An extract from Dave and Lillian Brummet’s From One Small Garden

Regular readers of Linda’s Book Bag will know that alongside books and reading, one of my hobbies is gardening. As well as a tiny garden, I have an allotment and am the group leader for a U3A gardening group. Consequently, when Lillian Brummet got in touch about her latest book written with her husband Dave – From One Small Garden – I knew I had to feature it here. I’m delighted to share more information and a recipe from the book with you today.

Published on 18th January 2021, From One Small Garden is available for purchase from your local Amazon site.

From One Small Garden

This collection of recipes is the ultimate guide to utilizing fresh fruits and vegetables from backyard gardens to farmer’s markets – the freshest, purest source of food we can draw from. Loaded with lots of interesting tid-bits of historical and nutritional information, this book is more than just a recipe book – it is a way of treating yourself to the healthy, delicious rewards of one small garden.

Eating healthy is not always the easiest with the temptation of fast, easy food all around us. Sourcing your food from either your own backyard garden or a farmer’s market is the best, freshest way to ensure your food is full of nutrients and flavour. The next step of turning it into something inviting and appetizing is offered on every page of “From One Small Garden” – a collection of over 300 recipes developed over a span of 30 years of research and development. This book brings it all to the table in a pleasantly delicious way.

Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet began experimenting with recipes and compiling them into this book in the early ’90’s while living in the Okanagan valley in British Columbia, Canada. Over the next 3 decades the manuscript traveled with them to the Boundary region where they resided for 12 years, and then on to their permanent home in Creston. All through these travels, the Brummets re-tested the recipes, perfecting them for this collection.

The couple experimented with a vegetarian diet for a few years, went vegan for a short time, and finally settled down to a more balanced diet that included some animal protein with a huge array of fruits, grains, vegetables, wholesome breads and healthy desserts.

It also has some natural concoctions for your pets, home and garden made from common ingredients in a well-stocked kitchen. You’ll find ways to save water, tips for reducing energy costs, and frugal ways to extend your budget by reducing food waste. Learn how to make your own chicken coating, or taco seasoning, air fresheners and cleaning supplies – without the use of harsh chemicals. Reduce your exposure to carcinogenic chemicals and fragrances, save a bunch of money, and cut down on packaging and plastic bottles.

A Recipe from From One Small Garden


Perfect timing for this recipe with strawberries in peak season between June – July, however frozen strawberries can also be used… just chop, thaw and drain before using. This will yield between 18-22 muffins depending on how large your muffin tins are. I prefer to use muffin cup liners that are compostable, which will help reduce the amount of waste heading to the landfill. Feel free to experiment, I have used reconstituted powder milk, rice milk and almond milk for this recipe with great results. White chocolate chips work well with this combination, however I personally prefer dark, flavonoid-rich chocolate.

3 eggs

1 c. brown sugar

2 c. milk

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 c. oil

1 tsp. pure vanilla

1 c. bran

1 c. wheat germ

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 c. white flour

1  1/2 c. chopped strawberries

1 c. chocolate chips (optional)

Beat eggs briefly then add sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add remaining liquid ingredients and then use a wooden spoon to stir in the germ and bran. Allow to rest for 10 minutes while you tidy the kitchen and prep the next step. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together, and when the timer goes off – combine all the ingredients together, including the strawberries and chips.

Preheat oven to 400˚. Place 22 paper liners in 2 muffin tins and spoon out the batter evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean, and the top has a light golden colour. Cool completely before serving.


Doesn’t that sound easy to do and don’t those muffins look tasty?

About Lillian and Dave Brummet

Lillian and her husband Dave are the team behind Brummet Media Group, high-fiving cheerfully as they pass each other on the way from checking off one item or other from their long to-do list. After moving to their dream location (in the Kootenay Region of BC, Canada), they have been methodically converting the abused lot over to the little park it has become – and in doing so have gained certification with bee, pollinator and wildlife organizations. Their home, too, has become energy efficient via the many upgrades they have done. Their business includes Dave’s music studio and percussion accessory products and graphic design work as well as numerous award-winning non-fiction books and popular blogs.

For more information about Lillian and Dave, follow them on Twitter @Brummet, visit their Amazon author page or website and find Lillian on Facebook.

The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude

I read The Cornish Coast Murder a while ago for the U3A book group to which I belong, but it’s only now I’ve found time to fit in a review on Linda’s Book Bag. Had it not been for the group I’d never have picked up this book, but I’m delighted to share a review today.

The Cornish Coast Murder is part of the British Library Crime Classics collection and is available for purchase here.

The Cornish Coast Murder

The Reverend Dodd, vicar of the quiet Cornish village of Boscawen, spends his evenings reading detective stories by the fireside – but heaven forbid that the shadow of any real crime should ever fall across his seaside parish. But the vicar’s peace is shattered one stormy night when Julius Tregarthan, a secretive and ill-tempered magistrate, is found at his house in Boscawen with a bullet through his head. The local police inspector is baffled by the complete absence of clues. Suspicion seems to fall on Tregarthan’s niece, Ruth – but surely that young woman lacks the motive to shoot her uncle dead in cold blood? Luckily for Inspector Bigswell, the Reverend Dodd is on hand, and ready to put his keen understanding of the criminal mind to the test.

This classic mystery novel of the golden age of British crime fiction is set against the vividly described backdrop of a fishing village on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast. It is now republished for the first time since the 1930s, with a new introduction by Martin Edwards.

My Review of The Cornish Coast Murder

Magistrate Julius Tregarthan has been murdered.

What a treat of a read! Originally published in 1935, The Cornish Coast Murder is a typical example of Golden Age crime writing in the style of Dorothy L Sayers or Agatha Christie and I really enjoyed it.

The pace is fast and filled with twists and turns as Inspector Bigswell finds red herrings, dead ends and half-truths at the heart of his investigation. Alongside him Reverend Dodd plays a significant part in solving the mystery with all the aplomb of Poirot or Miss Marple so that I found the scenes including him to be very entertaining.

And it’s a relatively gentle mystery with the murder very briefly described. Those used to the intense, visceral and explicit mutilations of some modern crime thrillers might find it tame but I preferred the unravelling of the plot rather than stomach churning descriptions. I found I wasn’t distracted by shocking detail, but was entertained by trying to navigate the story. I did guess the murderer early on, but I had no idea as to their true motive.

The characters here are quite two dimensional but nonetheless interesting, and concepts like shell-shock, romance and manipulation give them edge and attraction. One of the aspects of The Cornish Coast Murder that I so enjoyed was comparing how character was developed in the 1930’s to how it is constructed now. Indeed, reading this book made me wonder whether some readers would think it should be banned in the current socio-political climate as frequently there are prejudiced class comments and even the worthy Inspector Bigswell articulates some unpalatable opinions about women, believing the murderer to be female because they appeared to have been a poor shot. Add in the Reverend Dodd commenting that ‘Women are often unreasonable… Illogical too.’ and I fear many might feel uncomfortable. I didn’t. The book is of its time and I found the attitudes and approaches entertaining and often hilarious; sometimes because of John Bude’s deliberate writing and sometimes with almost 90 years of distance between initial publication and now.

The Cornish Coast Murder is well written, entertaining and a thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery. It is also a vivid insight into the social, political and gender hierarchy of the era that I found fascinating. It won’t suit all modern readers but I found it super escapism.

About John Bude

John Bude was a pseudonym used by Ernest Carpenter Elmore who was a British born writer.

After becoming a full-time writer, he wrote some 30 crime fiction novels, many featuring his two main series characters Superintendent Meredith and Inspector Sherwood. He began with The Cornish Coast Murder in 1935 and his final two crime novels, A Twist of the Rope and The Night the Fog Came Down were published posthumously in 1958.

He was a founder member of the Norfolk-based Crime Writers Association (CWA) in 1953 and was a co-organiser of the Crime Book Exhibition that was one of the CWA’s early publicity initiatives.

Bigfoot Mountain by Roderick O’Grady

My enormous thanks to Roderick O’Grady for sending me a copy of his middle grade children’s book Bigfoot Mountain in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Published by Firefly on 29th April 2021, Bigfoot Mountain is available for purchase in all the usual places including here.

Bigfoot Mountain

The book explores family, friendship, dealing with loss and the importance of protecting the environment. This will sweep you away to the mountains for a wild adventure.’ The Week Junior Book of the Week

Minnie and her stepfather, Dan, are stuck in their small cabin at the foot of the mountain struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother – and each other. But when Minnie and her friend Billy discover four giant footprints on a mountain trail, everything changes.

Kaayii and his clan have to move across the mountain to escape huge forest fires, but find their ancient paths blocked by new holiday cabins… As Minnie and Kaayii’s paths unexpectedly entwine, can they help each other, and heal their families?

My Review of Bigfoot Mountain

Minnie’s about to have an adventure.

Bigfoot Mountain is a charming children’s story with added depths that would make it perfect for home or classroom reading. Firstly, it’s an exciting story with adventure, peril and responsibility woven into the story as Minnie encounters the Bigfoot tribe. The two strands of the narrative from Minnie and then Kaayii’s perspectives come together in a very satisfying manner making Bigfoot Mountain an enormously pleasing read.

However, aside from a narrative that engages and captivates because it is action packed and entertaining, there’s so much more to Bigfoot Mountain. The themes are perfect for middle grade children because Roderick O’Grady introduces conflict, family, friendship and the environment in a way that educates at the same time. There are wonderful descriptions of the natural world and illustrations at the end of the book that help bring those descriptions to life. They would make an excellent catalyst for further research and study too, as would the Bigfoot story with children perhaps finding out about local myths and legends close to their own homes.

Further still, is the wonderful exploration of grief. Minnie’s mother’s death impacts the story so that children can explore their own grief and come too understand how their feelings are natural and acceptable. This theme also illustrates for young readers that adults have similar feelings and find them just as difficult to manage. I found myself wiping away a tear on a couple of occasions.

Minnie and Dan are not a conventional nuclear family, as Dan is Minnie’s step father, so that children in modern family units can identify with them and feel their own families are normal whatever their components. I really appreciated the way in which Minnie is the major character, giving status to children in an adult world and to females in general. The friendship she has with the younger Billy also exemplifies how we can make friends across a range of age groups, but perhaps the most important aspect here is her awareness of Kaayii. Here Roderick O’Grady makes clear, without preaching, that it is possible to embrace difference, to live harmoniously and to be kind to one another. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of Bigfoot Mountain.

But Bigfoot Mountain isn’t just for children. Roderick O’Grady’s narrative also reminds adults to consider their impact on the environment, to reignite their childlike awareness of nature and joy in life, and to be open to new possibilities and truths. As someone half a century older than the target audience I found the writing moving, educational and important. I think Bigfoot Mountain has resonance and relevance for readers of all ages; for now, and in the future. I loved it.

About Roderick O’Grady

After embarking on an acting career in London, Roderick O’Grady moved to New York in the nineties. After some success off Broadway and in the US soap ‘As the World Turns’ he returned home with a wife and two children. His stage play, ‘A Foolish Fancy, How Not to get Ahead in the Theatre’ was a Time Out Critics Choice on the London Fringe. Bigfoot Mountain is his first novel.

You can follow Rod on Twitter @RoderickOGrady1. You’ll also find him on Instagram.

Truth or Dare by M.J. Arlidge

I’ve heard such a lot about M.J. Arlidge’s writing that, although I’m trying not to take on blog tours, I simply couldn’t resist taking part in this one for Truth or Dare! My thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to participate and to the publishers for sending me a copy of Truth or Dare in return for an honest review which I’m delighted to share today.

Published by Orion on 24th June, Truth or Dare is available for purchase through the links here.

Truth or Dare



A crimewave sweeps through the city and no-one is safe. An arson at the docks. A carjacking gone wrong. A murder in a country park. What connects all these crimes without causes, which leave no clues?

Detective Inspector Helen Grace faces the rising tide of cases which threatens to drown the city. But each crime is just a piece of a puzzle which is falling into place.

And when it becomes clear just how twisted and ingenious this web of crime is, D.I. Grace will realise that it may be impossible to stop it . . .


My Review of Truth or Dare

The city is in a crime freefall.

My goodness. I confess for much of the first half of Truth or Dare I didn’t have a clue what was going on or how the narrative would be resolved. This is not a criticism, but is testament to the skill of M.J. Arlidge in manipulating his reader and placing them in a similar position to Helen Grace as she struggles to solve the increasing cases of murder and crime in Southampton. I thought this technique was absolutely brilliant. Every time I thought I’d cracked the cases and had found the links between the different crimes something would cause me to readjust and place me back at square one – just like Helen. Obvious connections become severed and reconnected, prime suspects vacillate throughout, and the machinations of those who should know better mean that Truth or Dare is a completely addictive and compelling read. In fact, reading Truth or Dare felt akin to looking at an Escher painting where you think you know what’s going on but it isn’t quite the truth.

Part of this effect is achieved through the use of pronouns he and she at the start of chapters so that the reader isn’t immediately sure which character they have in front of them. Add in short, fast paced chapters with a daily plot structure and Truth or Dare is a thrilling story. It comes as no surprise to me to discover that M.J. Arlidge has worked in television as the episodic nature of Truth or Dare would transfer brilliantly to the small screen. There’s just enough descriptive prose to create a vivid image without slowing the pace too, so that I found it a perfectly balanced story. In the second half of the book I had to stop reading occasionally to allow my pulse time to slow. There’s such an adrenalin rush in following Helen through her investigations and the ending of Truth or Dare has made me desperate for the next book in the series.

Although Truth or Dare is part of a series, it works perfectly as a stand alone book. I haven’t read the previous books and didn’t find myself at a disadvantage at all. Helen’s persona and relationships are brilliantly woven into this story giving me all I needed to know to understand her without compromising the speed and excitement of this tale. Truth or Dare has, however, made me want to go back and discover all M.J. Arlidge’s previous writing because I enjoyed this narrative so much.

The character who had the most impact on me, however, was Joseph Hudson. I loathe unfairness and corruption and his actions throughout Truth or Dare absolutely enraged me. M.J Arlidge is such a skilled writer that he invoked a visceral response in me as a reader. I’d have happily climbed into the pages of the novel and caused Joseph Hudson physical harm. He wasn’t simply a character in a book, but so very real, contemptible and controlling that he made my blood boil.

It’s difficult to say too much about themes in Truth or Dare without spoiling the story but there are so many layers that include various forms of control, guilt, obsession, relationships and so on that make it astute, addictive and action packed.

I thought Truth or Dare was excellent. It’s compelling, exciting and terrifying. I loved it!

About M.J. Arlidge

M. J. Arlidge is the international bestselling author of the Detective Helen Grace Thrillers, including Hide and SeekLittle Boy BlueLiar LiarThe Doll’s HousePop Goes the Weasel, and his debut, Eeny Meeny, which has been sold in twenty-nine countries. He has worked in television for many years.

For further information, find M.J. Arlidge on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @mjarlidge.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech

When I saw there was a blog tour happening for Louise Beech’s new book, This Is How We Are Human I was devastated not to be able to commit to participating. Life was, as ever, complicated at the time and I didn’t want to let anyone down by not fulfilling my commitment so I didn’t sign up. However, with Louise’s I Am Dust still calling to me from my TBR I was determined to read This Is How We Are Human as soon as I could. I’m delighted that I can share my review today.

Published by Orenda on 10th June 2021, This Is How We Are Human is available for purchase here.

It’s far too long since I read one of Louise’s books. Then it was one of my 2019 books of the year, Call Me Star Girl, with my review here. You’ll also find my review of How To Be Brave here and of Maria in the Moon here.

This Is How We Are Human

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.

Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.

Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.

When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.

A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with an emotional core that will warm and break your heart.

My Review of This Is How We Are Human

Twenty year old Sebastian wants to experience sex.

I’m not entirely sure how Louise Beech performs her writing miracles, but whatever genre she chooses, whatever narrative she writes, her books are totally mesmerising. This Is How We Are Human is another absolute triumph. I could describe the wonderfully natural dialogue, the rounded and believable characters, the brilliant variety of sentence structure and the way the end of each chapter compels the reader to continue but none of that would encapsulate the fabulous quality of This Is How We Are Human or do it justice in a review.

I think it’s the compassionate presentation of humanity that makes This Is How We Are Human so special. Louise Beech understands completely, and conveys with starling and affecting accuracy, the ease with which life can turn from triumph to disaster. Violetta/Isabelle’s new role in life is only a quirk of fate away for any of us so that This Is How We Are Human touches the reader with terrifying clarity. I’m sure violation and Violetta are deliberately close in sound to help the reader appreciate the precariousness of life all the more. All the characters are so gripping to read about. In Veronica is the epitome of love, hope and despair leaving me feeling increasing compassion for her with every sentence I read about her. However, it is Sebastian who is the absolute star of This Is How We Are Human. He is so real, so witty, so simultaneously mature and childlike, so human, frustrating and charming that I totally lost sight of the fact he’s a character in a book. It’s absolutely fitting that Sebastian’s sections are written in the first person, giving him status and a voice, but also giving status and a voice to other people with his level of autism too, making This Is How We Are Human a very special book.

The plot is brilliant. Often dealing with the prosaic, increasingly dramatic as the story progresses and with a pinch of the supernatural, This Is How We Are Human ensnares the reader. I was so invested in the lives of Sebastian, Veronica and Isabelle that I could not tear myself away. Some of the themes and incidents are not easy to contemplate, but Louise Beech never sensationalises. Instead she shows her readers the truth of life, of those living on the fringes of society or of those seemingly living perfect public lives, in ways that feel so authentic and insightful that they are almost physical to encounter, making This Is How We Are Human completely arresting. The author shines a light onto the very fabric of society, our prejudices and assumptions until we do truly comprehend what it is to be human.  I laughed aloud at some of the things Sebastian said, felt the utter devastation of Veronica’s reality and wept uncontrollably at Isabelle’s story. This Is How We Are Human entertained me but more than that it left me moved, affected and changed by reading it.

Not only does Louise Beech write with exquisite skill, she also imbues her words with humanity and a depth of emotion that is astounding. If you’ve never read one of her books I genuinely feel sorry for you because it’s a real privilege to do so. Do not miss This Is How We Are Human. It is unquestionably one of my books of the year. I thought it was outstanding.

About Louise Beech

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Reader’s Choice in 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe, was shortlisted for the Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her 2019 novel Call Me Star Girl won Best Magazine’s Book of the Year, and was followed by a ghost-story cum psychological thriller set in a theatre, I Am Dust

Louise  lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Follow Louise on Twitter @LouiseWriter, find her on Facebook and Instagram and visit her website for further information.

The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley

I’ve long been a fan of Rosanna Ley’s writing so it gives me enormous pleasure to participate in this blog blitz for her latest book, The Orange Grove. My enormous thanks to Team Bookends for initially sending me a copy in return for an honest review and to Milly Reid for offering me a copy for today’s post.

It’s a year tomorrow since I reviewed Rosanna’s From Venice With Love here on Linda’s Book Bag.

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

My review of Her Mother’s Secret is here.

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

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

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

The Orange Grove is released in paperback today, 24th June 2021 by Quercus and is available for purchase through these links.

The Orange Grove

An unforgettable story of past love and family secrets, set in sunny Seville

Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood to open Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her.

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville orange and almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family?

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet. Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

My Review of The Orange Grove

Holly has a new plan.

The Orange Grove is the most perfect summer book. Rosanna Ley has woven a mesmerising tale of romance, history and travel that affords the reader the chance to escape into the passionate world of flamenco, Seville, food and love. I adored it as it is exactly the tonic we need in our lives right now. I didn’t just want to read about Holly and Ella’s activities, I wanted to BE Holly and Ella, so persuasive is Rosanna Ley’s writing.

The dual time lines of Holly and Ella’s experiences in Seville are perfectly balanced in The Orange Grove so that I was equally interested in, and captivated by, both aspects. I loved the way the two women’s stories were brought together as the narrative progressed with echoes of the past very firmly in the present. This was such skilful plotting.

What I found fascinating about the characters, was that Ella is actually quite flawed but I still cared about her just as much as I did Holly. However, it was the more secondary Felix who surprised me. Compared with the passionate Spanish men Felix is hardly present for much of the story, could, at times, be deemed to be weak and almost contemptible and is often frustrating, but he drives much of the action and I was absolutely invested in his part on The Orange Grove too. I wanted positive outcomes for him but you’ll need to read the book to see if I got them!

I think what I enjoy so much about Rosanna Ley’s writing is that she presents the reader with warm, vivid characters that she places in setting that are brilliantly described with full use of all the senses so that the reader is utterly transported. I was most definitely in Seville with Holly and Ella, smelling the orange blossom, hearing the flamenco beats and music, tasting tapas, seeing the vivid orange of the fruit and almost feeling the romantic kisses and caresses so that I experienced a full sensory delight in The Orange Grove. Much is often said about transporting writing, but The Orange Grove is just perfect in putting the reader at the heart of the story.

Aside from the wonderful characters, the evocative setting and the smooth and captivating writing style with naturalistic dialogue and carefully crafted sentence, The Orange Grove offers so much more than a romantic, escapist read. There are undercurrents of organised crime, a murkier world than tourists might believe in this vibrant Spanish city and an exploration of love, need, commitment, control and loyalty that give fabulous depth to the story too.

The Orange Grove is a magnificent story. It is Rosanna Ley writing at her most skilled and therefore becomes a simply outstanding narrative that made me smile, made me shed a tear or two and brought me complete summer joy. I loved it unreservedly.

About Rosanna Ley


Rosanna Ley works as a creative tutor and has written many articles and stories for national magazines. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Spain and Italy. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives in West Dorset by the sea.

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

New Beginnings by Victoria Day-Joel

My enormous thanks to poet Victoria Day Joel for sending me a copy of her anthology New Beginnings in return for an honest review. It gives me great pleasure to share that review today.

Published by Olympia, New Beginnings is available for purchase here.

New Beginnings

New Beginnings is a collection of poetry and verses, describing nature, new relationships and a move to Spain.

The poems describe how people meet and how relationships grow; how love between two people works. It also discusses how life decisions are made – whether they’re the right ones or the wrong ones.

The verses discuss ‘love at first sight’ or at least how people can feel comfortable in each other’s company from a very early stage after meeting.

Each poem is accompanied by a verse which gives a commentary of the narrator’s relationships and opinions of the world around them.

‘Thought provoking, beautiful and deeply emotional. Something to be turned to for inspiration, hope and heart’. – The Countess Bathurst

My Review of New Beginnings

A collection of personal poetry with commentaries.

New Beginnings is a really interesting concept as I haven’t encountered many poets who provide an explanation or further writing with their work so immediately after each poem, giving an extra dimension to the book. I think I might have liked a larger white space between the two aspects to allow me to think about and absorb the poetry and verses a little more before moving on to the exposition, but this is very much my personal viewpoint and I found Victoria Day-Joel’s explanations gave a super added dimension of understanding.

What Victoria Day-Joel achieves in New Beginnings is an honest insight into a mature woman’s innermost thoughts and feelings as she takes her reader through her desire to start afresh in Spain, through her passionate love and through her successes and frustrations. This makes the anthology feel real and immediate. There’s a really important message in New Beginnings about living in the moment, being true to yourself and appreciating aspects of life like the moon and nature rather than seeing success in terms of material acquisition, so that this is a book of inspiration as well as entertainment. It was the natural imagery and the frequent questions in the verses that drew me in, alongside the expressions of love that pepper the text.

I think what I appreciated most about New Beginnings was the author’s honesty and willingness to expose her desires, her flaws and her reality. It made New Beginnings feel intimate and confidential.

I really enjoyed being part of Victoria Day-Joel’s journey – which is exactly how the poems in New Beginnings made me feel; as if I had been somehow included in her experience, albeit briefly. I finished reading the anthology wondering if she has achieved her aim of living in Spain, or if the Brexit impact fears she had have been further exasperated by the recent pandemic. I hope not. Reading New Beginnings made me think I’d enjoy meeting Victoria Day-Joel very much and I hope all her dreams expressed here come true.

About Victoria Day-Joel

Victoria was born in Cambridge in 1979 and brought up and educated in the Cotswolds, later moving to Cheshire before returning back home in 2016. Always interested in spiritual studies and human behaviour, Victoria wanted to go to astrology school. Settling on a more mainstream route of psychology, media studies and a computer course, it was that which led to her first full time job in estate agency. For years working in different towns north and south, and later in private medical insurance, accompanying these moves combined a passion for travelling. Victoria started her own business in 2014 in Crystal Healing and Reiki and is now seeking a spiritual home in Spain.

For further information, visit Victoria’s website, or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Owl Unbound by Zoe Brooks

My enormous thanks to Isabelle Kenyon for putting me in touch with poet Zoe Brooks and to Zoe for sending me a copy of her poetry anthology Owl Unbound in return for an honest review. It’s a real pleasure to share that review today.
Owl Unbound was published by Indigo Dreams on 1st October 2020 and is available for purchase from Amazon and directly from the publisher.

Owl Unbound

Owl Unbound examines nature and humanity in a wide range of settings; from a stag beetle on a suburban fence to fossils on a Somerset beach, from a Cotswold roofer tiptoeing the thin laths to a bag lady in Covent Garden dancing at the amplifier’s right hand.

Whilst there is tender joy and love in the collection, there is also anger and loss.

My Review of Owl Unbound

A collection of forty-six poems.

My word Owl Unbound is a powerful collection of beautifully wrought, timeless, moving poems.

Several biblical allusions give gravitas and depth even for a reader like me who has no interest in religion, because Zoe Brooks writes with such skill that she mesmerises her reader and draws them in to her references and allusions almost without their permission. Within the pages of Owl Unbound are references to society, and film, with half caught nods to literary fiction and a shared history that make the reader as much a part of the anthology as Zoe Brooks herself. I found myself thinking about the poet, wondering what her experiences really had been as I caught wisps of grief, loneliness, loss, anger, social conscience and identity in these wonderful poems. Both mystery and disclosure weave a compelling picture in the lines so that I finished Owl Unbound feeling I had read something very special even though (or indeed because) it wasn’t always knowable to me.

Themes of grief, parenthood, dementia, childhood, location, identity and loss swirl through the lines in a literary kaleidoscope of meaning that I found incredibly affecting. Ironically, one of the more ‘direct’ poems, There’s Nothing To See stopped me in my tracks as Zoe Brooks articulated absolutely perfectly my own inner feelings. This poem alone would make Owl Unbound a collection I will return to time and again.

I loved the natural imagery deployed to convey deep emotion. Who would have thought a poem referencing pigeons, Someone Lost, could have evoked such a feeling of loss in a reader? The motif of the moon in Theft, brought such a lump to my throat I had to pause in my reading for a while.

I finished Owl Unbound feeling that Zoe Brooks had shared a little piece of her soul with me, but that in return she’s stolen a bit of my own. This is a remarkable collection and I feel privileged to have read it.

About Zoe Brooks

Zoe Brooks worked with disadvantaged communities in London and East Oxford before returning to her native Gloucestershire to write and grow vegetables.

Zoe has been widely published in print and online magazines and appeared in the anthology Grandchildren of Albion.

Her long poem Fool’s Paradise won the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition award for best poetry ebook 2013.

To find out more, follow Zoe on Twitter @ZoeBrooks2 or visit Zoe’s blog. You’ll also find Zoe on Facebook and Instagram.

Fix by Miles Salter

I’m beginning this blog post with an apology to Miles Salter. Miles kindly sent me a copy of Fix in return for an honest review and has been waiting patiently for months and months for it to reach the top of my towering TBR. I’m delighted finally to share that review today.

I previously reviewed another of Miles’ books, the middle grade story Howl, here, although you’ll have to forgive the quality of my blog post – it was in the very early days of my blogging life!

Fix is available for purchase here.


Fix is quite a trip.

Seven years in the making, it covers air disasters, swamps, a woman who goes to bed with a dog, Jekyll and Hyde going for a curry, invitations to parties, amusing domestic disasters, a house with hidden rooms, and why there are so few good songs about cheese. The book’s primary theme is living in an imperfect world, from teaching your children how to forage to surviving a mid-life crisis. The poems on marital breakdown are moving and sad, but there’s plenty of surreal comedy here to keep the reader entertained.

Fix will stay with the reader long after they have read it.

My Review of Fix

If I’m honest, I had no idea what kind of anthology I would be reading when I picked up Fix. What I discovered was that Fix is a love song to who we are. To our past. To our loss and grief. It’s also an anthology of hope, of love and of humanity in many forms.

There are some startling images and moments in Fix so that when I thought I had the measure of what I was reading, I found myself brought up short by an expletive, a complete change of emotion, or a prosaic motif imbued with such depth of feeling I felt quite wrong footed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the social history references in Fix, especially those referring to music because they made me feel a part of Miles Salter’s writing, and, by extension, gave me a shared experience and understanding. Fix simultaneously has broad brush strokes and intimate moments so that it can be read on many levels, all of which are thought provoking and satisfying.

I have a feeling that many of the entries are autobiographical so that I felt I had come to know the author Miles Salter quite intimately. I found Said, in particular incredibly moving. The lines are simple with a repetition of ‘you’, ‘I’ and ‘said’ and yet the breakdown of an entire marriage is spread across the verse in sheer emotion.

One of the elements of Fix that I found the most compelling was that it gave me an insight into the male perspective. Miles Salter presented me with so many versions of masculinity, from the violent to the gambler, the warrior to the broken, the husband to the lunatic, making me feel I had had a glimpse into a world I don’t usually inhabit. Shed, for example, encapsulated the conflict between public persona and inner reality so brilliantly that its impact is to make me question what the men in my life are truly thinking and feeling. I loved the fact Miles Salter could make me think.

Fix is modern and fresh in approach and yet considers themes that are universal and traditional so that it has appeal to wide range of readers. Indeed, I think Fix would be a perfect collection for those who think they don’t like, or cannot understand, poetry because it is accessible and familiar. I also thought it was interesting, moving and hugely engaging. I really, really enjoyed it.

About Miles Salter

Away from poetry, Miles is the front man for the band Miles and The Chain Gang. The band have released a couple of videos in 2020, and are working towards making an album. ‘We’ve been going two years, and it’s been a slow burn. That’s partly because of Covid,’ says Miles. ‘The songs are really strong and the band are brilliant. I’m optimistic about what we can do in the future.’

You can visit Miles on his website and follow him on Twitter @MilesWrites and YouTube.

Prince Philip’s Century 1921 – 2021 by Robert Jobson

My enormous thanks to Mel Sambells of Ad Lib Publishers for sending me a copy of Prince Philip’s Century 2019 – 2021 by Robert Jobson in return for an honest review.

Prince Philip’s Century 2019 – 2021 was published by Ad Lib on 15th April 2021 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Prince Philip’s Century 2019 – 2021

For decades Prince Philip shared the Queen’s burden of office without upstaging her, always privately providing reassurance and advice but never overstepping the boundaries of his supporting role. It was an unforgiving position – a challenge for anyone – but one that he met head on. He remained the Queen’s adviser and closest confidant and was known as such the world over. That said, he was wise enough to recognise his limitations and the constraints of his role. He always seemed to instinctively know when it was time to step back and let his wife take the lead. His job was, after all, to allow her star to shine.

Robert Jobson’s magnificent biography of the Duke of Edinburgh tells the full story of his remarkable life and achievements, and how, after his marriage in 1947 to Princess Elizabeth, this dedicated military man spent so much of his life dutifully supporting his wife. Though he created a role for himself as a determined moderniser and environmental campaigner, and through the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, encouraged young people to reach their potential, it was perhaps his greatest achievement to have been a loyal husband and companion, and a loving father and grandfather.

My review of Prince Philip’s Century 2019 – 2021

A famous life over a century.

I confess I’m not usually a reader of biography and have only a moderate interest in the royal family, but I found Prince Philip’s Century not only a fascinating insight into the life of Prince Philip, but a revealing, sensitive and simultaneously honest observation of history and society too over the past century, so that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. There were aspects of history I remember well such as Michael Fagan’s intrusion to the Queen’s bedroom and Princess Diana’s death, but also may aspects of Prince Philip’s life about which I was totally ignorant. As a result I feel I know the man better but also understand the world we live in now, and how we have come to this point in history, more clearly. I have no idea if that was the intention of Robert Jobson, but I thought it was a wonderful effect.

Robert Jobson not only has meticulously researched his subject, but obviously has first hand experience of, and with, Prince Philip so that elements such as overheard conversations bring a lightness of touch that make for an interesting approach. Certainly there are footnotes for further reference and a middle section of photographs depicting Prince Philip from age 5 to 99 as one might expect in a biography such as Prince Philip’s Century, but alongside the weighty historical detail, there’s a real sense of a person – of a real life. Robert Jobson is unafraid to present the Prince at his most insulting and curmudgeonly as well as his most urbane and charming so that the whole book feels well balanced and nuanced and all the more fitting a tribute to a man who, for all his faults, lived his life supporting his wife and Queen. Indeed, I found the book quite an emotional read at times and have finished it with an increased admiration for a man whom I’d little considered before.

Measured, meticulously researched and authoritative, Prince Philip’s Century is essential reading for those interested in the monarchy and is hugely interesting for those of us who are more interested in social history than in individuals. I thought it was engaging, enlightening and entertaining, and having read this book I think my new mantra will be ‘Just get on with it’!

About Robert Jobson

Robert Jobson is one of Britain’s leading royal commentators, dubbed the ‘Godfather’ of royal reporting by the Wall Street Journal. He is Royal Editor of the Evening Standard and regularly appears on television as a royal expert. A best-selling author and award-winning correspondent, he has been at the forefront of royal reporting for a quarter of a century.

You can follow Robert on Twitter @theroyaleditor.