Staying in with Tom Trott

It gives me enormous pleasure to stay in with Tom Trott today to chat all about his brand new thriller that I think sounds brilliant. Let’s find out what Tom told me:

Staying in with Tom Trott

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

It’s great to be here, staying in is definitely the new going out.

It certainly has been over the last couple of years hasn’t it? Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought along The Florentine, my latest thriller. I know we’re not supposed to have favourites, like children, but this is definitely my favourite out of the books I’ve written. I set out to write something that was a huge amount of fun, and that would leave readers with a smile on their face, so I hope we’ll have a good evening.

That sounds interesting. What can we expect from an evening in with The Florentine?

I’m a big lover of spy stories, and of classic movies and Agatha Christie, and I poured all that love into The Florentine, so although it’s a contemporary thriller and it partly deals with cyber security and digital espionage, I think you’ll get a warm, fuzzy glow from it because it plays with a lot of elements of those stories that we might remember from when we were young.

That sounds somewhat out of the ordinary. What made you write The Florentine that way?

I know that sounds strange for a thriller, but I think it’s important for us all to remember that thrillers don’t have to be depressing or gritty, they can be an adventure. And it might sound cold or unexciting, but I really wanted The Florentine to be easy to read. Some books are like trudging uphill, the view may be magnificent when you get to the top, but it’s hard work getting there. Other books are like skiing, you start the first page and you just keep going. That’s the feeling I wanted to achieve with The Florentine.

The Florentine sounds just my kind of read. I’m not a great fan of visceral violence in my crime fiction. I’d much rather be entertained by adventure!

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

Well, true to what I was just saying, I’ve brought a film and another book, but also something to drink.

I’ve brought Notorious, the classic Hitchcock film, because it was a big inspiration on a particular section of The Florentine. Claude Rains was also the inspiration for one of the main villains, and who doesn’t love a bit of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman? There’s something so elegant and classy about espionage thrillers from that time. There was still something noble about the world of spying, and although The Florentine doesn’t present the intelligence world as glamourous, I tried to capture that feeling of excitement.

I’ve never seen it Tom so I’ll be interested to watch Notorious.

I’ve also brought Cards on the Table, my favourite Agatha Christie novel, because it really helped me appreciate the mechanics of passing the story between different protagonists, and how to do that in a seamless way. Sometimes you want to cut jarringly between them, sometimes you want one protagonist to pass the story to another like the baton in a relay race. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Christie was a master of technique, but Cards on the Table is one of those stories that doesn’t show off how clever it is, and for that reason I really admire it.

That’ll be another first for me Tom. I haven’t read Cards on the Table. I always associate Agatha Christie with having my tonsils out as an adult and trying to read her when still groggy from anaesthetic so this one passed me by!

To drink, I’ve brought a Chianti Classico, which is only produced in Tuscany, where most of The Florentine is set. There’s a lot of talk about wine in the book (some of the characters are winemakers and an important section is set at a vineyard) so you’ll definitely be longing for a glass. Those who don’t drink alcohol could substitute it for chinotto, a particularly Italian drink. And just to be indulgent, let’s have castagnaccio too, a Tuscan cake made with chestnut flour, nuts, and raisins.

Yes let’s! If you’re going to bring cake and drinks you can come again. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about The Florentine. I think it sounds fabulous. Now, you cut me a slice of cake and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details about The Florentine:

The Florentine

When Cain retired from the CIA, he moved to Florence, Italy to get away from his past.

He’s had nine years to enjoy fine wine, good food, and the Tuscan countryside.

But now his old boss has tracked him down, and he needs Cain to do one last job.

What starts as a simple trade entangles Cain in a web of secrets involving the mafia, an NSA whistleblower, and his own past.

With the Italian police and international assassins on his trail, he’ll have to survive the night to solve the mystery of who wants him dead.

Publishing on 6th May 2022, The Florentine is available for pre-order here.

About Tom Trott

Tom Trott is an author, film nerd, and proverbial Brighton rock. He lives in Brighton, UK, with his wife and their daughter.

He wrote a short comedy play that was performed at the Theatre Royal Brighton in May 2014 as part of the Brighton Festival, a television pilot for the local Brighton channel, and won the Empire Award (thriller category) in the 2015 New York Screenplay Contest.

He published his first novel, You Can’t Make Old Friends, in 2016. Since then he has written four more books, three of which have topped the free books charts on Amazon UK and US. He writes film reviews and features for Frame Rated.

His inspirations as a writer come from a diverse range of storytellers including Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Joel & Ethan Coen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Ira Levin, Quentin Tarantino, and many more books and films beside.

For further information, follow Tom on Twitter @tjtrott, visit his website or find him on Facebook and Instagram.

The Plant Hunter by T.L. Mogford

Other than books, one of my great passions is gardening and another is travel. Consequently it gives me enormous pleasure to be part of the launch celebrations for The Plant Hunter by T.L. Mogford. My huge thanks to Maddie at Welbeck for inviting me to participate. I’m delighted to share my review of The Plant Hunter today.

The Plant Hunter was published by Welbeck on 17th February 2022 and is available in all good bookshops and online including here.

The Plant Hunter

1867. King’s Road, Chelsea, is a sea of plant nurseries, catering to the Victorian obsession with rare and exotic flora. But each of the glossy emporiums is fuelled by the dangerous world of the plant hunters – daring adventurers sent into uncharted lands in search of untold wonders to grace England’s finest gardens.

Harry Compton is as far from a plant hunter as one could imagine – a salesman plucked from the obscurity of the nursery growing fields to become ‘the face that sold a thousand plants’.

But one small act of kindness sees him inherit a precious gift – a specimen of a fabled tree last heard of in The Travels of Marco Polo, and a map.

Seizing his chance for fame and fortune, Harry sets out to make his mark. But where there is wealth there is corruption, and soon Harry is fleeing England, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and sailing up the Yangtze alongside a young widow – both in pursuit of the plant that could transform both their lives forever.

My Review of The Plant Hunter

Harry Compton’s life is about to change.

Oh, I so enjoyed The Plant Hunter. It’s a cracking read that is part history, part travelogue, part romance, and part adventure all rolled into an engaging, exciting story that fizzes along so that I found myself gulping it down. I loved it.

The plot of The Plant Hunter is fast paced and superbly constructed with dramatic events that made me think of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days and which would translate into a brilliant film or television series, not least because T.L. Mogford’s prose is so visual. Indeed, all the senses are catered for superbly as Harry travels from London to China, to the extent that the reader feels as if they have been on a journey with him. The skill with which T.L. Mogford enhances the experience of enjoying the book through exquisite descriptions, but without slowing the pace or ever being wordy is so impressive. I found myself as immersed in China as Harry becomes through his adventures. It’s the meticulous historical and geographical detail here that is so satisfyingly successful, making for a thrilling and convincing read.

The Plant Hunter is jam packed with vivid and engaging characters who illustrate all strata of society, class and personality. There are rogues and cowards, heroes and philanthropists, the humble and the arrogant so that all life is represented through the pages of the story. Harry is not without his flaws, sometimes behaving rashly or being quick to display a violent temper but that only serves to make him all the more engaging. I thought Clarissa was magnificent too. Constrained by her foreignness in China and her widowhood, she remains feisty, spirited and vivid, making her a real role model. I thoroughly enjoyed the frisson of attraction between her and Harry too.

Whilst The Plant Hunter was far more of a brilliant, rollicking adventure with well balanced peril and humour than I had anticipated, it also embodies some weighty themes that give even greater interest and depth. The role of nations in other countries, the morality of exploration and trade, corruption of leadership, crime and murder all simmer along too, so that this really is a narrative that has something for every kind of reader.

I finished The Plant Hunter feeling that I had learnt from its pages, that I had met the most wonderful cast of characters and that I had had the most fantastic time alongside Harry. It’s an absolute cracker of a book. Don’t miss it.

About T.L. Mogford

T.L. Mogford can trace his roots back to a line of famous horticulturalists – his great-uncle has an apple tree named after him. Before becoming an author, he worked as a journalist for Time Out and as a translator for the European Parliament. The Plant Hunter is his first historical novel.

For further information visit Thomas’ website or follow him on Twitter @ThomasMogford

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson

I love Miranda Dickinson’s writing so I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to review her latest book, The Start of Something, for My Weekly. You’ll also find Miranda reading from The Start of Something on the My Weekly website here.

I also reviewed Miranda’s Our Story here on Linda’s Book Bag and it was one of my books of the year in 2020.

The Start of Something was published by Harper Collins on 3rd February 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Start of Something

Two lonely people.
One note in the window.
And what happens when they reach out…

Lachlan Wallace is stuck at home after a car accident stalled his army career. With months of physiotherapy still to endure and only his rescue dog and cat for company, he’s taken to gazing out of the window, watching the world spin on without him. And then he notices a vase of flowers on the windowsill of the apartment opposite his. Drawn to their hope and colour, he decides to reach out and sticks a message in his window…

Bethan Gwynne is a stranger in a new town. Bringing up her son Noah by herself, she is slowly rebuilding her life, but loneliness is one obstacle she has yet to overcome. She’s intrigued by a glimpse of her neighbour in the apartment across from hers – and then, one evening, she sees a message in his window just for her:


And so begins a love story of two people reaching out, daring to trust a stranger…

My Review of The Start of Something

My full review of The Start of Something can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Start of Something is the kind of story to touch the reader by making them laugh and cry, rage and cheer because they are so invested in the outcomes for Bethan and Lachlan. It’s a lovely, heart-warming read that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Miranda Dickinson


Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. From an early age she dreamed of writing a book that would make the heady heights of Kingswinford Library. Following a Performance Art degree, she began to write in earnest when a friend gave her The World’s Slowest PC. She is also a singer-songwriter. Her novels, Fairytale of New York, Welcome To My World, It Started With A Kiss, When I Fall In Love and Take A Look At Me Now, have all been Sunday Times bestselling titles.

For more information, follow Miranda on Twitter @wurdsmyth, on Instagram or find her on Facebook. You can also visit her vlog and website.

Discussing The Land of the Haunted Dolls with Susan Lien Whigham

Sometimes a book comes along that sounds utterly brilliant but I simply don’t have space on my TBR. That is exactly the case with the debut novel Susan Lien Whigham has brought along today. I couldn’t resist inviting Susan to stay in with me. I think you’ll agree how brilliant it sounds when you hear what she told me!

Staying in with Susan Lien Whigham

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

I’m delighted, thank you for the invitation!

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

I’ve brought with me my debut novel, Land of the Haunted Dolls. There are sequels on the way. In many ways, it chose me.

Oo. That’s an interesting statement. What we can expect from an evening in with Land of the Haunted Dolls?

A genre-bending tale of psychological drama, peppered with elements of historical fiction and paranormal horror.

That sounds really unusual. Tell me more!

Some of the characters have time travelled from 17th century New England to 21st century New York to seek revenge, so we catch glimpses of their past lives in flashbacks. With the help of a Voodoo sorcerer, these time-travelling spirits have taken possession of four trafficking victims who have been rescued from a sex and drug trafficking ring, and the FBI agent investigating the case finds that she’s about to get more than she bargained for when she calls in an estranged family member to consult on the case.

Those characters sound intriguing.

A number of reviewers have commented on the novel’s character-driven nature, a distinction from the plot-driven style that one typically finds in the horror genre. In that sense, I would liken it to the works of filmmaker Mike Flanagan, creator of film “Oculus” and the Netflix series “Haunting of Bly Manor.” I mention these two works of his in particular because they share some similar themes with my novel, including childhood trauma, addiction, ghosts, demons and hauntings. They also have in common non-linear timelines, philosophical musings, and in some of his works such as the recent Netflix series “Midnight Mass,” hopeful perspectives in spite of the story’s grim happenings.

I’m one of those readers who is more invested in character than plot so Land of the Haunted Dolls really appeals.

Land of the Haunted Dolls also features a cast of characters from diverse backgrounds including many different races and religions, and is also LGBTQ-inclusive. Writing a diverse story presents the challenge of empathizing with cultures outside of the ones with which you as an author may identify. I feel it’s a vitally important endeavour for the sake of getting to know each other culturally and seeking common ground in the ways we all, around the world, deal with common struggles such as recovery from trauma and addiction.

Oh you’re absolutely right. And this is the joy of books Susan. They have the power to help us understand others around us. 

At its heart, the novel is ultimately about two protagonists, a sceptic FBI agent and her mystic cousin, and their conflicts in family history and in strongly differing beliefs, and their need to find a way to come together in order to fight a greater evil.

Land of the Haunted Dolls sounds so entertaining and thought provoking. How is it being received?

The feedback on it so far has been good, with some readers loving the paranormal aspects, while others finding the themes of trauma and addiction resonate more strongly, while still others come for the pro-diversity elements.

How brilliant. What else have you brought along and why have you brought it? 

I have a few items to share. The first is a photo from 2010, taken at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum in Louisiana. Visiting the museum had a powerful effect on me. Its magic beckoned me, and I think it’s safe to say that my interest in the practice of Voodoo, and the beginnings of the novel, were born on that trip. When I say that the story chose me, this is an example of what I mean. It’s been a mystical journey of exploration which has called to me every step of the way.

That’s actually quite disturbing!

The second is a photo of a sidewalk chalk drawing which I had encountered while working on the novel in 2017. It spoke to me very clearly of the nature of The Marassa, who are Voodoo spirits known as lwa, who pay a visit in the novel. In fact, this manifestation of the most ancient of the lwa in street art directly inspired me to write the chapter in which they appear.

I love hearing where authors find their inspiration. You’ve really intrigued me now!

Lastly, an extract:

Titi squinted her eyes for a moment, peering into the darkness, then relaxed them. “I’m picking up some psychometry from this location,” she said slowly. “There are people buried under here. Unmarked graves, hundreds of them. They died of yellow fever.” For a moment, the image of hundreds of people pale, jaundiced, and naked, bleeding from their vacant eyes as they aimlessly wandered a darkened forest at night, haunting their graves, flashed through Titi’s vision.  It always unsettled her to catch glimpses of the dead, though it happened often enough that she held out hope that someday she would  grow to not feel so alarmed.

“What do you mean by psychometry?” said Rochelle, interrupting Titi’s thoughts.

“It’s a form of clairvoyance where the reader can sense the history of a place or an object by touching it.”

Rochelle looked away at the wall, stifling a reaction. She wondered how much more surreal this experience could possibly get. Titi was wondering the same thing. “Before that,” she said, “there was a dense forest right here, with a river running through it. Pine trees everywhere. Late sixteenth century.”

“So if you’re psychic, what am I thinking right now?” said Rochelle.

“Psychic doesn’t mean omniscient,” said Titi with a glare.

No! You can’t leave it there Susan! What a fascinating insight into Land of the Haunted Dolls. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat all about it. I’ll just give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details:

Land of the Haunted Dolls

Are some beliefs worth the risk of losing it all?

How far can you go before there’s no turning back?

Special Agent Rochelle Roy must confront scepticism and family tensions when four sex trafficking victims claim to be the reincarnated souls of women who died during the Salem witch trials. A paranormal drama, featuring a diverse cast, which takes place in the aftermath of human trafficking, touching how it impacts both victims and law enforcement, and feeds into cycles of trauma, addiction, spiritual crisis and transcendence.

Land of the Haunted Dolls is available for purchase through the links here.

About Susan Lien Whigham

Susan Lien Whigham is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco, on the California coast of the United States. Having spent more than a decade writing, directing and producing short films, she released her debut novel entitled Land of the Haunted Dolls in July 2021. A prequel short film based on the novel is currently making its rounds on the film festival circuit and can be seen in February 2022 at The North Film Festival in Stockholm, Sweden, and in September 2022 at the Love and Hope International Film Festival in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

For more information, visit Susan’s website, find her on Goodreads and Facebook or follow her on Twitter @tierrasimbolica and Instagram.

The Gifts by Liz Hyder

Today I’m delighted to share another of my online reviews with My Weekly. This time it is of the exceptionally good The Gifts by Liz Hyder. You’ll also find a My Weekly interview with Liz here.

Published by Manilla on 17th February 2022, The Gifts is available for purchase through the links here.

The Gifts

In an age defined by men, it will take something extraordinary to show four women who they truly are . . .

October 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in Shropshire as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders.

Meanwhile, when rumours of a ‘fallen angel’ cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune finds himself in the grips of a dangerous obsession, one that will place the women he seeks in the most terrible danger . . .

The Gifts is the astonishing debut adult novel from the lauded author of BEARMOUTH. A gripping and ambitious book told through five different perspectives and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London, it explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the role of women in society and the dark danger of ambition.

My Review of The Gifts

My full review of The Gifts can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Gifts is the most wonderful, immersive read that bewitches the reader and transports them out of the ordinary world through Liz Hyder’s magnificent writing. It’s such a good book that you really won’t want to miss this one! I absolutely loved it.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Liz Hyder

Liz is a writer, creative workshop leader and freelance arts PR consultant. In early 2018, she won The Bridge Award/Moniack Mhor’s Emerging Writer Award. Bearmouth, her debut novel for young adults, was published by Pushkin Press and won the Branford Boase Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Award for Older Readers. It is also published in America, France, Norway, Italy and the Czech Republic as well as the UK and Commonwealth. The Gifts is her debut adult novel.

Originally from North-East London, she has lived in South Shropshire for over a decade.

For further information about Liz, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @LondonBessie and Instagram.

My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long, shortlisted for the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitkin Trust Young Writer of the Year Award

At the weekend it was a real pleasure to share details of the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitkin Trust Young Writer of the Year Award shortlisted books in a post you’ll find here. I’m thrilled that every one of those books is on my TBR and today I’m sharing my review of one of them – My Darling From the Lions by Rachel Long. My enormous thanks to Zara Gillick at FmCM Associates for sending me a copy along with the other shortlisted books.

My Darling from the Lions is published by Picador and available for purchase here.

My Darling From the Lions

Rachel Long’s much-anticipated debut collection of poems, My Darling from the Lions, announces the arrival of a thrilling new presence in poetry.

Each poem has a vivid story to tell – of family quirks, the perils of dating, the grip of religion or sexual awakening – stories that are, by turn, emotionally insightful, politically conscious, wise, funny and outrageous.

Long reveals herself as a razor-sharp and original voice on the issues of sexual politics and cultural inheritance that polarize our current moment. But it’s her refreshing commitment to the power of the individual poem that will leave the reader turning each page in eager anticipation: here is an immediate, wide-awake poetry that entertains royally, without sacrificing a note of its urgency or remarkable skill.

My Review of My Darling from the Lions

A collection of poetry.

My Darling from the Lions is not always an easy read. This is because Rachel Long is unafraid to present her poetry with shocking images, forthright language and brutal truth. I found the collection disturbing and though provoking, not least because there is a feeling of personal honesty that made me feel I had been given an intimate insight into the world of a woman I’ve never met. There’s also humour, affection and gentleness so that this collection feels well balanced, nuanced and engaging. The characters presented by Rachel Long in her poems are vibrant and real, woven into her words every bit as much as I suspect they are woven into her life. I loved meeting her mother particularly.

There’s a fascinating variety in the presentation and structure of the writing. The repetition of Open throughout the first half of the collection with its slightly changing format and pronouns made me realise how interpretation is everything, how we adopt different personas for different audiences, so that My Darling from the Lions has the ability to teach the reader as well as entertain them.

Whilst I found some of the poems challenging, unsure if the meanings I derived from them were the intention of Rachel Long, I found the themes in My Darling from the Lions absolutely universal. The role of women, sexuality, relationships, matriarchy, love, challenge, race, society and so on are as tightly threaded into the poetry as the personal stories behind them, so that they resonate completely with the reader. Here we uncover what it is like to be a person of colour, a female and, curiously, an outsider who also belongs completely. I found this aspect of Rachel Long’s writing fascinating.

My Darling from the Lions is a startling collection that doesn’t give up all its secrets easily. Rather it needs, and deserves, several readings and much thought. I fear I have only scratched the surface of Rachel Long’s writing and I’ll be returning to this anthology again and again to learn more about what it really is to be My Darling from the Lions. I really recommend exploring it for yourself because it’s fresh, exciting and intriguing.

About Rachel Long

Rachel Long is a poet and the founder of Octavia – poetry collective for womxn of colour which is housed at The Southbank Centre, in London. Long’s poetry and prose have been published widely, most recently in Filigree, Mal, The White Review, The Poetry Review and Granta.
Her debut poetry collection, My Darling from the Lions, is forthcoming from Picador in August 2020.

You can follow Rachel on Twitter @rachelnalong.

Staying in with Miriam Burke

I think there’s a certain magic about short stories because they allow the reader a real sense of satisfaction in completing a read even when life is challenging, and a full length novel might feel too much. Consequently, I’m delighted to welcome Miriam Burke to Linda’s Book Bag today to start off the blog tour for her debut collection. Let’s find out more:

Staying in with Miriam Burke

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Miriam. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

It’s a pleasure to be invited into your world of great thoughts and fine feelings.

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

I’ve brought my collection of short stories called Women and Love. It’s my first published book of fiction and the wonderful Renard Press are just about to publish it.

How exciting. Congratulations on your debut fiction. What can we expect from an evening in with Women and Love?

The stories are set in contemporary London and they explore how women deal with different kinds of love. The women come from very diverse cultural and social backgrounds.

I grew up in the West of Ireland when it was culturally very monochromatic and I was fascinated by the cultural and social diversity of London when I came to work here as a clinical psychologist in hospitals and GP practices. One of the joys of working in the NHS is that you can see someone who is homeless in the same room on the same morning as someone who is extremely privileged. So the collection was inspired by the richness and diversity of life in contemporary Britain.

Goodness. I expect you see all kinds of life in your day job Miriam. Has that influenced your characters?

Quite a few of the characters are gay or lesbian, but the stories aren’t about being gay; they portray the gay and lesbian characters dealing with the challenges everyone faces in love and life.

That sounds as if you’re writing about people rather than labels to me. Brilliant!

Many of the stories involve characters from one social world having to interact with characters from a very different world. And if the pandemic has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that our lives are interconnected. We have a responsibility towards each other.

Oh I couldn’t agree more. The fragmentation of society concerns me. We need to support one another because we are, as you say, interconnected. Why did you choose to write short stories rather than a novel?

I love short stories and I hope the genre becomes more popular, because it is very well suited to fast-paced lives and new technologies. Irish people and Americans love short stories, but the British haven’t been so keen on them, so you’ve been missing out on the hidden treasures and pleasures of the form!

Not me! I love short stories and they often feature here on the blog. You’re right, though. Too many readers dismiss them and they are missing some simply wonderful writing.

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

I’ve brought along a song called ‘Streets of London‘. It’s by Ralph McTell and he asks listeners to look around them at the other people with whom they share the streets. His song focuses on people who are down on their luck, but my stories portray people who are up on their luck as well as characters who are struggling. All lives have their challenges and we’d probably be very bored if they didn’t.

I agree and I love that song. It’s timeless. Thanks so much Miriam, for staying in with me to chat about Women and Love. I think it sounds just my kind of read and I’m delighted it’s on my TBR pile!

Women and Love

‘I couldn’t sleep that night; our conversation was like a trapped bird flying around inside my head. The next morning, I texted to say I wouldn’t be coming back. I lied about having to return to my country to nurse a sick relative. I couldn’t bear to see my story mirrored in his eyes, and to see what we never had. I knew he’d understand.’

Women and Love is a thought-provoking collection of seventeen tightly woven tales about the power of love, all its trials and complications, and the shattered lives it can leave in its wake.

The stories explore a huge variety of sorts of love surrounding women in wildly differing settings, and features an unforgettable cast including GPs, burglars, inmates, emigrant cleaners, carers, young professionals, and many more. Navigating heavy themes, with a par­ticular focus on LGBTQ+ experiences, including gender dysphoria and searching for a sperm donor, the stories leave the reader burning with indignation, full of empathy and wonder.

Published by Renard Press on 23rd February 2022, Women and Love is available for purchase from Waterstones, Blackwell’s and directly from the publisher.

About Miriam Burke

A writer from the west of Ireland, Miriam Burke’s short stories have been widely published in anthologies and journals, including The Manchester ReviewLitro MagazineFairlight ShortsThe Honest UlstermanBookanista and Writers’ Forum. She has a PhD in Psychology, and before becoming a writer she worked for many years as a Clinical Psychologist in London hospitals and GP practices. Women and Love is her debut collection.

You can find out more about Miriam by visiting her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers on Twitter and Instagram too:


The Sunday Times Charlotte Aitkin Trust Young Writer of the Year Award Shortlist

In 2019 I was privileged to be a shadow panel judge for the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitkin Trust Young Writer of the Year Award. You can read all about my experience here. All the details about this year’s 30th anniversary books and events are available here.

The Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award is awarded for a full-length published or self-published (in book or ebook formats) work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, by an author aged 18 – 35 years.

The winner receives £10,000. There are three prizes of £1,000 each for runners-up.

The winning book will be a work of outstanding literary merit. The award is an annual prize, sponsored by the Sunday Times and the Charlotte Aitken Trust. The prize is administered by the Society of Authors.

You can follow the award on Twitter @YoungWriterYear, Facebook and Instagram.

I’m thrilled to have been sent a copy of all of this year’s shortlisted books by the lovely people at FMcM and soon I’ll be sharing my review of the poetry collection My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long, but first, I’ll give you a few more details about the featured books.

You might also like to know that tickets to an exciting event featuring all these up and coming young writers to be held at Waterstones Piccadilly on Wednesday 23rd February 2022 are available here, before the winner is announced on Thursday.


Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan

She’s twenty-three and in love with love. He’s older, and the most beautiful man she’s ever seen. The affair is quickly consuming.

But this relationship is unpredictable, and behind his perfect looks is a mean streak. She’s intent on winning him over, but neither is living up to the other’s ideals. He keeps emailing his thin, glamorous ex, and she’s starting to give in to secret, shameful cravings of her own. The search for a fix is frantic, and taking a dangerous turn…

We’re all looking to get what we want – but do we know what we need?

Acts of Desperation is published by Vintage and is available for purchase here.

Here Comes the Miracle by Anna Beecher

It begins with a miracle: a baby born too small and too early, but defiantly alive. This is Joe.

Then, two years later, Emily, arrives. From the beginning, the siblings’ lives are entwined.
Snake back through time. In a patch of nettle-infested wilderness, find Edward, seventeen-years-old, and falling in love with another boy.

In comes somebody else, Eleanor, with whom Edward starts a family. They find themselves grandparents to Joe and Emily.

When Joe is diagnosed with cancer, the family are left waiting for a miracle.

From one of our finest new authors, this is a profoundly beautiful novel about the unexpectedness of life and the miracle of love.

Here Comes the Miracle, is published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson and is available for purchase through the links here.

Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flyn

This is a book about abandoned places: ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man’s lands and fortress islands – and what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place.

In Chernobyl, following the nuclear disaster, only a handful of people returned to their dangerously irradiated homes. On an uninhabited Scottish island, feral cattle live entirely wild. In Detroit, once America’s fourth-largest city, entire streets of houses are falling in on themselves, looters slipping through otherwise silent neighbourhoods.

This book explores the extraordinary places where humans no longer live – or survive in tiny, precarious numbers – to give us a possible glimpse of what happens when mankind’s impact on nature is forced to stop. From Tanzanian mountains to the volcanic Caribbean, the forbidden areas of France to the mining regions of Scotland, Flyn brings together some of the most desolate, eerie, ravaged and polluted areas in the world – and shows how, against all odds, they offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery.

By turns haunted and hopeful, this luminously written world study is pinned together with profound insight and new ecological discoveries that together map an answer to the big questions: what happens after we’re gone, and how far can our damage to nature be undone?

Islands of Abandonment is published by Harper Collins and is available for purchase through the links here.

My Darling From the Lions by Rachel Long

Rachel Long’s much-anticipated debut collection of poems, My Darling from the Lions, announces the arrival of a thrilling new presence in poetry.

Each poem has a vivid story to tell – of family quirks, the perils of dating, the grip of religion or sexual awakening – stories that are, by turn, emotionally insightful, politically conscious, wise, funny and outrageous.

Long reveals herself as a razor-sharp and original voice on the issues of sexual politics and cultural inheritance that polarize our current moment. But it’s her refreshing commitment to the power of the individual poem that will leave the reader turning each page in eager anticipation: here is an immediate, wide-awake poetry that entertains royally, without sacrificing a note of its urgency or remarkable skill.

My Darling from the Lions is published by Picador and available for purchase here.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.

Open Water is published by Penguin and is available for purchase through the links here.


I wonder which of these talented young writers most appeals to you?

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

It’s a real privilege to be trusted with reviewing for My Weekly. This time I’m delighted to share my thoughts on The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson.

Published by Hodder on 17th February 2022, The Little Wartime Library is available for purchase through the links here.

The Little Wartime Library

Clara Button is no ordinary librarian. While the world remains at war, in East London Clara has created the country’s only underground library, built over the tracks in the disused Bethnal Green tube station. Down here a secret community thrives: with thousands of bunk beds, a nursery, a café and a theatre offering shelter, solace and escape from the bombs that fall above.

Along with her glamorous best friend and library assistant Ruby Munroe, Clara ensures the library is the beating heart of life underground. But as the war drags on, the women’s determination to remain strong in the face of adversity is tested to the limits when it seems it may come at the price of keeping those closest to them alive.

Based on true events, 
The Little Wartime Library is a gripping and heart-wrenching page-turner that remembers one of the greatest resistance stories of the war.

My Review of The Little Wartime Library

My full review of The Little Wartime Library can be found online on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Little Wartime Library is a thoroughly immersive, engaging story that celebrates the wonder of books and the lives of extra-ordinary ordinary people through a meticulously researched historical setting. I thought it was wonderful.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Kate Thompson

Kate Thompson was born in London in 1974, and worked as a journalist for twenty years on women’s magazines and national newspapers. She now lives in Sunbury with her husband, two sons and a Lurcher called Ted. After ghost writing five memoirs, Kate moved into fiction. Kate’s first non-fiction social history documenting the forgotten histories of East End matriarchy, The Stepney Doorstep Society, was published in 2018 by Penguin. Her seventh novel, The Little Wartime Library is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

For further information, visit Kate’s website, follow her on Twitter @katethompson380 or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Five Days Missing by Caroline Corcoran

Today I’m delighted to share the latest of my online reviews with My Weekly. This time it’s Five Days Missing by Caroline Corcoran.

Five Days Missing was published by Harper Collins imprint Avon on 17th February 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Five Days Missing

‘I did this. The most awful thing…’

Romilly disappeared hours after giving birth, leaving behind her baby. Now, those closest to her rally around to look after the little girl, and to figure out what drove Romilly to do such a thing.

Her husband Marc has an explanation that makes total sense. But is the easiest solution always the right one? And does someone in Romilly’s tight circle know more than they are letting on?

As secrets spill out and old ties are tested to their limits, one thing is clear: the truth will come out. The question is, who will still be alive to hear it?

A twist-filled, emotional tale of dark pasts and even darker secrets – perfect for fans of Adele Parks and Heidi Perks.

My Review of Five Days Missing

My full review of Five Days Missing can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that Five Days Missing is a disturbing and exciting narrative that ensnares the reader from the very first page and doesn’t let go!

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Caroline Corcoran

Caroline Corcoran’s first novel, Through The Wall, came out in October 2019. It was a Sunday Times top 20 bestseller and translated into numerous foreign languages. Her second book, The Baby Group, published in September 2020.

As well as writing books, Caroline is a freelance lifestyle and popular culture journalist who has written and edited for most of the top magazines, newspapers and websites in the UK.

For more information, follow Caroline on Twitter @cgcorcoran and Instagram.