Staying in with Christina James

As many of you know, I’m involved in my local Deepings Literary Festival and a year ago we were hoping to hold our Read Dating event with lovely Christina James as one of our authors. We all know what happened to live book events! Consequently, I’m particularly pleased to welcome Christina to Linda’s Book Bag today to stay in with me to chat about her latest book. It feels like some compensation for not getting together in real life.

Staying in with Christina James

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

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

I’ve brought De Vries which is a psychological crime novel and the ninth in the DI Yates series, all set in South Lincolnshire. It is the sequel to Sausage Hall, the third of the series – but all of the books can be read independently.

Crikey. Are there really nine books in the series now? What can we expect from an evening in with De Vries?

De Vries continues the story of Kevan de Vries, a wealthy industrialist who returns to Sutterton after seven years of exile. Kevan is a morally ambiguous character: there are several strands to the narrative, each of which adds to his complexity and the reader’s opinion of him. For example, can a murder ever be justified? Why will some people risk everything to find out who their parents were? Do old houses truly carry memories of events that have happened in them in the past?

I love the sound of exploring those questions Christina. How had De Vries been received so far?

Here is part of a review by Mickey J. Corrigan, an American author whom I greatly respect:

DI Yates and DS Armstrong are back on the job. Drawn in by the possibility that de Vries is hiding out at Sausage Hall, they launch another one of their intuition- based investigations, only to get side-tracked when a townswoman goes missing.

Will de Vries solve his paternity mystery before the law finds him? Will he be able to explain his legal troubles to Agnes? Is the child trafficker dead – or still in business? What will the Archaeological Society dig up? And where did those old skeletons at Sausage Hall come from? Are there more?

Enquiring minds must find out, which is why I couldn’t stop reading. I greatly admire a writer who can lure me in with an addictive plot and make me fall in love with a motley group of well-drawn characters as she fits all the puzzle pieces together. I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil your read. It’s fun by one master storyteller.”

How brilliant! 

And here is a trailer for De Vries.

I enjoyed watching that Christina – those images of Stamford were very familiar to me. 

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

For sustenance, I have brought some jars of honey, as my husband keeps bees, and some home-made cider.

That honey looks glorious. I’ll get some fresh bread in a while when we’ve finished chatting.

Ruth with de Vries

I’d also like to introduce a couple of guests: Ruth Cropley, the present owner of the house I have called ‘Sausage Hall’, and the spirit of my grandmother, Elizabeth Mary Wood. Some years after ‘Sausage Hall’ (the book) was published, Ruth tracked me down because her daughter had read it and recognised the house from the description. Her diligence in doing this and enthusiasm for my books has brought a new and highly valued friend into my life.

That’s just wonderful. Ruth is most welcome. But why your grandmother? 

I’m bringing my grandmother because she was the paid companion/housekeeper of the old lady who owned the house in the 1950s and 1960s. Elizabeth died in 1979, but as I’m a writer among writers here I’m sure her ghostly presence will be understood and welcomed, particularly as, like Sausage Hall, De Vries raises some ancient ghosts. I know my grandmother would have been delighted to meet Ruth and fascinated by what Ruth has made of the house today. Before she worked at Sausage Hall, Elizabeth was housekeeper to Samuel Frear, the last of the great Lincolnshire sheep farmers. She was born in Kent; her father was a manager for a ‘gentleman farmer’ who also owned farms in Lincolnshire, so her family moved to an isolated farm in the Fens when she was a young woman. Like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and at around the same time, she started work as a poultry maid. Then one of her employers sent her to Bart’s Hospital in London to train as a nursery nurse and subsequently she worked as nursemaid to the children of a Scottish diplomat, before returning to Lincolnshire in her later years. She was an indomitable lady with a wry sense of humour and fierce work ethic. I hope perhaps some of her qualities have rubbed off on me.

She sounds utterly fabulous and from what I can tell, Christina, she’d recognise many traits of herself in you.

Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about De Vries. I think it sounds brilliant. Now, you pour the cider and I’ll tell readers more about De Vries.

De Vries

Widower Kevan de Vries returns to ‘Sausage Hall’, his house in Sutterton, after seven years’ exile in St Lucia.

He must remain incognito because police want to question him about the unexplained disappearance of Tony Sentance, former employee and leader of a child trafficking gang that operated from within De Vries Industries.

De Vries is obsessed with the identity of his father, never disclosed to him by his mother. He enlists the help of Jackie Briggs, his former housekeeper, and Jean Rook, his solicitor and erstwhile lover, who wants to rekindle their liaison. He reluctantly agrees.

Agnes Price, a young primary school teacher, becomes concerned about the welfare of one of her pupils and Leonard Curry, a schools attendance officer sent to investigate, is attacked. Shortly afterwards, Leonard’s niece, Audrey Furby, goes missing.

De Vries is the sequel to Sausage Hall. The two novels can be read as a pair or each as a standalone text.

‘De Vries’ can be purchased from, and most online booksellers on both sides of the Atlantic.

About Christina James

Christina James is the pseudonym of Linda Bennett, née Linda Sherrard, a former pupil of Spalding High School. She has been a book-lover for as long as she can remember – and certainly longer than when she first learnt to read. Books have always been a part of her professional life in some guise: she has worked as a library supplier, an academic, a bookseller, a publisher, an editor and a consultant for publishing and library projects.

Like many book-lovers, it was always her ambition to become a writer herself and after a couple of false starts (and a textbook along the way) she began work on the DI Yates series in 2010. Linda is married with a grown-up son. She lives on the Yorkshire side of the Pennines with her husband, a rescue cat and about three hundred thousand bees.

For more information, visit Christina’s blog, find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @cajameswriter.

Staying in with Rob Sinclair on Renegade publication day

I absolutely love Rob Sinclair’s thrilling writing and can’t believe it’s almost two years since Rob last appeared on Linda’s Book Bag. Then I was reviewing The White Scorpion in a post you’ll find here. In other posts, Rob generously wrote a wonderful guest post about becoming a full time writer that you can read here and I have my review of Rob’s book Red Cobra, that you can read here. Rob previously stayed in with me to chat about The Green Viper in a post you can see here and today I’m delighted to welcome him back to tell me about his latest book. Let’s find out more:

Staying in with Rob Sinclair

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag Rob and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me once more.

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

I’ve brought Renegade, the first book in the ‘Ryker returns’ thriller series, which is my most recent release (publication 30th March!).

Oh. Happy publication day Rob! I’ve enjoyed your Ryker Series so what can can we expect from an evening in with Renegade?

This is technically the ninth book I’ve written about James Ryker, though it definitely feels like the start of something new, which is a big reason why the publisher has branded this a the start of a new sub-series (Ryker Returns).

Readers first saw covert agent James Ryker under a different name – Carl Logan – in my Enemy series, which were the first books I wrote, several years ago now. Having seemingly walked away from his dangerous life for one of peace (which didn’t last long at all), he returned under the new identity of James Ryker for The Red Cobra, which subsequently spawned four more sequels.

I absolutely loved The Red Cobra. Such a thrilling read.

But by the point The White Scorpion came out in 2019, I knew that it was time for Ryker to once again move in a new direction.

Having read and adored The White Scorpion too, I agree. Tell us more about Ryker.

He’s a complex man, with a very dark and disturbing past, but Ryker, more than anything, wants to disassociate from that past and just be left alone. We see this tension in particular in Renegade, with the book starting with him working for his old agency on an ad-hoc basis, but with the title clearly referencing his internal struggle to toe the line his old bosses expect him to toe.

I can imagine that leads to quite a bit of excitement. I can’t wait to read Renegade.

Come the end of the book though… let’s just say Ryker’s future path is set, and it’s a very different path to the books that preceded it. To me, Ryker is a new man once more, and with that he’s going to be getting into a whole load of new scraps. I’ve already written book 2 in this new series, with book 3 well on the way as well!

That’s brilliant news.

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


I’ve brought an atlas. It might sound silly but I love atlases. I’ve always been fond of facts and statistics, and I’m fascinated by the world, our knowledge of it, and how our own views of our planet change over time. Why is this relevant to Ryker? Mainly because Ryker is so well-travelled. I can’t count how many countries I’ve thrown him into now on his adventures, and I always make a point of trying to tie the location to the story. I.e. if the book is going to be in Country A, there has to be a specific reason for it, not just because it sounds good. The Ryker books have taken place on every continent now, and for Renegade, I used a collection of locations from around Europe, from London, to Paris, to rural France, to the German Black Forest – each of the locations with their own unique traits in terms of both the places, but also the people and cultures. I put a lot of thought into doing the locations justice, so hopefully I’ve achieved that.

I know you have in the Ryker books I’ve read Rob and I love the way you manage to transport your reader to another place through your brilliant descriptions.


I’ve also brought a backpack. I’ve never called it this in a book, but think of it as a zombie survival kit. If you’ve never heard of one of those, you haven’t watched enough zombie apocalypse movies, but I’m sure you get the idea.

I don’t watch zombie films but I’ve had so many times when I’ve had to rush one of my parents to hospital in the past that we all have emergency bags packed now!

Ryker, at heart, is a nomad. He doesn’t call anywhere home, and although the Ryker Returns series starts with him seemingly settled in England, I can assure you it can’t and won’t last. He’s also not a materialistic man. He doesn’t care for possessions, but like any traveller, he needs something. I know fine well Ryker has his own zombie survival kit. That bag that’s by the front door, always ready and packed with the essentials he needs to survive. Cash, utility knife, compass, torch, first aid kit, a few clothes. Toothbrush? Maybe. All the basics, just in case the apocalypse really does happen. Or at least if the bad guys suddenly arrive at his door and he needs to make a quick getaway. Have you got your own zombie survival kit ready? If not, why not?!

Why not indeed! Thanks so much for staying in with me again Rob. I’ve loved hearing about Ryker’s new adventures and I cannot wait to read Renegade. I’m thrilled it’s on my TBR. Happy publication day once more.


He’s back and better than ever.

James Ryker, a veteran intelligence agent now freelancer, working for the secretive Joint Intelligence agency on an op-by-op basis, finds himself embroiled in a complicated mission that will test him to his limit.

When a simple surveillance mission goes awry and the key target is kidnapped in broad daylight in a busy London square, Ryker knows he has his work cut out.

Ryker is tasked with figuring out what went wrong. But when his good friend Sam Moreno disappears without a trace, the mission becomes more personal than he could have imagined.

Torn between toeing the government line, and finding the answers he needs, Ryker realises there’s only one way to find those responsible and to punish them… His way.

James Ryker Returns in Renegade

This fast-paced, explosive thriller is the perfect follow-on for readers for the massive bestselling original Ryker series, but can also be read as the start of a thrilling new espionage series.  It will appeal to fans of books like the globe-trotting thriller I Am Pilgrim, as well as to fans of authors like Lee Child, Mark Dawson, L.T. Ryan and David Baldacci.

Published by Bloodhound Books today 30th March 2021, Renegade is available for purchase in all the usual places including here.

Rob Sinclair is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Enemy series and James Ryker series of espionage thrillers as well as the globetrotting thriller hit Sleeper 13. His books have sold over half a million copies to date with many reviewers and readers having likened Rob’s work to authors at the very top of the genre, including Lee Child and Vince Flynn.

Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller. He worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. Rob now writes full time.

Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.

You can follow Rob on Twitter @RSinclairAuthor, visit his website and find him on Facebook and Instagram for more information.

Featuring What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

My enormous thanks to Ellie and Dave for inviting me to participate in the UK launch of What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson. It’s such a shame that I wasn’t able to read for review today, because I don’t feature nearly enough YA fiction hereon Linda’s Book Bag, and when you see the details about What Beauty There Is, you’ll understand why I am so disappointed not to have been able to do so. Sadly my weird sight is finding e-books increasingly tricky so I’ll just have to wait until the paperback is available!

Published by Penguin on 8th April, What Beauty There Is is available for purchase through the links here.

What Beauty There Is

When everything you love is in danger, how long can you keep running to survive?

Life can be brutal
Winter in Idaho. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.

Jack knew it
Jack Dahl has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d die for. Their mother is gone, and their funds are quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison.

So did I
Ava lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father, a merciless man, has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one.

Did I feel the flutter of wings when Jack and I met? Did I sense the coming tornado?
But now Ava wants to break the rules – to let Jack in and open her heart. Then she discovers that Jack and her father are stalking the same money, and suddenly Ava is faced with a terrible choice: remain silent or speak out and help the brothers survive.

Looking back, I think I did . . .

Perfect for fans of Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff and Daniel Woodrell, What Beauty There Is an unforgettable debut novel that is as compulsive as it is beautiful, and unflinchingly explores the power of determination, survival and love.


Now doesn’t that sound EXACTLY my kind of read?

About Cory Anderson

Cory Anderson is a winner of the League of Utah Writers Young Adult Novel Award and Grand Prize in the Storymakers Conference First Chapter Contest. She lives in Utah with her family. What Beauty There Is is her debut novel.

You can follow Cory on Twitter @coryanderwrites, visit her website and find her on Instagram. You can follow the blog tour too:

The Cosy Little Cupcake Van by Annette Hannah

A couple of months ago I was delighted to help reveal the cover of Annette Hannah’s latest book The Cosy Little Cupcake Van. If you head over to that blogpost you can read an extract from the book too. As Annette is my very good friend, I’m thrilled today to participate in the blog tour for The Cosy Little Cupcake Van.

Annette has also featured here on Linda’s Book Bag when I reviewed her debut novel Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café and we stayed in together to chat all about it.

Published by Orion imprint Dash on 22nd March 2021, The Cosy Little Cupcake Van is available for purchase here.

The Cosy Little Cupcake Van

A deliciously feelgood romance, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Ali McNamara and Rebecca Raisin!

Camilla’s delicious cakes are the talk of her village. If you need a perfectly iced mouthful of joy, Camilla “Cupcake” is your woman. But after losing her mother, she finds her home and her business in jeopardy. She needs a little helping hand…

Thankfully her friends are always there for her, and when she is given an old ice cream van, Camilla’s dream of a cupcake delivery service is born. Now she can bring happiness – and buttercream frosting – to the whole town.

But when her ex Blake appears back on her doorstep, Camilla must decide if she can trust him again or if her heart might belong to someone else…

Bursting with romance and sprinkled with humour, this is a deliciously feel-good story about one woman putting her life back together, one cupcake at a time.

My Review of The Cosy Little Cupcake Van

Camilla needs to start again.

The Cosy Little Cupcake Van is an absolute delight but should come with a warning. Whatever you do, don’t try to lose weight whilst you read it. The descriptions of food, especially cakes, and the wonderful drinks are so delicious sounding I swear I put on four pounds just reading this book! I genuinely had to start getting my lunch at 11.45 because it made me so hungry.

In all seriousness, Annette Hannah has such a deft ability to evoke the senses that The Cosy Little Cupcake Van truly is a book to experience sensuously rather than just to read. Every sense is catered for, whether that’s through the touch of a hand, the sound of laughter, the taste of lemon meringue, the sight of a newly decorated cupcake or the scent of flowers, in such a vivid way that The Cosy Little Cupcake Van is a pleasure to read. I thought the description and settings too were brilliantly drawn.

Although there are references to Annette Hannah’s debut Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café with some returning characters, The Cosy Little Cupcake Van works perfectly well as a stand alone novel. That said, I think readers would be missing out not to read both books. I loved meeting up again with some of the people, especially Jackson, whom I’d grown so fond of before, as well as encountering new people.

There’s a plot based on an action of greed and deceit in The Cosy Little Cupcake Van that is surprising, but that works so well because Annette Hannah illustrates so gloriously that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger as Camilla learns to get her life back on track. The sense of friendship and community that weaves through the narrative is heart-warming and uplifting and whilst, as might be expected in this genre, the path of true love doesn’t run entirely smoothly, there is a reality in The Cosy Little Cupcake Van that I thoroughly appreciated. Along side the relationships explored is the positive sentiment that is is people and not possessions that provide happiness. In a world where we have all been struggling of late, The Cosy Little Cupcake Van feels like a beacon of happiness and positivity – even if I did shed a tear towards the end of the book.

The Cosy Little Cupcake Van is a perfect example of its genre. It’s the book equivalent of getting into clean bedding after a relaxing bath; it’s soothing, comforting and oh so enjoyable – a kind of hug in a book. I loved it and think some of those well established, award winning, romantic fiction novelists need to look out. Annette Hannah is after their crowns.

About Annette Hannah

Annette Hannah Author Pic

Annette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now lives near a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cocker spaniel. She writes romantic comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown. As an avid reader she became a book blogger and eventually realised her dream to become an author in 2020.

She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places, the odd glass of Pinot Blush and spending time with her friends and family.

You can find out more by visiting Annette’s blog or website and following her on Instagram and Twitter @AnnetteHannah.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Future Perfect by Felicia Yap

It’s a long time since I met lovely Felicia Yapp at an author and blogger event I wrote about here. Since then, I reviewed her debut Yesterday here and it became one of my favourite reads of 2017. Consequently, I was thrilled when Antonia Whitton at Headline asked if I might be prepared to read and review Felicia’s latest book, Future Perfect. Would I? Try and stop me! I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Headline imprint Wildfire on 18th March, Future Perfect is available for purchase through the links here.

Future Perfect

What if today was your last day…

A bomb has exploded during a fashion show, killing a beautiful model on the catwalk. The murderer is still at large… and he may strike again. Yet this is the least of Police Commissioner Christian Verger’s worries. His fiancée Viola has left him. He has to keep his tumultuous past a secret. To make things worse, his voice assistant Alexa is 99.74% sure he will die tomorrow.

Moving from snowy 1980s Montana to chic 1990s Manhattan to a drone-filled 2030s Britain, FUTURE PERFECT is an electrifying race to solve a murder before it’s too late. Yet it is also a love story, a riveting portrait of a couple torn apart by secrets, grief and guilt. A twisted tale of how the past can haunt a person’s future and be used to predict if he will die… or kill.

My Review of Future Perfect

An explosion at a fashion show is just the beginning.

Future Perfect opens in dramatic style and doesn’t let up throughout, as Felicia Yap takes her reader on a terrifyingly plausible narrative set just slightly in the future. What works so well is that technology is at the heart of the story but it is futuristic technology that has already begun to make an appearance now, such as delivery drones and driverless cars, so that the events that occur feel based in truth and are all the more unsettling as a result. I really did feel quite tense reading Future Perfect and thought it was a thrilling read. Equally, I found Future Perfect innovative and fresh in style so that it felt unlike other books I’ve read.

Future Perfect is so much more than a futuristic thriller. Somehow, Felicia Yap has woven romance, relationships, science fiction, AI and crime into a captivating narrative set in the world of high fashion that draws in the reader completely. The plot is a true masterclass, twisting perceptions and manipulating the reader until they are as affected by events as are Viola and Christian. I permanently felt one step behind for much of the time, just like Christian, so that unlike other thrillers, Future Perfect was never predictable. There’s a real irony in that sensation, given the technological reliance on prediction and probability in the narrative! The fast paced action is balanced by beautifully natural imagery and a wonderful appeal to the senses so that Future Perfect has something for every reader. I finished reading this book rather in awe of Felicia Yap’s prescient understanding of society, the criminal mind and humanity. This is a book that entertains, certainly, but it has a depth that gives the reader much to think about too.

Indeed, it is the presentation of humanity in Future Perfect that makes for such compelling reading. I loved the insight into how our past shapes our present, that emerges through the stories of Christian and Viola. Felicia Yap explores human frailty and resilience, our self-deceptions and our self-criticisms, so that the narrative affords an understanding of both perfection and imperfection in a manner I found mesmerising. Alexander King is the ultimate enfant terrible manipulator and yet he has a vulnerability that is quite affecting. He made me think of Shelley’s Ozymandias because of the way art and artifice are so closely entwined in Future Perfect. Even more compelling for me was the exploration of living in the moment and not looking too far ahead. Never have I been more thankful that I do not have Alexa or smart technology in my own home, but to say more would be to spoil the story for others!

I thought this book was brilliant because of the sophisticated storytelling, the vivid characters and the terrifyingly possible situations it contains. Elegantly and eloquently written, Future Perfect is totally captivating, unnerving and surprisingly emotional. I really, really recommend it.

About Felicia Yap

Felicia Yap grew up in Kuala Lumpur. She read biochemistry at Imperial College London, before achieving a doctorate in history (and a half-blue in competitive ballroom dancing) at Cambridge University. She has written for The Economist and The Business Times. She has also worked as a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, a Cambridge lecturer, a technology journalist, a theatre critic, a flea-market trader and a catwalk model. Yesterday was her debut novel. Future Perfect is her second.

You can follow Felicia on Twitter @FeliciaMYap and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Instagram and Facebook.

Mini Rabbit Come Home by John Bond

It was a real pleasure when children’s book Mini Rabbit Come Home by John Bond popped through my letterbox unexpectedly. My thanks to Tina Mories at Harper Collins for sending me a surprise copy

Mini Rabbit Come Home was published by Harper Collins Children’s Books on 18th March 2021 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Mini Rabbit Come Home

Mini Rabbit is back in another adventure from leading new talent John Bond!

Mini Rabbit is making a camp in the garden.
He can’t wait. It’s going to be the BEST DAY ever!

But there are still a few last things he needs to get, and it looks like it might rain. Will Mini Rabbit ever manage to get everything home in time?

Another hilarious adventure featuring the irrepressibly enthusiastic Mini Rabbit. Wittily told and beautifully illustrated from dynamic author/illustrator talent John Bond

My Review of Mini Rabbit Come Home

Mini Rabbit is having another adventure.

As with all my children’s book reviews, I have to comment on the physical qualities of the book’s production and Mini Rabbit Come Home is absolutely excellent. Bound in a thick, robust, good quality cover I can see this book being very durable in both home and school settings. The pages are also superb quality.

I have a tiny criticism which arises out of my personal preference as I would rather not have upper case words in the middle of sentences in children’s books. That said, in Mini Rabbit Come Home, they are used for emphasis, so I can see the opportunities for discussing writing technique with emergent writers was well as encouraging young readers, and the upper case words certainly add drama to the story when it is read aloud.

And there’s a smashing story here as Mini Rabbit heads off to gather the items needed for his camping. The fact he loses half of them on the way home or, like the marshmallows, they curiously vanish adds humour that children will love. The events add all manner of opportunities to discuss with children what has actually happened and the lovely illustrations help less secure young readers interpret the text. The message about the joys of home and safety comes through brilliantly as does the exploration of disappointment and overcoming adversity. This really is a lovely story.

I thought the balance of writing to illustration was perfect and indeed, the illustrations are glorious. It’s wonderful that Mini Rabbit is black rather than fluffy white, as might be expected, as I feel insufficient children’s books challenge expectation as well as this one does. I have no idea whether it was intentional, but Mini Rabbit is helped to make camp by his Mum which gives status to female roles and there is no mention of his Dad which I feel represents positively single parent families.

I think Mini Rabbit Come Home is a super book for young children.

About John Bond


John Bond is an illustrator, author and artist. He grew up on a farm in the Cotswolds and went on to study a degree in Illustration at Kingston University, London. He now lives and works in Worthing on the south coast. His studio is based at Colonnade House.

With a background in animation and digital media, he spent 7 years working at an award winning creative agency – designing and directing a multitude of projects for broadcast, digital, and interactive content.

He now works independently as an illustrator and artist, balancing commercial jobs with self initiated projects alongside running his own online store. Bond’s work has been exhibited in galleries worldwide and he has spoken at industry events such as PictoplasmaGlug and Pecha Kucha.

For more information, visit John’s website, follow him on Twitter @iamjohnbond and Instagram or find him on Facebook.

Staying in with Christina Jones

My enormous thanks to Rosanna Hildyard from Headline Accent for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Summer at Sandcastle Cottage by Christina Jones and for making sure I got to stay in with Christina to chat all about the book. I’m devastated I didn’t have chance to squeeze in reading Summer at Sandcastle Cottage too as I’ve been hearing wonderful things about it.

Staying in with Christina Jones

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

Thank you so much for inviting me, Linda – it’s great to be here – and this is all lovely and cosy.

Thank you! I rather think I know, but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought Summer at Sandcastle Cottage, my latest and only-just-published, romantic comedy novel – and I’ve chosen it because it’s my first full-length book for quite some time and it (or rather the characters, the village and the cottage) finally dragged me kicking and screaming out of my “can’t write/won’t write” doldrums, and I love it for that.

I think many authors have been struggling to write of late Christina and will understand what you mean. So what can we expect from an evening in with Summer at Sandcastle Cottage?

Well, hopefully some lovely sunny summer days by the sea in Firefly Common, catching up with the lives, loves and laughter, as well as the mishaps and mayhem, of Kitty, Jemini and Apollo. They – along with their rescue dogs and Jemini’s toddler daughter, Teddy – had been through some very tough times and had eventually found their sanctuary and moved into Sandcastle Cottage in my e-book novella, Christmas at Sandcastle Cottage – which should have been The End.

Why did you decide to continue the story?

But I knew I couldn’t just leave them there. I had to know what happened to them – I loved them (as I’ve mentioned previously, I hadn’t fallen in love with characters or writing for a few years – so this was a bit of a revelation!). I knew Sandcastle Cottage was only a short-term rental home for them – and I wanted to know what was going to happen to them when the 6 months lease was up. Would they be homeless again? They’d all settled so well into the village, had found work, made friends – and there were now people in their lives they really didn’t want to leave behind.

However, after so long of only writing short stories and e-book novellas, I wasn’t really sure if I’d still got my writing mojo, and was a bit scared about putting the book out there for an early review – and then I got this back from my reader –  and it was ok… it was more than ok. I cried.

“I have just finished the book!! Absolutely adored it – so you, at your brilliant best. I wanted to finish it to see what happened but now I am bereft at leaving everyone behind. What a tonic when we are all feeling so down and dreary. I am sure it will be a huge success.”

How absolutely wonderful. You must be thrilled with that response. I’m desperate to read Summer at Sandcastle Cottage too as I keep hearing wonderful things about it.

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

I’ve brought fish and chips!

Oo. You can come again. Delicious!

I love fish and chips, but also fish and chips – or rather The Silver Fish Bar on Firefly Common’s High Street – play a huge part in the lives of the residents of Sandcastle Cottage. The Silver Fish Bar is an old-fashioned eat-in or take-out chippie – with a back-of-the-shop restaurant with gingham tablecloths, plates of white sliced bread and butter, and Brown Betty teapots. It is always packed with Firefly Common residents and holidaymakers alike.

I cannot think of anywhere I’d rather be. The Silver Fish Bar sounds my kind of establishment Christina.

Oh, and I’ve brought a picture of “the common” too – I took this last year when I visited in between lockdowns. This is the real life common in the real life seaside village that forms the basis for Firefly Common.

I think we might need to take a walk there after the fish and chips to shed a few calories!

And I’ve also brought a photo of the steps down to the beach where I used to play and swim and where Kitty now sits and daydreams in my book.

That’s gorgeous. Why is it so important?

The village is where my great-aunts lived and where I spent practically all my childhood summers – and where I go back as often as possible. My great-aunts are long gone – but their houses that I stayed in are still there, unchanged… they had beach huts and beach chalets too – also gone. The common where they lived has been tamed, and a lot of the village has changed with time – but it’s still my favourite place in the entire world – and now, as Firefly Common, it’s been reborn as the sleepy beach café and bucket and spade seaside village it used to be.

It sounds utterly wonderful Christina – as does Summer at Sandcastle Cottage. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about it. You dish up those chips and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details about Summer at Sandcastle Cottage:

Summer at Sandcastle Cottage

After trials, tears and a torturous break-up, Kitty Appleby has finally found where she’s meant to be. Tumbledown Sandcastle Cottage, in the delightful seaside village of Firefly Common, is home, and Kitty’s eccentric band of friends and neighbours are enjoying a glorious summer.

There’s just one tiny little problem. Sandcastle Cottage doesn’t belong to them. And Mavis Mullholland, Kitty’s landlord, is on her way home from her round-the-world cruise . . .

Kitty can’t bear to lose the community that’s welcomed her in. But secretly, she can’t bear to leave Sandcastle Cottage without finding out more about the mysterious and enigmatic Vinny . . . Why can’t she stop thinking about him, when she’s faced with losing everything?

Published by Headline Accent, Summer at Sandcastle Cottage is available for purchase here.

About Christina Jones

Christina Jones, the only child of a schoolteacher and a circus clown, has been writing all her life. As well as writing romantic comedy novels, she also contributes short stories and articles to many national magazines and newspapers.

She has won several awards for her writing: Dancing in the Moonlight won the Romantic Novelist’s association New Writer’s Award; Going the Distance was a WH Smith Fresh Talent Winner; Nothing to Lose, was shortlisted and runner-up for the Thumping Good Read Award with film and television rights sold; Heaven Sent was shortlisted in The Melissa Nathan Comedy Romance Awards and won a Category Award; Love Potions won the Pure Passion Award; The Way to a Woman’s Heart was short-listed for the Rom-Com of the Year; and An Enormously English Monsoon Wedding won The Reviewer’s Choice Award.

Summer at Sandcastle Cottage is Christina’s 22nd full-length romantic comedy novel.

All Christina Jones’ novels are currently available, either in paperback or e-book format, and after years of travelling, she now lives in rural Oxfordshire with her husband and several rescued cats.

You can follow Christina on Twitter @ChristinaJ2021. You’ll also find Christina on Facebook.

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An Extract from The Night Gate by Peter May

I’m absolutely thrilled to have a copy of The Night Gate by Peter May on my TBR and even more delighted that Peter has chosen an extract from his latest Enzo Macleod book for me to share with you today. My enormous thanks to Sophie Ransom at Midas PR for sending me a copy of The Night Gate which I’ll be reviewing later and for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

Free Events

You might also like to know that Peter is supporting local independent bookshops and libraries by taking part in an online tour to celebrate The Night Gate. Tonight, 23rd March 2021, he will be speaking at Sheffield library from 6.30-7.30 PM and you can register for this FREE online event here. You’ll find the full details and dates of Peter’s virtual tour here.

The Night Gate was published on 18th March 2021 by Riverrun and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Night Gate

In a sleepy French village, the body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree. A week later a famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house. The deaths occurred more than seventy years apart.

Asked by a colleague to inspect the site of the former, forensics expert Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter. Two extraordinary narratives are set in train – one historical, unfolding in the treacherous wartime years of Occupied France; the other contemporary, set in the autumn of 2020 as France re-enters Covid lockdown.

And Enzo’s investigations reveal an unexpected link between the murders – the Mona Lisa.

Tasked by the exiled General Charles de Gaulle to keep the world’s most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as it is moved from château to château by the Louvre, she finds herself just one step ahead of two German art experts sent to steal it for rival patrons – Hitler and Göring.

What none of them know is that the Louvre itself has taken exceptional measures to keep the painting safe, unwittingly setting in train a fatal sequence of events extending over seven decades.

Events that have led to both killings.

The Night Gate spans three generations, taking us from war-torn London, the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Berlin and Vichy France, to the deadly enemy facing the world in 2020. In his latest novel, Peter May shows why he is one of the great contemporary writers of crime fiction.

An Extract from The Night Gate

‘Have you ever been to the Isle of Lewis, monsieur? It’s in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.’

‘I know of it, but I have never been.’

‘A brutal place, by all accounts. It is first in line to welcome the gales that have gathered their strength across five thousand kilometres of Atlantic Ocean. A windbreak for the mainland beyond.’

He wonders where on earth this can be leading, but forces himself to contain his impatience as he waits for her to resume her story. Which, at length, she does . . .

Poor Georgette was as sick as a dog during her six-hour ferry crossing from Mallaig to the Isle of Lewis. It was the furthest north, and west, she had ever been, and she was not enjoying it. The rail journey from London to Fort William the previous day had been long and tedious. Poor weather had denied her any sight of the magnificent views afforded by the west coastline of the Highlands of Scotland. The remainder of the journey from Fort William to Mallaig had passed almost entirely in cloud, mist descending from the heavens, and she spent an uncomfortable night in a basic lodging house in the town.

The blackout was still in force when the ferry left at first light, cleaving a difficult passage around the Isle of Skye and across a stormy Minch. In spite of the rain and the sea spray she had spent most of the journey on deck, her coat flapping furiously around her legs, back to the wind as she retched into the brine.

The wind died a little as they sailed, finally, into the lee of the island’s east coast, and the fishing port of Stornoway emerged from the mist. Headlands to north and south took dark shape before vanishing into the featureless bog of the hinterland beyond. And it was with shaking legs that Georgette stumbled down the gangplank on to the dock and felt the world still moving. Even though the concrete beneath her feet was sunk in solid bedrock.

Sea-weary fellow passengers pushed past her, greeted by loved ones, friends or family, and were quickly swallowed by the smirr that drifted across the town like a mist. She heard idling engines rev, then accelerate into the gloom of the day, and it seemed that only a few minutes had passed before she was left standing on her own, a wet and forlorn figure clutching a sodden cardboard suitcase. The road that ran off around the southern flank of the town was lined by houses and shops that seemed painted on gauze, insubstantial, almost transparent, and she watched for the lights of the vehicle she had been told would pick her up.

It was nearly fifteen minutes before finally she heard the distant rumble of a heavy motor, then saw the lights of a canvas-covered military truck taking shape as it rumbled on to the quay. A cheery, ruddy-faced young soldier flung open the passenger door and leaned out an arm to give her a hand up.

‘You look a bit wet, love,’ he said.

‘So would you if you’d stood for six hours on the deck of a ferry emptying your stomach into a storm, then waited twenty minutes in the rain for your lift.’ She hauled herself up the passenger seat and hefted her suitcase into her lap. She glared at the driver. ‘You’re late.’

His grin widened. ‘Feisty one, aren’t you? They can be a bit rough, them crossings. Never know when the ferry’s going to arrive.’

He crunched into first gear, manoeuvred his truck through a three-point turn, and pulled out on to the road, turning hard left and over the narrow spit of land dividing inner and outer harbours. The inner harbour was packed with trawlers and small fishing vessels sitting cheek by jowl on a high tide and towering over the quayside. Beyond water that reflected a pewtery sky, a hill rose darkly into darker trees, and the lights of a forbidding-looking building emerged from the shadow of the hillside, fighting to penetrate the murk.

The driver lowered his head to look up at it. ‘Lews Castle,’ he said. ‘That’s where you’re staying.’ ‘Is that where you’re stationed?’

‘No, we’re at the RAF base out towards Point.’ And he flicked his head vaguely to the west. Then he snuck a glance in her direction. ‘I thought you was French. They said you was. And here’s me practising my parlez-vous anglais.’

‘Sorry to disappoint.’

He grinned. ‘Not disappointed at all, love. Whatever nationality you is.’

And in spite of herself she blushed.


And now, of course, I need to bump up The Night Gate and read it sooner rather than later!

About Peter May

Peter May was an award-winning journalist at the age of just twenty-one, winning ‘Young Journalist of the Year’. He left newspapers for television and screenwriting, creating three prime-time British drama series and accruing more than 1,000 television credits. May is published in 32 languages, has sold several million copies worldwide as well as winning numerous awards. His novel I’ll Keep You Safe (2018) was no.1 and his next novel, The Man With No Face, no.2 in The Times charts. His most recent novel Lockdown was in The Sunday Times bestseller lists for 6 weeks. In recent years, Peter has won the Best Crime Novel Award for The Blackhouse at Bouchercon in the US, Entry Island won the Deanston Crime Book of the Year and Specsavers ITV3 Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read Award.

For more information, follow Peter on Twitter @authorpetermay, visit his website or find him on Facebook.

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The World At My Feet by Catherine Isaac

If you’re a regular visitor to Linda’s Book Bag it’ll come as no surprise to you to know how thrilled I was to receive a surprise early proof copy of Catherine Isaac’s The World At My Feet from the fabulous Sara-Jade Virtue at Simon and Schuster. I love Catherine’s writing and so I was delighted when Megan Denholm from EDPR asked me if I’d like to participate in the launch celebrations for The World At My Feet. It gives me great pleasure to share my review to day (and to wish Megan happy birthday!)

Catherine’s Messy, Wonderful Us was one of my books of the year in 2019 and I shared an extract from it here. I also reviewed it here. I adored Catherine’s You, Me, Everything which I reviewed here and was delighted to chat with her about that book on Linda’s Book Bag in a post you can read here.

The World At My Feet is published by Simon and Schuster and is available for purchase through the links here.

The World At My Feet

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.

My Review of The World At My Feet

Gardener Ellie has a problem.

Reading a new book by a favourite author is always a terrifying concept. What if I don’t like it? I didn’t like The World At My Feet. I loved it!

Whilst The World At My Feet had all the beautiful, descriptive and humane writing I have come to expect from a Catherine Isaac novel, this time there was an added extra. It’s somewhat difficult to articulate, but I felt as if the author had somehow invested more of herself in the narrative and as a result I felt even more personally affected. There’s not only Ellie’s agoraphobia that is so well researched and realistically conveyed, but the Romanian historical details are rich, deep and authoritative, making for a story that penetrates the reader’s mind and leaves them thinking about the narrative long after the book is closed. Indeed, after I’d finished reading the story and being entertained, I found The World At My Feet kept creeping back into my mind.

There’s a wonderful depth to the writing in The World At My Feet. Catherine Isaac’s ability to appeal to all the senses is glorious. The descriptions of Ellie’s garden lifted my spirits and it is no exaggeration to say that I was compelled to go out into my own garden as a result of my reading, so that it had a positive effect on my own emotional well-being, because I experienced the same lift from nature as does Ellie.

I loved meeting Ellie. She is such a complete human being who is battling an awful condition. She illustrates so effectively how we are affected by our past, even when we try to block it out and how metal illness is equally as life changing as physical illness. The World At My Feet conveys through Ellie the importance of love, of nature, family and friends which I think has enormous resonance in recent times. She had my sympathy and my empathy even when her realistic, flawed persona made her behave in ways I wanted her to reconsider, making her feel like a metaphor for life. I cared about her completely and she got right under my skin. It would spoil the story to say how and why her relationships with Guy and Jamie made me feel as they did, but I can say they had a visceral and profound impact on me, causing me to shout at the characters and to weep tears of joy and sadness at some of the outcomes.

Although I always profess that I’m not keen on dual timelines or multiple perspectives in books, I found Harriet’s story equally as engaging as Ellie’s. It might sound ridiculous, but because The World At My Feet is based in real events that I remember, I completely forgot that Harriet and Ellie are fictional characters. I think it’s the authority behind the writing that created such an effect.

Alongside the wonderful characters and perfectly balanced plotting are themes that elevate The World At My Feet beyond a beautifully told love story – a love story not just romantically, but within families too. Catherine Isaac explores identity – of culture, of place, and of our real and social media personas so that reading The World At My Feet gave an insight into how we construct ourselves for others. Loyalty and trust, true friendship and responsibility also underpin the story, adding layers to uncover, but it was the realistic portrayal of Ellie’s situation that held my attention so completely. I think reading The World At My Feet might just be life changing for some, giving them hope at difficult times.

I’m aware that I haven’t really done justice to The World At My Feet. If readers are looking for a light, fluffy diversion they may be disappointed. If, however, they want a book that explores humanity, is romantic, is transporting and is an utterly brilliant multi-layered read then Catherine Isaac’s The World At My Feet is exactly what they are looking for.

About Catherine Isaac

Author photo Catherine Isaac

Catherine Isaac was born in Liverpool and was a journalist for many years before she wrote her first book, Bridesmaids, under the pseudonym Jane Costello. She wrote nine novels under that name – all bestsellers – before You Me Everything was published under the name Catherine Isaac in 2018. It was selected by the Richard & Judy Book Club, has been translated into 24 languages and a movie is in development by Lionsgate and Temple Hill. In 2019 she won the Romantic Novelists’ Association award for Popular Romantic Fiction. She lives with her husband and three sons.

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

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Behind Closed Doors by Catherine Alliott

My enormous thanks to Sriya Varadharajan at Penguin Random House for inviting me to participate in this blog tour for Behind Closed Doors by Catherine Alliott. I’m delighted to share my review today.

It’s far too long since I read a Catherine Alliott book and you’ll find my review of Wish You Were Here in a very early blog post, here.

Behind Closed Doors is available for purchase through the links here.

Behind Closed Doors

From the outside, anyone would think that Lucy Palmer has it all: loving children, a dashing husband and a gorgeous home.

But when her marriage to Michael comes to an abrupt and unexpected end, her life is turned upside down in a flash.

As the truth of her marriage threatens to surface, Lucy seizes the opportunity to swap her house in London – and the stories it hides – for a rural escape to her parents’ farmhouse in the Chilterns.

But Lucy gets more than she bargained for when she moves back to her childhood home, especially when it throws her into the path of an old flame.

Coming face-to-face with her mistakes, Lucy is forced to confront the secrets she’s been keeping from herself and those she loves.

Is she ready to let someone in? Or will she leave the door to her past firmly closed . . .

My Review of Behind Closed Doors

Lucy’s life is about to change.

I thoroughly enjoyed Behind Closed Doors although it really wasn’t what I was expecting! The cover made me think of women’s fiction and the strap line made me think of a thriller and one of the great successes of Behind Closed Doors is that it doesn’t fit neatly into any one genre. There is a crime of sorts, there are the conventional elements of women’s fiction like relationships and family, but there’s also humour and depth so that somehow the book becomes more than the sum of its parts. This is a book about life.

I loved Catherine Alliott’s conversational first person style because it felt as if Lucy were a close friend and we were catching up with one another. This gave an intimate and compelling atmosphere. What I think works so well about the plot is the ordinariness of so many of Lucy’s experiences. Much of what she endures in dealing with her husband and parents could be happening literally behind any closed door and I thought the presentation of what everyday life can be was so cleverly, sensitively and convincingly conveyed. That’s not to say Behind Closed Doors is a ‘worthy’ narrative. Far from it. It’s hugely entertaining. Lucy’s parents in particular lend a bitter-sweet lightness that balances the story perfectly. Here we get an insight into other people’s lives that we may normally take for granted or dismiss. I don’t want to spoil the story at all but there is a comment from Ingrid towards the end of the book that I thought was sheer genius.

Lucy herself is such an engaging character. It was wonderful to meet a middle aged woman with her flaws and perfections that I could engage with fully. She combines weakness and strength in a manner that makes her  completely relatable. I thought Catherine Alliott balanced characters really well too. There’s a large enough cast to provide a cross section of society but with a focus on half a dozen main people that gives depth and intimacy.

And speaking of depth, the themes of Behind Closed Doors are rich and varied. From domestic control to identity, family and friendships, loyalty and duty to ageing and excessive behaviour, Catherine Alliott presents a rich and varied snapshot of life. I think any reader would find a character or situation in Behind Closed Doors that resonated with them.

Behind Closed Doors wasn’t entirely what I was expecting but between its pages I found an entertaining, touching, thought-provoking and compassionate story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I finished the book feeling that all was right with the world and what could be better than that?

About Catherine Alliott

Catherine Alliott is the author of fifteen bestselling novels including About Last Night, My Husband Next Door, A Rural Affair, One Day in May, The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton, and Wish You Were Here. She lives with her family in Hertfordshire.

You’ll find Catherine on Facebook and Instagram.