The Source by Sarah Sultoon

I’m always so impressed by the quality of books published by Orenda and it’s far too long since I have featured one here on Linda’s Book Bag. Consequently, I am delighted to share my review of the thriller The Source by Sarah Sultoon today to help close the Random Things Tours blog tour. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to participate.

Released by Orenda Books on 15th April 2021, The Source is available in all the usual places including directly from the publisher.

The Source

One last chance to reveal the truth…

1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…

2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier…

As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth … and justice.

A riveting, searing and devastatingly dark thriller, The Source is also a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience … an immense, tense and thought-provoking debut that you will never, ever forget.

My Review of The Source

Marie is chasing a newsworthy story.

My word I enjoyed The Source. It’s cleverly crafted and plotted so that the reader is ensnared from the very beginning. The different timelines and the characters of Carly and Marie are brought together in a manner that urges the reader on, so that it is impossible not to devour this narrative as quickly as possible. Sarah Sultoon has a deft ability to give just enough detail in her descriptions to make her story vivid without slowing the pace for a second. I thought her writing style was excellent.

The Source deals with unpalatable themes of abuse and sex trafficking, but the quality of Sarah Sultoon’s writing means that readers are not repulsed, but rather feel compelled to know more, making them fascinated by how the narrative unfolds and, even more importantly, giving them an understanding of institutionalised corruption and crime they may not otherwise have considered. Not only is The Source a powerful read, it’s an important one too, giving food for thought long after the story is over. Add in other concepts such as identity, family, responsibility and trust, and Sarah Sultoon’s debut is a multi-layered, engaging and educative read.

There’s a gritty realism underpinning the narrative that is so authentic that I found myself Googling details to see if indeed they were factual. I found The Source scarily believable, frequently uncomfortable and always compelling. The perspective of a news corporation with investigative journalism, rather than a police procedural narrative, felt fresh and realistic.

I loved the title. Not only does it refer to insider information and reporting, about which I can’t say too much without spoiling the plot, but it has resonance with why characters behave as they do. Underpinning an exciting thriller here is an exploration of human behaviour that I found intelligently insightful. Marie in particular gained my empathy and understanding and as the novel reached its denouement I found my pulse racing with Marie’s actions.

In The Source, Sarah Sultoon writes with such power and authority that I found the themes only too vivid and it is a shocking and uncomfortable read at times. However, I am so glad I read this book. It’s well written, utterly compelling and a fabulous insight into the possibilities and realities that may be just under our noses if only we knew where to look. I thought The Source was a crackingly good read and I really recommend it.

About Sarah Sultoon

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if…..

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @SultoonSarah.

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Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien

My grateful thanks to Milly Reid for inviting me to participate in the publication day blog blast for Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch and for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Love in Five Acts is published by Quercus imprint MacLehose today, 29th April 2021, and is available for purchase through the links here.

Love in Five Acts

Bookseller Paula has lost a child, and a husband. Where will she find her happiness? Fiercely independent Judith thinks more of horses than men, but that doesn’t stop her looking for love online. Brida is a writer with no time to write, until she faces a choice between her work and her family. Abandoned by the “perfect” man, Malika struggles for recognition from her parents. Her sister Jorinde, an actor, is pregnant for a third time, but how can she provide for her family alone?

Love in Five Acts explores what is left to five women when they have fulfilled their roles as wives, mothers, friends, lovers, sisters and daughters. As teenagers they experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall, but freedom brings with it another form of pressure: the pressure of choice.

Punchy and entirely of the moment, Love in Five Acts engages head-on with what it is to be a woman in the twenty-first century.

My Review of Love in Five Acts

Five linked but separate short stories.

Although Love in Five Acts is a slim volume of just five stories it took me a long time to read. This is not a criticism, but rather a tribute to the intensity and depth presented that required my full attention and engagement. Love in Five Acts is a beautifully written, occasionally stark, and always sensitively translated, collection exploring what it means to be a woman in the modern world. Indeed, Jamie Bulloch’s nuanced translation is a real strength of the book. I loved the fact that there are no direct speech marks because this technique gave the sensation of being inside a character’s head and made the reading experience more visceral.

I found each woman fascinating almost in spite of myself as I didn’t much like any of them. Even Paula’s terrible grief didn’t make me feel pity, but rather felt like I was observing one step removed so that I was actually quite unnerved by my responses. I thought this was incredibly clever writing. As each woman searches for her version of idealised love – be it with her siblings, partners, parents, children or lovers – and some doing so more successfully than others – there is a razor sharp and often unforgiving illustration of modern femininity. I found Love in Five Acts made me question whether any woman can be truly fulfilled and happy, which was an uncomfortable sensation.

I must mention the fabulous cover to Love in Five Acts too, because it conveys many of the themes of the stories so wonderfully. Each of the women is on the precipice and for many a leap of faith is essential to their future. That precipice may be one of relationship, grief, identity, life and death, but each one is equally as important and carefully balanced through the stories.

If I’m honest, I’m not sure quite what I thought of Love in Five Acts. Beautifully written it felt more brutal than I was anticipating, more raw and unforgiving, and yet it was completely real and dynamic too. I think you should read it for yourself and see if you can articulate the book’s impact better than I have done. There’s one thing about Love in Five Acts – it’ll make you think!

About Daniela Krien

Daniela Krien was born in 1975 in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, then in the G.D.R. Her first novel, Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything, was published in English in 2013 (MacLehose Press) and in fourteen other languages. For a subsequent volume of short stories, Muldental, she was awarded the Nicolaus Born Prize. Love in Five Acts has been sold for translation into twenty languages. She lives in Leipzig with her two daughters.

About Jamie Bulloch

Jamie Bulloch is a German-English translator of authors such as Robert Menasse, Timur Vermes or Birgit Vanderbeke, and a winner of the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for German Translation. He lives in London with his wife and three daughters.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @jamiebulloch.

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A Trio of @EK_Books

I review quite a lot of children’s books here on Linda’s Book Bag, partly because I used to teach English, partly because I used to write teacher resources for one of the big publishing houses for their KS3 books and partly because I was a late reader as a child as no-one had worked out I couldn’t actually see properly so it’s lovely to experience children’s books now!

Those reasons are why it gives me enormous pleasure to feature EK Books. They have excellent books for children and loads of great teacher’s notes and ideas on their website to go with them, as well as vidoes and other resources. Today I am reviewing three books recently published; Courageous Lucy, Tomorrow Girl and Turning Cartwheels. My thanks to Kirsten Knight for sending them to me for honest review.

Each of the books is brilliantly designed and produced in large size so that they can be used for shared or guided reading. Covers are strong and vibrant with a glossy finish that adds a luxurious feeling too.

Courageous Lucy

by Paul Russell and Cara King

Lucy worries about everything and she worries a lot. She’s so skilled at worrying that she worries about new and interesting things no one else even thinks about!

When a school musical is announced, Lucy wants to be part of it but is scared try out. Then, her teacher finds a part especially for her. Lucy stands proud and tall to be the best tree she can, even as her knees knock and her tummy ties in knots. Lucy’s bravery will show children everywhere that it’s okay to be worried, and they can still embrace opportunities!

Courageous Lucy is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from EK Books.

My Review of Courageous Lucy

Lucy worries about everything.

What an absolutely brilliant story. Lucy is a real worrier and has a very vivid imagination so that similar children will be able to identify with her completely, realising that the thoughts they hold in their heads are not so unusual. Familiar activities like the journey to school, going swimming and school performances that can generate real issues for children are explored with sensitivity.

What works so well is that Lucy is given the opportunity by her teacher Mrs Hunt to achieve through the smaller goal of a non-speaking part in the school performance so that I think there are messages adults can learn here too! Additional learning can also come through the brilliant things Lucy knows as children can research them and feel validation for their own knowledge.

The overall message that it is natural to worry but that sometimes being a little bit courageous can bring huge rewards is perfect for KS1 and 2 children.

As well as the excellent quality cover, the illustrations are brilliant too with a wonderful balance of text to image so that Courageous Lucy would be accessible and entertaining for more independent readers too.

Courageous Lucy is excellent.

Tomorrow Girl

by Vicky Conley and Penelope Pratley

Catch up with a girl called Tomorrow —you better be quick because she’s always in a hurry! ‘You’ll catch up with the next day if you keep rushing,’ says Tomorrow’s mother. But when Tomorrow meets worrywart Yesterday and trips over thoughtful Today, her whole world begins to slow down.

Tomorrow Girl is a quirky tale delivering a timely reminder about the importance of mindfulness and what can happen when we allow ourselves time to be in the moment amidst a modern-day rush. It’s brimming with wonderful teachable moments for children to reflect on how they can be more mindful in their everyday lives and discover new friendships just by being in the moment.

My Review of Tomorrow Girl

Tomorrow is always in a hurry and never stops to look properly.

Once again, I am impressed by EK Books. Tomorrow Girl is so beautifully produced with excellent balance of white space, gorgeous images and text that affords the opportunity for home, classroom or independent reading. There’s lovely humour that Tomorrow is always rushing headlong to tomorrow too.

However, the important message in Tomorrow Girl is that we need to have balance in our lives. We don’t want to be constrained like Yesterday, a character in the story, but we do need to take time to observe, to enjoy and to be mindful about our lives and surroundings. I can see Tomorrow Girl being helpful for children with ADHD particularly and for all children in general.

Tomorrow Girl is an important message, sensitively told.

Tomorrow Girl is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from EK Books.

Turning Cartwheels

by Amy Adeney and Amy Calautti

Emma is desperate to join queen bee Carly’s Cartwheel Club. Week after week Emma lines up for a try-out, only to be told that she hasn’t made the cut. When Emma is finally accepted, she finds that Carly’s rules and requirements take all the joy out of cartwheeling, and being part of the gang isn’t as awesome as she expected.

Turning Cartwheels cleverly explores the subtle, underhanded social bullying conducted by so-called ‘frenemies’ that is so often experienced by primary school-aged girls.

Turning Cartwheels is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from EK Books.

My Review of Turning Cartwheels

Whilst Turning Cartwheels has all the high quality elements of the cover I have come to expect from EK Books, I must mention the gloriously colourful end papers in this book. They look like a child has coloured them in and are extremely eye catching and vibrant.

Turning Cartwheels is an excellent story for exploring the desire to belong and the subtle bulling and exclusion children can feel. I can envisage it being used to discuss how children treat one another in the playground. I think every school has a Carly who likes to be the centre of attention, changing the rules of her gang to exclude and belittle others so that using Turning Cartwheels would allow teachers, parents and children to discuss the impact this type of bullying has without threat to an individual child.

The message that Emma learns, that she doesn’t need to fit in with a particular gang, or have a particular skill to have friends and happiness is vital. Again with EK Books, it is the attention to detail I find so good. Although all the girls are wearing uniform, in Emma’s playground are children who are of different ethnicities, wearing glasses and in a wheelchair so that there is a sense of inclusion at all levels.

*

I really recommend EK Books for children. Stories are varied, the balance of text to white space and image means that they are accessible to young readers and themes lend themselves well to teacher and class or parent and child discussion. Why not take a look at the EK Books website?

Scottish Highland Inspiration: A Guest Post by Sarah Mallory, Author of Rescued by Her Highland Soldier

I’m so looking forward to a bit more freedom this year and heading off in our new motorhome. With that in mind, I simply had to invite Sarah Mallory here onto Linda’s Book Bag. You see, I quite fancy a trip to Scotland and I have a feeling that Sarah’s new book Rescued by Her Highland Soldier would be the perfect accompaniment to any trip. I have been hearing magnificent things about it.

I’m thrilled to host a guest post from Sarah and an extract from Rescued by Her Highland Soldier today. Last time Sarah was here, we stayed in together to chat all about the first book in her Lairds of ArdVarrick series, Forbidden to the Highland Laird, in a post you can see here.

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier is published by Harper Collins imprint Mills and Boon and is available for purchase through the links here.

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier

Her rugged Highlander

Is the gallant son of a laird!

Travelling alone through the treacherous Scottish Highlands, Madeleine d’Evremont is saved by rough-looking soldier, Grant Rathmore. Attraction flares between them as he escorts Madeline on her perilous escape to France, until she discovers he’s the heir of a respected Laird! Madeline knows she must let him go – surely the daughter of a humble adventurer could never be a suitable match for him now?

Scottish Highland Inspiration

A Guest Post by Sarah Mallory

The Scottish Highlands. What springs to mind for you: castles, men in kilts, grand scenery?

It has it all, and I am lucky enough to live in the Highlands now. There are disadvantages, of course: if you like shopping, the nearest large town is more than 50 miles away, but on the plus side, this is the view on my journey home from the supermarket:

The Highland landscape has always fascinated me. It looks wild. It feels wild. Whenever I am driving through it I think of outlaws charging down from the hills (the reality is somewhat different, you have to look out for deer charging across the road! You can drive for miles without seeing another car, let alone anyone on foot).

It inspires me with so many stories, tales full of romance and adventure and Rescued by Her Highland Soldier is the second of my Lairds of Ardvarrick series. It is set in the aftermath of Culloden, with the Duke of Cumberland’s victorious troops sweeping through the glens, looking for Jacobite rebels. Grant and Maddie have to make their way from the heart of the Highlands to the coast. That is quite a road trip! The Scottish Highlands is a vast wilderness and any journey would be fraught with danger. In the following extract the fleeting couple have reached a safe house, but before they travel on, Madeleine needs to assume a disguise….

****

Less than an hour later Madeleine returned to the morning room, transformed. An overlarge shirt was concealed beneath a plain linen cravat and a blue serge waistcoat, with a matching blue frock coat over all. She wore her silk breeches beneath the rough leather ones that had belonged to some long-gone stable boy and her black leather riding boots were considered masculine enough when worn with the pair of leather spatterdashes Tomson had looked out for her. The ensemble was completed by a cocked hat which she set upon her head at a jaunty angle, having brushed her hair back into a queue and secured it with a length of ribbon.

Not having a greatcoat in her size, Maddie had to make do with a cloak to protect her from the elements and she had wrapped it around herself when she left her bedchamber, lest her appearance give rise to comment among the servants. However, Lady Lochall had thought ahead and sent everyone out of the way and it was not until she entered the morning room that she had any reaction to her altered appearance.

Taking a deep breath, she put up her head and swaggered in, saying as she did so, ‘Well, will I do?’

There was a moment’s silence, then Grant slapped his thigh and gave a shout of laughter.

‘Bless me, but you make a fine lad!’

A mischievous smile bubbled up. She swept off her hat and make him a low bow.

‘Why, thank you sir.’

‘You need names,’ declared Lady Lochall, entering into the spirit. ‘Let me see, what shall it be: Douglas, Iain, Robert?’

‘What about James?’ suggested Maddie. ‘That has a good ring to it.’

‘No!’ Grant’s sharp rejection drew all eyes and he felt obliged to explain. ‘I lost a friend of that name at Culloden.’

He still felt the guilt of it, having survived while so many of his comrades perished on Drumossie Moor.

‘Oh. I beg your pardon.’ Maddie was immediately contrite. ‘What say you, then, what name would you suggest for me?’

He looked at her, considering the matter.

‘Duncan,’ he said at last. ‘And I shall be Ross. Duncan and Ross…Malcolm. What think you?’

‘I think it will do very well.’

‘We are agreed, then. Now, we should be on our way.’

‘You will need money,’ said His Lordship. ‘Allow me to fund you.’

Madeleine shook her head. ‘Thank you, my lord, but that is unnecessary. I still have the funds I brought with me from Inverness. Sufficient for the both of us.’ She sent a challenging look towards Grant. ‘You will, of course, be reimbursed for escorting me.’

‘Let us get to France first, then we will argue about payment.’

He turned away abruptly, not wishing her to see how concerned he was about this journey. They had more than a hundred and fifty miles to cover just to reach the rendezvous. Their chances of making it safely to France were low.

****

That all sounds wonderful Sarah. And whilst Madeleine attempts to reach France, I’ll be packing up the motorhome and heading to Scotland because your post has inspired me to go as soon as I can. You never know, I might even get round to reading your Lairds of Ardvarrick series whilst I’m there!

About Sarah Mallory


Sarah Mallory is an award-winning author who has published more than 25 historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon. She loves history, especially the Georgian and Regency period. She has recently moved to the romantic Scottish Highlands, where she walks long walks to plot out her latest adventure!

Sarah is also the award-winning author Melinda Hammond.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMRomance. You can also visit her excellent website and find her on Facebook.

An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater

My goodness, the world is a different place since I reviewed Carol Drinkwater’s The House on the Edge of the Cliff here on Linda’s Book Bag. Then I was about to interview Carol at The Deepings Literary Festival and was beside myself with excitement.

Interviewing Carol d

Previously I have reviewed Carol’s The Forgotten Summer here. I also loved her story The Lost Girl which I not only reviewed here, but about which I was delighted to interview Carol on Linda’s Book Bag here.

Today I’m thrilled to share my review of Carol’s latest book, An Act of Love and would like to thank Carol for ensuring I received a copy and Olivia Thomas at Penguin for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Published by Penguin on 29th April 2021, An Act of Love is available for pre-order or purchase through the links here.

An Act of Love

It was an idyllic summer. Until they had to escape.

France, 1943.

Forced to flee war ravaged Poland, Sara and her parents are offered refuge in a beautiful but dilapidated house in the French Alps. It seems the perfect hideaway, despite haunting traces of the previous occupants who left in haste.

But shadows soon fall over Sara’s blissful summer, and her blossoming romance with local villager Alain. As the Nazis close in, the family is forced to make a harrowing choice that could drive them apart forever, while Sara’s own bid for freedom risks several lives.

Will Sara be reunited with those she loves?

And can she ever find her way back to Alain?

By turns poignant and atmospheric, this is the compelling new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Carol Drinkwater about the power of first love and courage in our darkest hours.

My Review of An Act of Love

Sara’s Polish Jewish family is on the run.

I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read by Carol Drinkwater, but An Act of Love surpasses them all. It’s a beautiful read, perfectly crafted, romantic and exciting so that it holds the reader entranced.

In An Act of Love Carol Drinkwater creates such vivid imagery that I was totally transported to her settings. Rich and varied language caused me to inhabit Sara’s mind rather than merely read about her so that I travelled with her and experienced every nuance of the senses with her. There’s an almost filmic quality to the prose that is sumptuous. I thought this was just fantastic.

A glorious plot blends fact and fiction to perfection with an authenticity I found spell binding. Frequent hooks at the end of chapters draw the reader into the narrative so that it is impossible not to want to read on. An Act of Love is an exciting read too with considerable peril and pulse elevating action, particularly in the second half of the novel. The burgeoning and frustrated love Sara feels for Alain is so sensitively wrought that its intensity gives a feeling of yearning, a kind of tristesse that is highly emotional, so the atmosphere that really penetrates the reader’s mind. I thought the balance of action, emotion and characterisation was simply wonderful.

I loved meeting Sara. From the very first page to the last, I was on her side, desperate for her to be happy; not just to survive, but to thrive. Her bravery, her stoicism, her foolishness, her gaucheness and her determination make her a truly identifiable heroine. As Carol Drinkwater blends her protagonist’s character with themes of identity and belonging, with complete understanding of what it means to be displaced, to be an outsider, An Act of Love becomes so much more than a sweeping, carefully researched, saga of the Second World War, but rather is a rich tapestry of life relevant to all eras and to any person. I found this an emotional and compelling facet of the book.

Immersive, engaging and achingly beautifully written, An Act of Love is a book for the reader to lose themselves in, to travel through time and location until the current world seems to have melted away and they are living another life. I absolutely loved it and think it is Carol Drinkwater’s best book to date.

About Carol Drinkwater

Carol Drinkwater c Michel Noll

Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award-winning actress who is best known for her portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small. She is also the author of over twenty books, both fiction and non-fiction. Her quartet of memoirs set on her olive farm in the south of France have sold over a million copies worldwide and her solo journey round the Mediterranean in search of the Olive tree’s mythical secrets inspired a five-part documentary film series, The Olive Route.

You can follow Carol on Twitter @Carol4OliveFarm and visit her website.

Discussing Fridge with Emma Zadow

This is my 2,465th blog post and do you know, I’ve never featured a play before! Consequently I’m really thrilled to be staying in with Emma Zadow today to chat all about her latest playscript, Fridge. My grateful thanks to Will Dady at Renard Press for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. I’m thrilled to be starting it off.

Staying in with Emma Zadow

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

Tell me, as if I didn’t know, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought Fridge. It’s a drama about two sisters that return to their family home after the youngest attempts suicide.

That’s quite an introduction to Fridge! What can we expect from an evening in with this drama?

The eldest, Alice, lives and works in London, whilst her younger sister, Lo, now a teenager, has been left alone again when their Mum goes to Ibiza with the latest boyfriend. A local farmer, Charlie, is roped in to help Lo, and he bumps into Alice when she comes home, dredging up old feelings between the three of them, spinning their worlds out of control.

That sounds like a really fresh take on the eternal triangle. But why is is called Fridge?

I wove into the narrative the idea of having a fridge in their kitchen as a form of escape for Lo, rather than her dealing with her issues. The story is set on the North Norfolk Coast and I wanted to include local folklore into the book; the sisters share stories of the sea – mermaids, especially, and how this imagery can take on the characters’ difficulties. I love magic realism in literature and stage work, so this was important to me – it captures how important imagination can be in order to face our fragilities. I haven’t read or seen many pieces of work that explore mental health in a more creative way than an asylum or institution, and I wanted to do that for young people in isolated communities in rural areas.

That sounds brilliant. And I think you’re right, We think of mental health as a city based, often institutionalised concept but people in remote rural areas have their problems too.

It’s a reckoning, really, of the relationships between the three – between who they used to be to each other and who they are as adults now. That journey is complex, and sometimes we have to leave behind friends, family and others to become who we think we should be.

The rest is memory… or, that is, until you go back home for Christmas or Corona.

I’m utterly intrigued by the concept of Fridge. How is it being received?

Here’s a review from Silent Faces Theatre:

‘What a beautiful, eerie, nostalgic piece… was captivated by the authenticity of the setting and the sense of nostalgia. The way in which you deal with the subject of mental health is also incredibly intriguing. It makes sense to me that that experience is expressed in an almost otherworldly way, so the audience is left guessing what is real and what isn’t.’

Fridge sounds fabulous Emma.

As well as your writing, what else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

Music is a big deal to me. I’m one of those picky writers that needs a bit of music in the background all the time. The album Another Life by Hadda Be has been the perfect mix of part Pixies, part Primitives, part Banshees… and I’m in love. Some other new music I’m slightly obsessed with (and spent the summer listening to it while I was editing my book) is Amy Studt’s latest album, Happiest Girl in the Universe – vulnerable, fragile, nostalgic and a mood. It really sets the scene for me.

I confess I didn’t know these artists but I’m so pleased you’ve introduced me to them.

I listen a lot to podcasts, too – a lot! I’ve devoured Literary Friction with Carrie Plitt and Octavia Bright – and I picked out my fave books this year based on their recommendations! Daisy Johnson’s mysterious and soulful Sisters and P.L. Blackmore’s The Manningtree Witches, based around Mathew Hopkins and the witch trials in East Anglia. Haunting!

Any guest who brings books is always welcome Emma – you can come back again!

And I’m bringing my sister too, of course. I haven’t seen her in over a year.

She’s most welcome. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Fridge Emma. It really does sound superb. Whilst the two of you have a catch up chat I’ll just give blog readers a few more details about Fridge:

Fridge

Alice hasn’t been home for a while – for seven years, in fact. But when her little sister Lo tries to take her own life, she has to return to the life she left behind. The change of scenery from London to Norfolk proves quite the culture shock, however, and Alice has to confront what she left behind all those years ago.

The sisters’ relationship hasn’t evolved in Alice’s absence, and when she steps through the door she’s plunged back into the same world she escaped from. Set against Norfolk’s bleak landscapes, but masquerading as childhood nostalgia, Fridge is an all-too-familiar exploration of the broken promises of youth, and a bitter exposition of a generation left behind.

Fridge is published by Renard Press and is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from the publisher here.

You can read a short extract from Fridge here.

About Emma Zadow

Emma Zadow is an actor, playwright and screenwriter from Norfolk. She trained at Rose Bruford College as an actor, and her plays have been performed at the Arcola, the Old Red Lion Theatre, Camden Fringe Festival, Norwich Arts Centre and Pleasance Theatre. Emma is an alumni playwright from the Soho Theatre Writers Lab, and she was shortlisted for the ETPEP Award and Tony Craze Award. A BBC New Creative, her screenplays include the hit short film The Cromer Special and Jigging. Fridge is her first book.

For more information about Emma, follow her on Twitter @emmazadow and Instagram.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Publication Day Giveaway: Prisoner by Ross Greenwood

It’s Prisoner publication day for local to me author, Ross Greenwood, and I’m delighted to bring you details of Ross’s latest book and news of how UK readers can get their hands on a signed copy in a smashing giveaway from the author.

Ross is here on Linda’s Book Bag almost as often as I am as you’ll see:

You’ll find an extract from Ross’s The Snow Killer here.

A guest post all about seizing the day when his book Shadows of Regret was published in a post you can see here.

An introduction to Ross’s protagonist for Abel’s Revenge here.

My Lazy Blood interview with Ross here.

A guest post and my review of The Boy Inside here.

My review of Ross’s Fifty Years of Fear here.

But before I share today’s giveaway details, let me tell you about Prisoner.

Published today, 22nd April 2021, by Bloodhound Books, Prisoner is available for purchase here.

Prisoner

A shocking thriller inspired by the true stories of a male prison officer in a women’s prison.

Behind bars, the rules are different…

Prison Officer Jim Dalton is used to walking the landings on the male side of HMP Peterborough. It’s a dangerous place, fuelled by testosterone-driven violence, but he’s done the job for a long time. He understands the unwritten rules, and he has the prisoners’ respect.

When a relative is sent to the jail, Dalton is transferred to the female side of the prison. His next shift is so easy, he can’t believe that the officers over there get paid the same wages. He sleeps well for the first time in years.

But when he is assigned to the young offenders’ wing, dealing with female prisoners no longer seems so simple. As every day passes, and he gets to know the women better, he is slowly drawn in to new temptations, new traps and a new nightmare. One which could destroy everything.

Taking a break from his bestselling DI Barton series, Ross Greenwood returns with this shocking, page-turning and utterly compelling glimpse behind the bars of a women’s prison. From a man who walked the landings himself…

*

Now doesn’t that sound exciting?

Giveaway – A Signed Paperback Copy of Prisoner

If you live in the UK and would like the chance to win a fabulous signed paperback copy of Prisoner click here. Please note that your details will not be retained but the winner will need a UK address to receive this prize directly from Ross. Giveaway ends at UK midnight on Sunday 25th April.

About Ross Greenwood

ross greenwood - author image

Ross Greenwood was born in 1973 in Peterborough and lived there until he was 20, attending The King’s School in the city. He then began a rather nomadic existence, living and working all over the country and various parts of the world.

Ross found himself returning to Peterborough many times over the years, usually, so he says “when things had gone wrong.” It was on one of these occasions that he met his partner about 100 metres from his back door whilst walking a dog. Two children swiftly followed. And, according to Ross, he is “still a little stunned by the pace of it now.”

Lazy Blood book was started a long time ago but parenthood and then four years as a prison officer got in the way. Ironically it was the four a.m. feed which gave the author the opportunity to finish the book as unable to get back to sleep he completed it in the early morning hours.

Ross Greenwood’s second book, The Boy Inside, was picked up by Bloodhound Books, and in September 2017, Fifty Years of Fear was published. The year 2018 saw the publication of his next psychological thriller, Abel’s Revenge. All his books are thought provoking, and told with a sense of humour.

Ross Greenwood hopes you enjoy reading them.

You can also follow Ross on Twitter @greenwoodross and find him on Facebook.

Sanatorium by Abi Palmer

It was the super folk at The Barbellion Prize who organised for Penned in the Margins to send me a copy of Sanatorium by Abi Palmer. My grateful thanks to them all.

Sanatorium was shortlisted for The Barbellion Prize and published by Penned in the Margins, Sanatorium is available for purchase here.

Sanatorium by Abi Palmer

A young woman spends a month taking the waters at a thermal water-based rehabilitation facility in Budapest.

On her return to London, she attempts to continue her recovery using an £80 inflatable blue bathtub. The tub becomes a metaphor for the intrusion of disability; a trip hazard in the middle of an unsuitable room, slowly deflating and in constant danger of falling apart.

Sanatorium moves through contrasting spaces bathtub to thermal pool, land to water, day to night interlacing memoir, poetry and meditations on the body to create a mesmerising, mercurial debut.

My Review of Sanatorium

A young woman’s month at a water based rehabilitation centre.

I have absolutely no idea what I’ve just read in Abi Palmer’s Sanatorium. It’s part memoir, part flash fiction, part fantasy, part lucid explanation of illness and pain, part metaphor for life, frequently written with the fabulous intensity of a narrative poem and always with luminous, beautiful, and occasionally stark, prose. However Sanatorium might be defined, it is written with incredible imagination, intelligence and beauty. There’s both sadness and humour so that Sanatorium feels perfectly balanced even while the narrator herself can feel slightly unhinged.

The quality of the prose is mesmeric and quite unsettling. Frequently poetic in tone, I found the writing ethereal and slippery. Reading it felt a bit like trying to catch something in the corner of my eye and not quite being able to see it. Ali’s experience illustrates how we are simultaneously bound by and yet not confined to our bodies so that there is a magic lantern effect in reading Sanatorium. This effect gave the book an almost mystical feeling that I absolutely loved. The iterative image of water is sensational. Abi Palmer conveys its power to heal and destroy, to support and dissolve, to buoy us up and to deluge us in ways that are poetic, unusual and completely compelling. 

The conversational tone is so convincing that it is as if Abi Palmer is on the phone, telling the reader about her month in the sanatorium in Budapest. This had the effect of drawing me in completely. 

It’s difficult to review Sanatorium because it is such an elusive chimera of a book. I was spellbound reading it because, it’s moving, mystical and magnificent. In Sanatorium Abi Palmer gives everyone a mesmerising insight into pain and life affecting illness, but above all, into hope. I didn’t always understand every allusion or reference, but I finished the book with renewed gratitude for my own life and a feeling that, if ever I were to meet Abi Palmer I would like and respect her unreservedly. I really recommend giving Sanatorium a read.

About Abi Palmer

Abi Palmer is a mixed-media artist and writer. Her work often includes themes of disability, gender and multisensory interaction. Her artworks include: Crip Casino, an interactive gambling arcade parodying the wellness industry and institutionalised spaces, displayed at the Tate Modern and Somerset House; and Alchemy, a multisensory poetry game, which won a Saboteur Award in 2016. She has written for BBC Radio, The Guardian and Poetry LondonSanatorium is her first book.

You can find out more on Abi Palmer’s website and follow her on Twitter @abipalmer_bot. You’ll also find her on Instagram.

Staying in with Abi Silver

I’ve tried really hard NOT to take on new blog tours this year as I am inundated , but when Amber Choudhary at Midas PR told me about The Rapunzel Act by Abi Silver and asked me if I’d like to participate in this blog tour I knew I had to accept. I’m delighted to stay in with Abi today to find out more about her latest book.

Staying in with Abi Silver

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

Hello Linda. I’m delighted to be here with you.

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

I’ve brought along my latest offering, The Rapunzel Act, the fourth in the Burton & Lamb legal thriller series. It’s being published as we all begin to emerge with joy and optimism and perhaps a little trepidation, from more than a year of lockdown, rather like the fairy tale character from whom the book takes its name.

Intriguing Abi. What can we expect from an evening in with The Rapunzel Act

It’s a rollercoaster ride through what might happen if our criminal trials were filmed and livestreamed. There’s lots of rhetoric about educating the public and ‘justice being seen to be done’ which is very laudable. But, at the same time, much as we might hate to admit it, we all love to share our views on controversial events. And the trial of Debbie Mallard, a trans woman, former Premier League footballer and one half of what used to be the biggest celebrity couple in the UK, for the murder of Rosie Harper (the other half) is always going to spark loads of debate, not all of it pleasant.

Crikey. The Rapunzel Act sounds an absolute corker. Tell me more.

We’ll meet Rosie’s brother, Ellis, a whisky-loving interior designer, whom Debbie labels ‘a waster’, her children Laura and Ben and Jason Fenwick, Rosie’s co-presenter from Breakfast Time, who has a self portrait hanging in his living room.

Ha! I can think of one or two real breakfast TV presenters who might have a self portrait too!

The story also features fame-seeking barrister Andy Chambers, an old adversary of Judith Burton’s, who becomes chief legal adviser to the new channel, Court TV and the reappearance of entrepreneur Greg Winter, who developed the lie-detecting software in The Pinocchio Brief.

I think The Rapunzel Act needs to head straight onto my TBR Abi. It sounds fabulous. 

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

I’ve brought a hot dog, smothered in mustard and ketchup and topped with onions (I’m covering all bases). Although Judith is a great ‘foodie’ – she reveals to Constance Lamb in The Cinderella Plan that she has a cookery book signed by Jamie Oliver, which praises her ‘avocado mousse’ – this hot dog dates back to 1994 and the trial of OJ Simpson in the USA for the murder of his wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman. It’s symbolic of the public spectacle which Henry Allen described, when he reported on the trial for the Washington Post and I’ve used his quote right at the start of my book.

I sometimes think truth is stranger than fiction Abi.

And I’m wearing a t-shirt with Darth Vader’s head and the caption ‘Choose the Green Side’. All my three boys like science fiction and that includes the Star Wars franchise and various associated merchandise. So when I created campaigner-for-hire and leader of environmental pressure group ‘Dead Earth’, Nicki Smith, whom Constance suspects of involvement in Rosie’s murder, it seemed like appropriate attire for her to wear. She’s let me borrow it for my evening with you.

How kind of her! It’s quite impressive (and a little unnerving). Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about The Rapunzel Act Abi. I’ve found it not only fascinating, but it has made me desperate to read the book immediately! You serve up teh hot dogs and I’ll just give readers a few important details about The Rapunzel Act:

The Rapunzel Act

CAN YOU FIND JUSTICE… WHEN THE WORLD IS WATCHING?

When breakfast TV host and nation’s darling, Rosie Harper, is found brutally murdered at home, suspicion falls on her spouse, formerly international football star, Danny ‘walks on water’ Mallard, now living out of the public eye as trans woman, Debbie.

Not only must Debbie challenge the hard evidence against her, including her blood-drenched glove at the scene of the crime, she must also contend with the nation’s prejudices, as the trial is broadcast live, turning it into a public spectacle. For someone trying to live their life without judgment, it might just be too much to bear.

Legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb are subjected to unyielding scrutiny as they strive to defend their most famous client yet.

Another thought-provoking courtroom drama from the acclaimed author of the Burton & Lamb series.

Released on 21st January 2021, The Rapunzel Act is available from Amazon or directly from the publisher Lightning Books here.

About Abi Silver

Abi Silver is an author and lawyer who grew up in Leeds in a traditional Jewish family. Watching Granada TV’s ‘Crown Court’ in between lessons led her to study Law at Girton College, Cambridge. Abi then worked in London at international law firm, Allen & Overy and at RPC, before spending five years in Israel, where her husband, Daniel, was posted. During her time there, alongside raising her three young sons, Abi completed an MBA by distance learning, learned Hebrew and pottery on the wheel and began to write fiction, usually late at night. On returning to the UK, she went back to law before quitting a permanent position in 2015 when she decided to try her hand at writing again which led to publication of The Pinocchio Brief. Based in Radlett, Hertfordshire, Abi works part-time as a legal consultant and author.

For more about Abi, follow her on Twitter @abisilver16 and visit her website.

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Together by Luke Adam Hawker

I’m not supposed to be taking on new blog tours but when Anne Cater of Random Things Tours told me about Together by Luke Adam Hawker, with words by Marianne Laidlaw I knew I had to be involved. My thanks to Anne for including me in the tour and to Kyle Books for sending me a copy of Together in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

You’ll find buy links for Together here and via Kyle Books here.

Together

A beautiful book to connect us after such a challenging time.

‘Dark clouds were looming in the distance. We watched them gather, and we wondered… When will it come? How long will it last?’

A monumental storm brings huge and sudden change. We follow a man and his dog through the uncertainty that it brings to their lives. Through their eyes, we see the difficulties of being apart, the rollercoaster of emotions that we can all relate to, and the realisation that by pulling together we can move through difficult times with new perspective, hope and an appreciation of what matters most in life.

My Review of Together

A pictorial account of a difficult time.

In Together I had expected a quick read that I could race through. I had not expected a profoundly moving, beautifully illustrated, and emotionally annotated, account of the past year or so that, whilst it doesn’t mention Covid 19 directly, references it in ways that make reading Together cause the reader to feel part of a much bigger scenario.

Together was by no means a quick read, not least because part way through its relevance hit me and I burst into tears that took a considerable while to stem. Reading Together was complete catharsis. Here was a visual narrative that understood me completely so that Together has helped me feel healed from the trials of the last year.

Together also took much longer to ‘read’ than anticipated because it deserves complete attention. I read it for the sparse and beautiful words by Marianne Laidlaw that articulated my thoughts so sensitively and perceptively. I read it for the wonderful, wonderful drawings that transported me, held me spellbound and helped me to put my own life into perspective. I looked at the pitch perfect balance of text to image that made me feel a balance returning to my own life. I scrutinised every illustration to find the man (based on Luke Adam Hawker’s grandad) and his dog who reminded me so much of Captain Sir Tom Moore and rekindled the positivity I had felt at his efforts.

Magnificent, moving and memorable, Together is a very special book and I cannot thank Luke Adam Hawker enough for creating it. I won’t be parting with my copy of Together because just knowing it is in the house gives me a strength I didn’t realise I needed. It’s a wonderful book that I think the whole nation needs. I urge you to buy it and press it into the hands of those you love.

About Luke Adam Hawker

Luke Adam Hawker worked as an architectural designer before becoming a full-time artist in 2015. Since then he has focussed on drawing on location, fascinated with the world around him and how drawing can help us connect with both places and people.
He lives just outside of London with his partner Lizzie and dog Robin. Luke ships his prints and originals to buyers all over the world and has been commissioned by brands such as Soho House Hotel Group, Annabel’s Club, and Eventbrite. 

You can find out more about Luke and his work on Instagram and his website. You can follow Adam on Twitter @lukeadamhawker and there’s more with these other bloggers too: