if the reader is living the lives of the three main characters with them. The structure has an almost Shakespearean quality to it, as if the book is in acts. I found the tension in the narrative almost too great to bear at times, but Angie’s dialect and accent serves as light relief so that I thoroughly enjoyed every word. Indeed, I usually find accents contrived but Angie’s Scottish brogue is perfectly accessible whilst adding depth and colour to her character.

All three main characters are so, so real. They have depth and flaws that bring them alive. My heart went out to Angie who illustrates perfectly how sometimes, all we need is a chance. Jaak had my empathy and my sympathy but it was Maria’s story that touched me most. Her resilience, her bravery and her search for identity both literally and metaphorically is presented by F J Curlew with real humanity.

I hadn’t really thought much about The Unravelling of Maria before I began reading, so I didn’t really have any expectations. However, I found a meticulously researched, beautifully written saga of identity, people and love in many forms. I really recommend it.

About F J Curlew

Fiona worked as an international school teacher for fifteen years, predominantly in Eastern Europe. Seven of those years were spent in Estonia – a little country she fell in love with. She now lives in East Lothian, Scotland, where her days are spent walking her dog, Brockie the Springer, and writing.

The Unravelling Of Maria is her fourth novel.

For further information, follow Fiona on Twitter @FJCurlew or visit her website.

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#2021showcase from @TeamBATC

It’s always such a joy to receive an invitation to a book event from Sara-Jade Virtue at Simon and Schuster. Usually it’s wonderful to see everyone in person in the Simon and Schuster offices in London. This year is very different but the @TeamBATC #2021Showcase event online was equally as entertaining! With all participants having been sent a smashing party package including martini and chocolates to enjoy as we heard from authors about their new books in 2021 it really did feel like we were together again.

After an introduction from S-J, we were treated to a series of panels led by Simon and Schuster team members, beginning with Patricia Scanlan and Fanny Blake interviewed by Jessica Barratt. I was so absorbed in the event that I forgot to take notes, so instead I’ll share details of the books to which we were introduced.

A Family Reunion by Patricia Scanlan

One explosive family reunion. A lifetime of secrets revealed.

When four feisty women from the same family, get together at a family reunion, anything can happen…

Marie-Claire, betrayed by her partner Marc plans her revenge to teach him a lesson he will never forget. She travels from Toronto, home to Ireland, to the house of the Four Winds, for her great aunt Reverend Mother Brigid’s eightieth birthday celebrations. It will be a long-awaited reunion for three generations of family, bringing together her mother, Keelin and grandmother, Imelda – who have never quite got along

And then all hell breaks loose.

Bitter, jealous Imelda makes a shocking revelation that forces them all to confront their pasts, admit mistakes, and face the truths that have shaped their lives. With four fierce, opinionated women in one family, will they ever be able to forgive the past and share a future?

And what of Marc?

It’s never too late to make amends…or is it?

Spanning generations and covering seismic shifts in the lives of women, A Family Reunion is a compelling, thought-provoking, important and highly emotional novel from a trailblazing author in women’s fiction.

A Family Reunion is available here.

The Long Way Home by Fanny Blake

A family secret, a mysterious legacy, and a journey that will change everything…

When Isla, a 65-year-old grandmother, is left nothing but an old painting in her mother’s will, while her sisters and aunt inherit the estate, she is devastated. Close to retirement, getting ready to live on her own terms, the last thing she expects at this time of her life is such turmoil. So, to find an explanation for her mother’s rejection, she embarks on a road-trip.

But, right at the last moment, she’s forced to take her sullen – and, in her view, impossible – 14-year-old granddaughter Charlie with her. Cramped together in Isla’s car with her smelly old dog, these ill-assorted travelling companions set off to uncover some shattering and life-changing family truths at the same time as learning to love each other…

The Long Way Home is set in the UK and 1950s Paris where the story really begins, spanning four generations of women and the secrets that get passed down through them.

The Long Way Home is available for pre-order here.

Next Clare Hay introduced a panel of four authors beginning with Helen Fisher, author of Space Hopper.

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

This is a story about taking a leap of faith
And believing the unbelievable

They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.

I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight.
And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.

Right now, you probably think I’m going mad. 
Let me explain…

Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?

Space Hopper is an original and poignant story about mothers, memories and moments that shape life.

Space Hopper is available for pre-order here.

The World at My Feet by Catherine Isaac

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

The secrets that bind us can also tear us apart…

1990. Harriet is a journalist. Her job takes her to dangerous places, where she asks questions and tries to make a difference. But when she is sent to Romania, to the state orphanages the world is only just learning about, she is forced to rethink her most important rule.

2018. Ellie is a gardener. Her garden is her sanctuary, her pride and joy. But, though she spends long days outdoors, she hasn’t set foot beyond her gate for far too long. Now someone enters her life who could finally be the reason she needs to overcome her fears.

From post-revolution Romania to the idyllic English countryside, The World at My Feet is the story of two women, two worlds, and a journey of self-discovery that spans a lifetime.

The World at My Feet is available for pre-order here.

Lives Like Mine by Eva Verde

We did get a look at the holding cover for Lives Like Mine but I don’t have it to share with you unless you look very closely at the poster at the bottom of this blog post!

Mother.
To three small children, their heritage dual like hers.

Daughter.
To a mother who immigrated to make a better life but has been rejected by her chosen country.

Wife.
To a man who loves her but who will not defend her to his intolerant family.

Woman…
Whose roles now define her and trap her in a life she no longer recognises…

Meet Monica, the flawed heroine at the heart of Lives Like Mine.

With her three children in school, Monica finds herself wondering if this is all there is. Despite all the effort and the smiles, in the mirror she sees a woman hollowed out from putting everyone else first, tolerating her in-laws’ intolerance, and wondering if she has a right to complain when she’s living the life that she has created for herself.

Then along comes Joe, a catalyst for change in the guise of a flirtatious parent on the school run. Though the sudden spark of their affair is hedonistic and oh so cathartic, Joe soon offers a friendship that shows Monica how to resurrect and honour the parts of her identity that she has long suppressed. He is able to do for Monica what Dan has never managed to, enabling her both to face up to a past of guilty secrets and family estrangements, and to redefine her future.

Lives Like Mine is available here.

Home by Penny Parkes

Again, the cover it too new for me to share here but I loved what I saw and you can see it too on the poster!

A gripping and heartfelt story about overcoming the past and finding where you belong.

Anna Wilson travels the world as a professional housesitter – stepping into other people’s lives – caring for their homes, pets and sometimes even neighbours. Living vicariously.

But all Anna has ever really wanted is a home of her own – a proper one, filled with family and love and happy memories. If only she knew where to start.

Growing up in foster care, she always envied her friends their secure and carefree lives, their certainty and confidence. And, while those same friends may have become her family of choice, Anna is still stuck in that nomadic cycle, looking for answers, trying to find the courage to put down roots and find a place to call home.

Compelling, rich and evocative, Home is Anna’s journey to discovering that it isn’t where you settle down that matters, but the people you have around you when you do. 

Home is available here.

Alice Rodgers then took over to interview Rachel Hore and Caroline Bishop whose books are inspired by true events.

A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore

Minnie Gray is an ordinary young woman.
She is also a spy for the British government.

It all began in the summer of 1928…

Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.

Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.

She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion.

What if they find out?

Full of suspense, courage and love, A Beautiful Spy is a stunningly written story about resisting the norm and following your dreams, even if they come with sacrifices.

A Beautiful Spy is available here.

The Other Daughter by Caroline Bishop

You only get one life – but what if it isn’t the one you were meant to live?

‘When it finally arrived I was shocked to see it; to read the words Mum wrote about these women fighting for rights I know I take for granted. Mum was here. And while she was, something happened that changed the entire course of my life. Perhaps, if I can summon the courage, the next eight weeks will help me finally figure out what that was . . .’

When Jessica discovers a shocking secret about her birth, she leaves her London home and travels to Switzerland in search of answers. She knows her journalist mother spent time in the country forty years earlier, reporting on the Swiss women’s liberation movement, but what she doesn’t know is what happened to her while she was there. Can Jess summon the courage to face the truth about her family, or will her search only hurt herself and those around her even more?

Set across a stunning Swiss backdrop, The Other Daughter follows one woman in her search for the truth about her birth, and another desperately trying to succeed in a man’s world. Perfect for fans of Tracy Rees, Elizabeth Noble and Kathryn Hughes.

The Other Daughter is available here.

S-J then moved on to another panel beginning with Claire Frost. This panel considered what makes real love in the follow up to their presentations.

Married at First Swipe by Claire Frost

The brand new novel from the author of acclaimed debut LIVING MY BEST LIFE. Perfect for fans of Helly Acton, Mhairi McFarlane and Laura Jane Williams.

Hannah lives life on the edge. Never one to pass up on a new adventure, she has truly been living her best life. But once the adrenaline wears off, she wishes she had someone to spend the quieter moments with too. Learning that her best friend’s online dating business has taken a hit, she comes up with an idea that just might solve both of their problems…

Jess has been with her husband for twenty years. They have a stable marriage, great kids and run their own businesses. But what looks like a perfect life from the outside has its own problems within, and with her business on the brink Jess can’t help but wonder where the spark has gone in her life, and whether settling down is all it’s cracked up to be.

When Hannah embarks upon her latest scheme: finding a man using Jess’s dating app and meeting him for the first time at the altar, both women start to realise the grass isn’t always greener. Can Hannah help her friend save her failing business or will Jess stop her from making what could be the biggest mistake of her life?

In the modern tech-fuelled world of dating, is it possible to find true love?

Married at First Swipe is available here.

The Beginners Guide to Loneliness Laura Bambrey

The perfect feel-good read from an exciting new voice in women’s fiction, for fans of Heidi Swain, Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan.

Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.

When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).

From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .

Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness! Where you can learn to move mountains by picking up the smallest of stones…

The Beginners Guide to Loneliness is available here.

The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

Set in a charming little Scottish town, The Bookshop of Second Chances is the most uplifting story you’ll read this Winter, by a hugely talented debut author.

Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving.

Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance.

Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from…

An enchanting story of Scottish lords, second-hand books, new beginnings and second chances perfect for fans of Cressida McLaughlin, Veronica Henry, Rachael Lucas and Jenny Colgan.

The Bookshop of Second Chances is available here.

It was then time to meet our only male author of the evening:

Three’s A Crowd by Simon Brooker

What happens when an estranged father and son unwittingly fall in love with the same woman?

‘What a treat this novel is! Compulsively readable, and with surprising twists and turns right to the end. And who knew that such a nightmarish situation could be so funny?’ DEBORAH MOGGACH, bestselling author of The Carer

‘Fun, fresh and endlessly entertaining!’ HEIDI SWAIN, Sunday Times bestselling author

A hilariously laugh out loud, romantic comedy, perfect for fans of Something to Live For (Richard Roper), Love, Unscripted (Owen Nicholls), The Love Square (Laura Jane Williams), and Us (David Nicholls).

Out-of-work actor Harriet is recuperating from a crash-and-burn affair with Damian – aka ‘Cockweasel’ – and making ends meet as a barista when she meets two rather lovely men. Tom is a regular at the café, and seems like such a nice guy. Smooth-talking DJ Richard is older, but in great shape – a real silver fox.

Deciding to take a chance on both of them, Harriet doesn’t realise at first that she is actually dating father and son. Tom and Richard aren’t on speaking terms, and don’t share a last name – so how was she to know? By the time everyone finds out, both Tom and Richard are truly madly deeply in love with Harriet, and she’s faced with an impossible choice.

But as the battle for her affections intensifies, ‘Cockweasel’ makes an unexpected reappearance and begs her to give him another chance…

Three’s a Crowd is available here.

Finally Genevieve Barratt introduced Heidi Swain and Sharon Gosling who also spoke about settings in their writing.

A Taste of Home Heidi Swain

The delicious new novel from Sunday Times bestseller Heidi Swain:

Fliss Brown has grown up living with her mother on the Rossi family’s Italian fruit farm. But when her mother dies, Fliss finds out she has a family of her own, and heads back to England with Nonna Rossi’s recipe for cherry and almond tart and a piece of advice: connect with your family before it is too late…

Fliss discovers that her estranged grandfather owns a fruit farm himself, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, and she arrives to find a farm that has fallen into disrepair. Using her knowledge gleaned from working on the Rossi farm and her desire to find out more about her past, Fliss rolls her sleeves up and gets stuck in. But what will she discover, and can she resurrect the farm’s glory days and find a taste of home…?

A Taste of Home is available here.

The House Beneath the Cliffs by Sharon Gosling

A remote yet beautiful village. A tiny kitchen lunch club. The perfect place to start again.

Anna moves to Crovie, a tiny fishing village on the Moray Firth, for a fresh start. But when she arrives, she realises her new home is really no more than a shed, and the village itself sits beneath a cliff right on the edge of the sea, in constant danger of storms and landslides. Has she made a terrible mistake?

Yet as she begins to learn about the Scottish coast and its people, something she thought she’d lost reawakens in her. She rediscovers her love of cooking, and turns her kitchen into a pop-up lunch club. But not all the locals are delighted about her arrival, and some are keen to see her plans fail.

Will Anna really be able to put down roots in this remote and wild village? Or will her fragile new beginning start to crumble with the cliffs . . . ?

Beautiful, moving and utterly absorbing, The House Beneath the Cliffs is a novel of friendship and food, storms and secrets, and the beauty of second chances

The House Beneath the Cliffs is available here.

All of those books sound just wonderful to me. I can’t wait to read them. I wonder which ones appeal to you most?

My enormous thanks to everyone who had helped organise an entertaining and interesting evening. For 90 minutes it felt like 2020 was almost normal and that there really is something to look forward to in 2021. Thank you Team BATC, S-J and all the others who made it such fun.

Cover Your Tracks by Daco S. Auffenorde

My grateful thanks to Daco S. Auffenorde for sending me a copy of her thriller Cover Your Tracks in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Published by Keylight Books on 20th October 2020, Cover Your Tracks is available for purchase here.

Cover Your Tracks

Margo Fletcher, eight months pregnant, is traveling by train from Chicago to Spokane, her childhood home. While passing through an isolated portion of the Rockies in blizzard conditions, the train unexpectedly brakes. Up ahead, deadly snow from a massive avalanche plummets down the mountain. Despite the conductor’s order for the passengers to stay seated, former Army Ranger Nick Eliot insists that survival depends on moving to the back of the train. Only Margo believes him. They take refuge in the last train car, which Nick heroically uncouples in time to avoid the avalanche. The rest of the train is hurled down the mountainside and is soon lost forever in a blanket of snow. Margo and Nick, the sole survivors, are stranded in the snowstorm without food, water, or heat. Rescuers might not arrive for days.

When the weather turns violent again, the pair must flee the shelter of the passenger car and run for their lives into the wilderness. They must fend off the deadly cold as well as predatory wild animals foraging for food. Eventually, Nick leads Margo to shelter in a watchtower atop a mountain. There, we learn that both Margo and Nick have secrets that have brought them together and threaten to destroy them.

Cover Your Tracks is a chilling story of love and hate, the devastating power of nature, and the will to survive.

My Review of Cover Your Tracks

Margo’s train ride is about to get terrifying.

Cover Your Tracks is an absolute cracker of a book and I really enjoyed it.

Its short snappy chapters simply refuse to allow the reader to turn away. Each chapter ends with such an effective hook that I had to read on until I had consumed Cover Your Tracks in under twenty-four hours. The plot never lets up. Even in its quiet moments that balance the action, there’s pace and engagement so that I was entranced by the writing. I thought the narrative structure was excellent and deftly plotted, with a claustrophobic intensity created by the weather conditions, the isolation of Margo and Nick, and the gradual feeding in of their past experiences to uncover how they had arrived at this point in their lives. Add in the fact that there are, in effect, just two characters in the present of the narrative, and it feels menacing and creepy. I read with an increasing and well-founded unease.

Alongside this atmosphere of threat and danger that makes Cover Your Tracks a brilliantly thrilling read, is an almost poetic beauty in the writing. Daco S. Auffenorde uses the senses so effectively in her descriptions of the snow, the animals, the cold, the fear, that she transports the reader to the heart of the action with Nick and Margo.

Both Margo and Nick are vividly drawn people, with a particular success by Daco S. Auffenorde in conveying their emotional and psychological personas. The fact they are both able to resort to violence, to become almost primordial in their actions when threatened, and in the extreme conditions they find themselves in, illustrates perfectly how basic human instinct can be. In fact, the quality of this exploration is a very unnerving aspect of the book and one of the themes I found so fascinating.

Equally mesmerising are the other subjects in Cover Your Tracks. Parenthood, family and relationships, PTSD, violence, mental health, loyalty and survival all swirl like the blizzardous snow of the story, so that although Cover Your Tracks is an incredibly entertaining read, it’s a thought provoking one too.

I found Cover Your Tracks visceral, thrilling and exciting. I really recommend it.

About Daco S. Auffenorde

Born at the Naval hospital in Bethesda, Maryland and raised in Huntsville, Alabama–also known as Rocket City for its role in building the rocket that took astronauts into space–Daco holds a B.A. and M.A.S. from The University of Alabama in Huntsville and a J.D. from the Cumberland School of Law. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Alabama Writers’ Forum, Authors Guild, and Alabama State Bar.

For further information, visit Daco’s website or follow her on Twitter @AuthorDaco. You’ll also find her on Facebook and Instagram.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Milly Johnson

My enormous thanks to the fabulous Sara-Jade at Simon and Schuster for a surprise copy of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Milly Johnson in return for an honest review.

I’m a huge fan of Milly Johnson, both as an author and as a person, and most recently reviewed My One True North here with my review of The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew here. Milly was kind enough to write a piece for Linda’s Book Bag when The Mother of All Christmases was released in a post available here and I have my review of another of Milly’s books, The Perfectly Imperfect Womanhere.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day was published by Simon and Schuster on 29th October and is available for purchase through the links here.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

It’s nearly Christmas and it’s snowing, hard. Deep in the Yorkshire Moors nestles a tiny hamlet, with a pub at its heart. As the snow falls, the inn will become an unexpected haven for six people forced to seek shelter there…

Mary has been trying to get her boss Jack to notice her for four years, but he can only see the efficient PA she is at work. Will being holed up with him finally give her the chance she has been waiting for?

Bridge and Luke were meeting for five minutes to set their divorce in motion. But will getting trapped with each other reignite too many fond memories – and love?

Charlie and Robin were on their way to a luxury hotel in Scotland for a very special Christmas. But will the inn give them everything they were hoping to find – and much more besides?

A story of knowing when to hold on and when to let go, of pushing limits and acceptance, of friendship, love, laughter, mince pies and the magic of Christmas.

Gorgeous, warm and full of heartfelt emotion, I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day is the perfect read this winter!

My Review of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

Heavy snow means a change of plan for six travellers.

Oh yes! Yes indeed. I’d been hearing about how fabulous I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day is and so Milly Johnson had considerable expectations to live up to and my word she met and exceeded them completely. I couldn’t have enjoyed I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day more – even if all the references to food made me ravenous throughout the read!

In essence, there isn’t an in-depth plot here as six metaphorically and physically lost people find themselves stranded in an inn in Figgy Hollow and spend the Christmas period chatting and eating; but with customary Milly Johnson élan, the story is utterly captivating, moving, uplifting and totally wonderful. I’d be quite happy to write a review that simply said, ‘Insert your own superlative here,’ because I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day is just joyous.

I fell in love with each of the six characters. I couldn’t bear to leave them when I wasn’t reading the book and ended the story feeling as if I had lived every moment of their lives with them – not just the few days in Figgy hollow because their past lives are so carefully woven into their present situation so that I felt I knew them completely. Each of them represents a version of love that Milly Johnson seems to understand so brilliantly and convey equally wonderfully on the page. There’s steadfast love, jealous love, unrequited and unacknowledged love, selfish and selfless love, passionate and platonic love so that every one of Bridge and Luke, Charlie and Robin, Mark and Jack, illustrates in vivid technicolour just how the world could be. I was so moved by them that I laughed and cried alongside them. Charlie in particular held personal resonance for me and I genuinely wish I could have met him in real life. Reading about these people gave me a physical sensation in my heart.

With themes of identity, family and friendship, industriousness and loyalty running through the story with a rich seam of humour (just look at Luke’s Terrible Christmas Jokes at the end) too, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day feels the perfect antidote to the awfulness of 2020. Milly Johnson shows, particularly through Charlie, how life is what we make it and living well in the here and now is enough. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day might be one of the wisest books I’ve read as well as one of the most entertaining. I loved the references to Jane Austen, and those alongside the music in Brian’s broadcasts, gave fabulous texture to the narrative that I really appreciated.

I’m aware I haven’t explained the appeal of this book adequately enough because it’s difficult to articulate how it made me feel. Suffused with love, warmth and humanity, Milly Johnson’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day isn’t about the spirit of Christmas, but rather embodies it in every glorious moment with just a touch of added magic. I absolutely adored it.

About Milly Johnson

milly

Milly Johnson was born, raised and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. As well as being a prolific author, she is also a copywriter for the greetings card industry, a joke-writer, a columnist, after dinner speaker, poet, BBC newspaper reviewer, and a sometimes BBC radio presenter.

She won the RoNA for Best Romantic Comedy Novel of 2014 and 2016 and the Yorkshire Society award for Arts and Culture 2015. Milly has recently been awarded the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award.

A Sunday Times bestseller, she is one of the Top 10 Female Fiction authors in the UK, and with millions of copies of her books sold across the world, Milly’s star continues to rise. Milly was chosen as one of the authors for The Reading Agency’s Quick Reads 2020 campaign. Milly writes from the heart about what and where she knows and highlights the importance of community spirit. Her books champion women, their strength and resilience, and celebrate love, friendship and the possibility of second chances. She is an exceptional writer who puts her heart and soul into every book she writes and every character she creates.

She likes owls, cats, meringues, handbags and literary gifts – but hates marzipan. She is also very short.

You can follow Milly on Twitter @millyjohnson and Facebook.

Milly has an excellent website too where you can sign up for her brilliant monthly newsletter with exclusive, news, offers and competitions.

My Five Senses of India: A Guest Post by Janet MacLeod Trotter, Author of The Sapphire Child

I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Janet MacLeod Trotter to Linda’s Book Bag on The Sapphire Child publication day. Janet stayed in with me a couple of years ago when The Far Pashmina Mountains was published in a post you can see here. On that occasion, I had recently been to India, but just in the centre of the country to tiger reserves. The reason I’m so delighted to find out more about Janet’s Five Senses of India today is because the dreaded pandemic put paid to my trip to India this year when I was due to tour the country. Instead, Janet is taking me on a virtual tour through her The Sapphire Child guest post today and I’m immensely grateful to her. I’m thrilled to have The Sapphire Child on my TBR too.

The Sapphire Child is published today, 8th December 2020 and is available for purchase here.

The Sapphire Child

In the dying days of the Raj, can paths divided by time and circumstance ever find each other again?

In 1930s Northern India, childhood friends Stella and Andrew have grown up together in the orbit of the majestic Raj Hotel. Spirited Stella has always had a soft spot for boisterous Andrew, though she dreams of meeting a soulmate from outside the close-knit community. But life is turned on its head when one scandal shatters their friendship and another sees her abandoned by the man she thought she loved.

As the Second World War looms, Andrew joins the army to fight for freedom. Meanwhile in India, Stella, reeling from her terrible betrayal, also throws herself into the war effort, volunteering for the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, resigned to living a lonelier life than the one she dreamed of as a child.

When Andrew returns to the East on the eve of battle with Japan, the two former friends are reunited, though bitter experience has changed them. Can they rekindle what they once had or will war demand of their friendship the ultimate sacrifice?

MY FIVE SENSES OF INDIA!

A Guest Post by Janet MacLeod Trotter

To celebrate the launch of my latest historical novel, which is largely set in the India of the 1930s and 40s, I wanted to share some of the sensual moments that evoke India for me.

TOUCH

The feel of my grandmother’s Kashmir shawl. One of the reasons I am so passionate about setting my recent novels in India, is my family connection with the country.

My Granny Sydney on her wedding day in Lahore

My grandparents lived and worked in Northern India from the early 1920s until well after Independence – my grandfather was a forester. Granny would go into camp with him until the snows of winter came and I can imagine how she would have needed the warmth of this soft embroidered shawl.

My Grandmother’s Kashmir Shawl

The Sapphire Child is partly set in Kashmir too – a place I was lucky enough to visit as a teenager on an overland bus trip – and so I know how cold it can be in November. I wish I’d had Granny’s shawl then!

SIGHT

Sunrise Over Kanchenjunga

It might sound like a cliché but the sight of the sun rising over the Himalayan peaks is something that will stay in my mind’s eye all my days. These were the mountains into which my grandparents trekked – with my mother as a baby hoisted in a pram on poles and carried along with the baggage! I first saw the dawn on the Himalayas from Namche Bazaar in Nepal at the end of my bus trip, scrambling up a slope in the dark to catch the first rays striking faraway Everest. In more recent times, near Darjeeling, I’ve seen the peak of Kanchenjunga emerging out of the mist and floating on a bed of cloud.

The Raj-in-the-Hills Hotel in Kashmir – where some of the pivotal moments in the new novel take place – has a stunning view of Nanga Parbat in the western Himalayas. But no spoilers!

TASTE

This, for me, has to be Darjeeling tea! Since I first began researching my India novels – in particular, The India Tea Series – I have developed a passion for the light, musky, amber-coloured teas of the Himalayan foothills. I start each day with a refreshing cup (or teapotful!) of Darjeeling – First Flush being my favourite. Imbibing its almost fruity taste transports me back to the times I’ve visited Darjeeling and the surrounding area, walking through its tea gardens in the mellow sunlight.

Visiting a Darjeeling tea garden

Darjeeling would definitely have been served to the residents of The Raj Hotels in my novels, with a theatrical flourish from enthusiastic hotelier, Charlie Dubois!

A very happy author, tea-tasting in Darjeeling

SMELL

Preparing corn chapattis for lunch

Smell is one of the most evocative of senses and memory prompts. The buttery, smoky, spicy smells of wayside cooking conjure up India vividly. Street food: vats of steaming lentil dahl and rice, curried vegetables, the sharp tang of mustard oil and the hot fiery aroma of chapattis sizzling on a skillet.

Chapattis cooked on an open fire

Once when my husband Graeme and I were trekking in the Himalayan foothills around Manali, we came across a wayside café – a couple of benches and a table under the trees – where they cooked up one of the freshest and tastiest meals we had all holiday. Best of all were the chapatis – a local speciality made with homegrown corn – that were golden, rich, straight from the fire and utterly delicious!

When the characters in my novel return from Scotland to India, it is the smells as much as the sights which remind them of what they have missed.

SOUND

The noisy, bustling spice quarter quarter of Old Delhi

The noise of the bazaars. In some ways, nothing evokes the vibrancy, richness and frenetic side of India more than the sounds concentrated into the busy streets of their old quarters. When I first went to India in the 1970s, the traffic sounds that dominated were the bells of cycle rickshaws, the buzz of motor rickshaws and occasional hooting taxis. Competing against them to be heard were the cries of vendors and shouts of porters negotiating their way around wandering cows and shoppers in the narrow thoroughfares.

Visiting in more recent times, the growth in traffic – of motorbikes and cars instead of bicycles and tongas – is very noticeable. The toot of car horns is ubiquitous; not the aggressive, get-out-of-the-way hooting, but rather a friendly warning that ‘I’m behind you and I’m about to overtake you!’ Yet, despite the growth in traffic noise, it’s still possible to hear a flock of sheep come bleating along a grand street in Calcutta and sharing the pavement with tourists.

In The Sapphire Child, the sounds that my characters would have heard when the stepped out of the Raj Hotel onto the streets of Rawalpindi, would have been the cry of a peacock on the lawn, the clatter of horse-drawn tongas, the rumble of military vehicles and – yes – the tring of bicycle bells.

*

Oh Janet, that’s just wonderful. Thank you. You’ve really evoked India for me and brought back so many memories of the country too. I can’t wait to immerse myself in The Sapphire Child. Let’s hope when I read it I’ll actually be in India!

About Janet MacLeod Trotter

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Janet MacLeod Trotter is the author of numerous bestselling and acclaimed novels, including The Hungry Hills, which was nominated for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, and The Tea Planter’s Daughter, which was nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Novel of the Year Award. Much informed by her own experiences, MacLeod Trotter was raised in the north-east of England by Scottish parents and travelled in India as a young woman. She recently discovered diaries and letters belonging to her grandparents, who married in Lahore and lived and worked in the Punjab for nearly thirty years, which served as her inspiration for the India Tea Series. She now divides her time between Northumberland and the Isle of Skye.

You can find out more about Janet and her novels on her website and by following her on Twitter @MacLeodTrotter. You can also find her on Facebook.

The Last Resort by Susi Holliday

My enormous thanks to Susi Holliday for an advanced reader copy of The Last Resort in return for an honest review. I was delighted to receive it as I love Susi’s writing. You’ll find my review of Willow Walk here, an interview with Susi to celebrate The Damsel Fly here and my review of her excellent Violet here. I’m thrilled to be part of The Last Resort blog tour and would like to thank Sophie Goodfellow for inviting me to participate.

The Last Resort will be published by Thomas and Mercer on 1st December 2020 and is available for purchase here.

The Last Resort

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One perfect crime.

When Amelia is invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, the mysterious offer is too good to refuse. Along with six other strangers, she’s told they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear.

Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat—it’s a trap they can’t get out of.

As the clock counts down to the lavish end-of-day party they’ve been promised, injuries and in-fighting split the group. But with no escape from the island—or the other guests’ most shocking secrets—Amelia begins to suspect that her only hope for survival is to be the last one standing. Can she confront her own dark past to uncover the truth—before it’s too late to get out?

My Review of The Last Resort

This is not the trip everyone was expecting!

Before you begin reading The Last Resort, leave your preconceptions behind, willingly suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself into an exciting, slightly unhinged and surreal narrative that has echoes of Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World and a Gatiss inspired episode of Dr Who or The League of Gentlemen. The Last Resort is quite mad. That might sound critical, but it isn’t at all. I absolutely loved this book. Susi Holliday has produced a narrative that is brilliantly entertaining and quite unnerving because she takes the familiar, like the concept of reality television, and presents it in completely innovative and distorted ways that are absolutely gripping.

I thought the plot was breathtakingly fast paced in a twisting manner that fits the overarching reason for the action perfectly. Indeed, The Last Resort is a convincing example of a traditional narrative with its unities of time – a single day, place – an island, and action – although I can’t tell you much about that action for fear of spoiling a corker of a read. All the elements needed in a thriller are there with a dystopian use of technology that is frighteningly close to today’s reality, a terrifyingly familiar exploration of the survival of the fittest, and a scarily clever exploitation of people’s fears and memories all blended with a psychological element that glues the action together.

The style of the narrative made me feel as if I were part of the action, seeing the projections and experiencing the memories alongside the characters. I loved Susi Holliday’s descriptions too. She has a deft touch in supplying just the right amount of detail to bring her settings alive without the pace of the narrative missing a beat.

The characters are an unsettling example of how we never really know the innermost thoughts and fears of those around us and The Last Resort illustrates with complete clarity that leaving our past behind might be more challenging than we hope. It was Amelia with whom I felt the greatest affinity, but each of these guests has a personality hook that illustrates the underlying vulnerability that many of us have behind our public personas. I think it says something about me too that I rather enjoyed what happened to one or two of them!

If you were to ask me if The Last Resort is realistic and believable I’d say, ‘No’. If you were to ask if The Last Resort is brilliantly entertaining, completely absorbing and a wonderful opportunity to escape into a different world for a few hours I would say ‘Absolutely’. I thought it was totally crackers, somewhat disturbing and quite fabulous. I loved it.

About Susi Holliday

susi-holliday

Susi (S.J.I.) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize. She lives in London (except when she’s in Edinburgh) and she loves to travel the world.

Her serial killer thriller The Deaths of December, featuring Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine and Detective Constable Becky Greene was a festive hit in 2017.

Her next two releases, The Last Resort and Substitute are due out from Thomas & Mercer late 2020 and summer 2021 – both of these books are suspense thrillers with a technological element (a blend of Black Mirror, Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone).

Writing as SJI Holliday, she also has three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. They are: Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly – all featuring the much loved character, Sergeant Davie Gray.

Also as SJI Holliday, her spooky mystery The Lingering was released in September 2018, followed by Violet – a psychological thriller set on the Trans-Siberian Express – in September 2019. Violet has been optioned for film.

You can find out more about Susi Holliday on her website and on Facebook and by following her on Twitter @SJIHolliday.

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The Flip Side by James Bailey

My enormous thanks to Ben McClusky at Midas PR for inviting me to participate in this blog tour for James Bailey’s The Flip Side and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Published in paperback by Penguin on 26th November 2020, The Flip Side is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

The Flip Side

It’s New Year’s Eve and Josh has a high-flying proposal planned. An exclusive pod on the London Eye, with champagne, truffles and the ring. It’s perfect.

Until she says no. And they have to spend the next 29 excruciating minutes alone together.

By the time Josh is back on the ground, his whole life is up in the air. He’s managed to lose his girlfriend, his job and his flat.

Realising he can’t trust his own judgement, Josh puts his faith in fate. From now on he will make every choice by flipping a coin. It’s reckless and scary, but Josh has tried the right way and look where he ended up.

And what if the girl of his dreams is just one flip of a coin away?

My Review of The Flip Side

Josh’s proposal doesn’t quite go according to plan!

My word I loved this book. The Flip Side is unashamedly romantic, funny and totally relatable so that I felt transported from all the doom and gloom of 2020 into a wonderfully entertaining world for a few hours. I truly thought James Bailey’s The Flip Side is the perfect antidote to 2020.

The plot is fast paced and totally engaging. The Flip Side allows the reader to travel, to fall in love with Josh themselves, and to laugh aloud at the Josh’s italicised asides and the scrapes he finds himself in. It’s ever so slightly bonkers too which I loved because it lifted my spirit and brought me joy as well as a surreptitious tear on occasion too. James Bailey has a deft touch at injecting humour at the perfect moment and I thought his direct speech was completely natural and realistic so that I felt I was eaves dropping Josh and all the Js rather than reading about them. There are some comedic moments that are reminiscent of the best of any humorous writing either in books or on television I have encountered.

This isn’t to say that The Flip Side is lightweight whilst being light hearted. James Bailey weaves in considerable depth too as he explores relationships, chance, family, employment, love and friendship. There’s happiness and loss, grief and joy between the pages of The Flip Side that means there’s something for all readers. What struck me was the insightful level of human understanding as a foundation for the narrative that made me love it all the more. Considerable research has gone in to the art theme too so that I felt I was reading something of quality as well as something escapist and entertaining.

Although Josh was undoubtedly my favourite character and his voice absolutely leaps from the page, I found all those I encountered in The Flip Side were warm, vivid people. I had my suspicions that Jessie and Josh might find love together but you’ll have to read The Flip Side to see if I was right! Normally a book where so many characters’ names begin with J would annoy me and I’d find it totally confusing but here they are so distinct that even two Jakes works perfectly.

I loved The Flip Side. It was absolutely the right book at the right moment, filling me with warmth and happiness in a world that has felt quite bleak on occasion this year. I finished James Bailey’s writing feeling positive and with a smile on my face. What could be better than that?

About James Bailey

Born in Bristol, James Bailey began to dream of a writing career following a top mark in a Year 8 English exam, and he soon pursued journalism, starting a student newspaper and a sports website, interviewing athletes including Usain Bolt and Rafa Nadal. This burgeoning career was halted however, when he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a cardiac arrhythmia. Following two operations, James supported the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young, carrying the Olympic Torch, running the London Marathon, speaking in the House of Commons, and appearing in BBC1’s Lifeline appeal, alongside pop star Pixie Lott.

Upon moving to London for university, during which time he avoided high rent by living in a Travelodge, James juggled studying Spanish with working as a red carpet reporter, interviewing stars such as George Clooney, Emma Stone and David Beckham.

Following his graduation, he travelled the world, journeying through twenty one countries looking for himself, and hopefully love. Having found neither, he returned home to Bristol, where he founded a walking tour company of the city and began working on his debut novel, having been selected for Curtis Brown Creative’s Six Month Novel Writing Course.

The Flip Side is his debut novel.

You can find James on Instagram, or visit his website for more information. You can follow him on Twitter @JBaileyWrites too.

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Giveaway: The Calculated Series by K. T. Lee

It’s such a shame that it’s unethical to enter my own giveaway as I’d love to win this five ebook Calculated Series from K. T. Lee in a hugely generous gesture from K. T. to celebrate the fifth book in the series, Calculated Entrapment, being released.

K. T. Lee has featured here on Linda’s Book Bag a couple of times in the past: firstly when we chatted together all about her book Calculated Deception in a post you can see here. More recently we celebrated Calculated Reaction when K. T. provided a cracking guest post about writing strong females that you can read here. In that post you’ll also find details of the first four books in the series.

This time I’m delighted to be able to offer one lucky reader an ebook box set of the entire Calculated Series. Details of how to enter are below, but let’s look at the details for Calculated Entrapment, the latest book, first.

Calculated Entrapment is available for purchase through the links here.

Calculated Entrapment

Stefanie Ryland is a marine biologist whose life is going exactly to plan. She’s worked her way up the corporate ladder to land her dream job at the Oceanic Exploration Group and has a fulfilling personal life. Not to mention, her older sister, Ree, is soon going to make her the world’s greatest aunt. However, a surprise phone call from Ree forces Stefanie to re-evaluate everything she thought she knew. Not only has her sister been secretly moonlighting for the FBI and CIA, but Ree has also helped thwart several dangerous attacks. And her team believes that Dmitri, the man behind the attacks, has made the OEG his next target.

For CIA Operations Officer Joey Pacelli, putting Dmitri out of play isn’t just his job, it’s unfinished business. When the CIA and the FBI ask Stefanie Ryland to help them take Dmitri down, Joey travels to San Francisco to protect her. Teaming up with Stefanie is the perfect chance for Joey to beat his old nemesis at his own game. There’s just one problem – Dmitri is playing by an entirely new set of rules.

Giveaway – A Five E-Book Box Set of The Calculated Series

For your chance to win an ebook box set of all five of K.T. Lee’s Calculated Series, click here.

The Calculated Series box set will be accessed through a one off code via Book Funnel and is open internationally.

The giveaway closes at UK midnight on Thursday 10th December 2020.

About K.T.Lee

KT

K.T. Lee is a writer, mom and engineer who grew up on a steady diet of books from a wide variety of genres. When K.T. began to write the kind of books she wanted to read, she mixed clever women and the sciences with elements from thrillers (and a dash of romance) to create The Calculated Series.

Find out more about K.T.’s books at her website or find her talking about writing, science, and cute animals on Instagram and Facebook. You can follow K.T.Lee on Twitter @KTLeeWrites.