A Spoonful of Murder by J.M.Hall

I’ve had A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall on my TBR for several months so when the chance to bump it and review it for My Weekly, I jumped at the chance.

Published by Harper Collins imprint Avon on 17th March 2022, A Spoonful of Murder is available for purchase through the links here.

A Spoonful of Murder

Introducing the three unlikeliest sleuths you’ll ever meet…

Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.

But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.

By the next Thursday, Topsy’s dead.

The last thing Liz, Thelma and Pat imagined was that they would become involved in a murder.

But they know there’s more to Topsy’s death than meets the eye – and it’s down to them to prove it…

Sit down with a cup of tea and this perfectly witty, page-turning cosy crime novel. Fans of Agatha Christie, Death in Paradise and Midsomer Murders will be hooked from the very first page.

My Review of A Spoonful of Murder

My full review of A Spoonful of Murder can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that A Spoonful of Murder is a delightful introduction to a set of warm, quirky characters whom I hope we see again in future books. A Spoonful of Murder is an engaging and hugely entertaining story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About J.M. Hall

J.M. Hall is an author, playwright and Deputy Head of a primary school. His plays have been produced in theatres across the UK as well as for radio, the most recent of which being Trust, a BBC Radio 4series about the Academy school system, starring Julie Hesmondhaulgh. He lives in Shipley and is currently working on his second novel and a third series of Trust.

You’ll find J.M. Hall on Instagram.

Staying in with Yewande Omotoso

One of the absolute joys of blogging is encountering books I would never otherwise come across. Such is the case with today’s featured novel. I’m delighted to welcome Yewande Omotoso to stay in with me to tell me all about it.

Staying in with Yewande Omotoso

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Yewande. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve got here An Unusual Grief, my latest novel.

What can we expect from an evening in with An Unusual Grief?

It’s a story that took about 3 years (of writing) to really find and then another 2 to finish. And I think that’s cause I was trying to connect death and desire. I kept getting stuck.

I think sometimes, the harder a book is to write, the more successful it is in the end. What is An Unusual Grief about?

On one level it’s a story about a 60-year-old woman grieving the death of her estranged daughter. But really I wanted to tell the story of someone, through grief, exhuming their own life; I wanted to explore this strange painful impossible equation where life equals death and death life and on and on. So the story is about Yinka dying and Mojisola waking up.

The correlation between death and re-evaluating life seems very strong to me. Certainly death can be an impetus to those left behind to do something different with our own remaining days.

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

All my memories of trying to write the novel! It might be very geeky for some but I find it interesting the way a book turns through the process of writing it. In the final story Yinka takes her life but in earlier versions I skirted around this; I always knew part of Mojisola’s awakening would be sexual but only later fully dove into the world of kink and took her along with me. This kind of way of working – where you are somehow in negotiation with the text and characters even as you form them – is familiar from my two previous books as well.

That’s fascinating. Thanks for much for staying in with me and introducing An Unusual Grief. Let me give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details.

An Unusual Grief

How do you get to know your daughter when she is dead?

This is the question which takes a mother on a journey of self-discovery. When her daughter Yinka dies, Mojisola is finally forced to stop running away from the difficulties in their relationship, and also come to terms with Yinka the woman. Mojisola’s grief leads her on a journey of self-discovery, as she moves into her daughter’s apartment and begins to unearth the life Yinka had built for herself there, away from her family. Through stepping into Yinka’s shoes, Mojisola comes to a better understanding not only of her estranged daughter, but also herself, as she learns to carve a place for herself in the world beyond the labels of wife and mother.

A bold and unflinching tale of one women’s unconventional approach to life and loss.

An Unusual Grief is published by Cassava Republic and is available for purchase here.

About Yewande Omotoso

Yewande Omotoso was born in Barbados. She grew up in Nigeria and moved to South Africa in 1992. Yewande trained as an architect. After completing a Masters degree in Creative Writing, her debut novel Bom Boy was published in 2011 by Modjaji Books and in the US and Canada in 2019 by Catalyst Press. It won the 2012 South African Literary Award for First-Time Published Author, was shortlisted for the 2012 Sunday Times Fiction Prize in South Africa as well as the M-Net Literary Awards 2012. Yewande was shortlisted for the 2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature and a winner of the Africa Centre’s Artists in Residency Programme in 2014.

Her second novel, The Woman Next Door, was shortlisted for the 2017 University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Literature, the Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize and the 2018 International DUBLIN Literary Award. It was longlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and was finalist in 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction. It was published by Chatto & Windus in 2016, and by Picador in the US,  Ullstein in Germany and De Geus in Holland in 2017 and by 66th and 2nd in Italy in 2018. It was published by Zoe Editions in France in 2019 and a Korean edition is forthcoming. Yewande lives in Johannesburg.

For further information, visit Yewande’s website, follow her on Twitter @yomotoso and find her on Instagram.

Spotlighting Inner Trek by Mohna Ranga Rao

Two years ago this week I was due to fly to India for a 28 day tour. Funnily enough that didn’t happen. Today, however, I’m delighted to be able to feature a book that can be a bit of compensation! My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this blog tour for Inner Trek: A Reluctant Pilgrim in the Himalayas by Mohna Ranga Rao . I’m only sorry I wasn’t able to fit in a review. Let me tell you all about it:

Inner Trek: A Reluctant Pilgrim in the Himalayas

After being threatened by a Bangalore mob boss, retired Indian businessman in Mohan Ranga Rao makes a vow: if he somehow gets out of the situation, he will thank the gods by going on Kailash Mansarova, a holy mountain pilgrimage in Tibet.

What starts out as merely a challenging high-altitude trek soon becomes a life-changing adventure.

With a blend of humour, honesty and keen insight, Mohan journeys toward a deeper understanding of the world around him.

A memoir of a road less travelled and a true story of self-discovery at 18,000 feet.

Inner Trek: A Reluctant Pilgrim in the Himalayas is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About Mohan Ranga Rao

Mohan Ranga Rao is an accomplished businessman, an avid traveller and a generous philanthropist. He has visited over thirty different countries and is drawn to places of natural beauty and physically-challenging trails. Mohan lives in Mysore with his wife Mamatha. They have two adult children. He plays tennis daily, takes frequent hikes and reads anything from scotch labels to quantum physics to Vedanta.

You can find Mohan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @mohanrangarao. There’s further information on the Inner Trek website and with these other bloggers:

100 Voices edited by Miranda Roszkowski

A couple of weeks ago I stayed in with editor Miranda Roszkowski to chat all about 100 Voices in a post you can read here. I’d already received a copy of the book, but hadn’t had chance to read it all. However, although I had other books I needed to read ahead of 100 Voices on my TBR, it kept drawing me back and today I’m delighted to share my review of 100 Voices.

Published by Unbound on 3rd March 2022, 100 Voices is available for purchase here.

100 Voices

100 Voices is an anthology of writing by women across the country on what achievement means for them, and how they have come to find their own voice. Featuring poetry, fiction and memoir, the pieces range from notes on making lemon curd, to tales of marathon running and riding motorbikes, to accounts of a refugee eating English food for the first time, a newlywed learning her mother tongue and a woman rebuilding her life after an abusive relationship.

The poignant, funny and inspiring stories collected here are as varied and diverse as their authors, who include established names such as Louise Jensen, Sabrina Mahfouz, Yvonne Battle-Felton and Miranda Keeling alongside a host of exciting new writers. Taken together, they build a picture of what it’s really like to be a woman in the UK today.

My Review of 100 Voices

An anthology of writing on achievement by 100 women arising out of a podcast run by Miranda Roszkowski.

I adored 100 Voices and I really just want to say, ‘Buy this book’! But that doesn’t really convey why adequately enough. I’m a cynical, world weary 60 year old who loathes band-waggon memes and contrived social media back slapping and yet I can honestly say that 100 Voices genuinely made me feel I have ‘found my tribe’!

Divided into sections that can be read in order or dipped into, 100 Voices inspired me from the moment I finished reading Deborah Frances-White’s introduction right through to discovering at the end that the proceeds from the book go to Rosa UK, a charity that works to improve the lives of women and girls in the UK. There are voices I was aware of such as the wonderful writer Louise Jensen and others with whom I was not familiar, but after each entry is a potted biography so that the reader gets to know writers, teachers, actors, politicians and the whole spectrum of women including those who might erroneously be viewed as ‘Just a Mum’. This provides a vivid patchwork of women and actually led me to research many of them, so that 100 Voices seems to have a life beyond the confines of its pages. 100 Voices also encourages readers to become writers and share their voices. It would be a real motivator for struggling writers or those who feel they have nothing to offer.

There are so many emotions and situations depicted in 100 Voices and the manner in which many of these women have triumphed over adversity is astonishing. This means that there really is an entry for any reader. And I mean any reader. Whilst women might perhaps find the contributions resonate more readily with them, I think any man reading this book would have a clearer understanding of women and, in some cases, find a much greater respect for the women here and in their own lives. Any reader can find insight into humanity between the pages of 100 Voices. To mis-quote Balzac, all female life is here.

Although I loved every piece in 100 Voices without exception, I think it Louise Taylor’s ‘A Future in Mid-Flight’ that touched me the most. The last line of her entry, which I won’t include here for fear of spoiling the discovery for readers, seems utterly timeless and incredibly pertinent to today’s world. I keep going back to it and each time I’m undone once again.

100 Voices is wonderful. It’s touching, inspirational, engaging, interesting and inclusive so that it really does have the effect of making the reader feel included and uplifted. Press a copy into the hands of everyone you know.

About Miranda Roszkowski

Miranda Roszkowski is a writer and civil servant currently living on a boat on Britain’s waterways. She has worked with the National Theatre Wales and Royal Court playwrighting programmes and has had fiction in print and online, including Birkbeck’s Mechanic’s Institute Review which she has previously edited. She is the host and curator of the spoken word night There Goes The Neighbourhood in Hackney, London and is currently working on her first novel.

For further information, visit the 100 Voices website or follow Miranda on Twitter @Miranda_Roszko, and find her on Instagram.

You can follow 100 Voices on Twitter @100voices100ye1.

Featuring I Give You My Heart by Wendy Holden

With Europe in its current state, there couldn’t be a more poignant time to invite lovely Wendy Holden back to Linda’s Book Bag to chat with me about her latest book, I Give You My Heart and share an extract from it. Wendy’s writing has a focus on war, the dispossessed and those whose personal stories illustrate the profound resilience of the human spirit. It feels a privilege to have I Give You My Heart on my TBR.

Wendy has been a previous visitor to the blog and you’ll find Born Survivors here.

Let’s see what Wendy told me about I Give You My Heart:

Staying in with Wendy Holden

Welcome Back to Linda’s Book Bag Wendy. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me once again.

Thanks for inviting me and for being so brilliantly supportive of authors in your incredible blog.

That’s very kind of you to say so. I know I have the answer, but which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I have brought my latest book I Give You My Heart which tells the extraordinary story of a Jewish girl hidden in Warsaw during WWII by Catholic friends of her parents. This unlikely friendship led to one of the most remarkable acts of selfless sacrifice after the Nazis invade their country. The teenager, guilty only of being Jewish, is saved from the fate that awaits her family by courageous Poles who paid the ultimate price for their bravery. So much was risked and so much lost but the legacy of their courage, love, and trust lives on. Now, at last, their story can be told and I am delighted to be the one chosen to tell it.

That sounds like a real privilege Wendy. It seems to me we probably haven’t learnt much from history…

What can we expect from an evening in with I Give You My Heart?

Readers can expect to be humbled and amazed by the lengths some people will go to help others in times of war. That thought is especially timely now, as we all reel from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. As a former war correspondent and an author who specialises in writing about the humanity to be found wherever there is inhumanity, I am humbled by the accidental timing of this publication.

It must feel bizarre to have written about a true story given what’s currently happening. How did this tale come to your attention?

The story first came to my attention five years ago after a woman approached me at the end of another presentation of my bestseller Born Survivors at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Shyly, she asked me if I’d write her mother’s story. To begin with, I wasn’t sure as I was busy with other projects but once I looked further into it I was so moved by the courage involved that I felt compelled to do as she asked.

She and I travelled to Poland to speak to the one person still alive who remembered what happened and I began the slow process of assembling and corroborating what she was able to tell me. What struck me most was how these two families ignored convention and prejudice to help one another and how that friendship endures today in their descendants.

Let’s hope that friendship and concern for others can prevail in current times too.

The staff at the museum told me that, just like Born Survivors, they thought this story unique and worthy of a movie one day. It has been a privilege to chronicle it for history and I only wish I could have met the two women involved. The book comes out on April 28 but has already received rave reviews and will be the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of the Month in July.

Despite the subject matter, this must give you immense satisfaction in knowing you’re not letting the ordinary people affected by war be forgotten. You should be incredibly proud.

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

I am bringing the words to the first verse of the Ukrainian national anthem which apply also to the beleaguered people of Poland during WWII. We must never forget the mistakes of the past and it is our moral duty to those who died not to repeat them.

Glorious spirit of Ukraine shines and lives forever.
Blessed by Fortune brotherhood will stand up together.
Like the dew before the sun enemies will fade,
We will further rule and prosper in our promised land.

Crikey Wendy. You’ve brought a tear to my eye with that. Thank you so much for chatting about I Give You My Heart. I’ll share a few more details before letting readers have access to an extract from the book:

I Give You My Heart

An unlikely friendship between two couples leads to one of the most remarkable acts of selfless sacrifice when the Nazis invade their country. A teenage girl, guilty only of being Jewish, is saved from the fate that awaits her family and hidden by her parents’ Catholic friends – who pay the ultimate price for their bravery. So much was risked and so much lost but the legacy of their courage and trust lives on through the surviving generations. Now, at last, their story can be told…

I Give You My heart will be published by Amsterdam Publishers on 28th April and is available for pre-order here.

An Extract from I Give You My Heart by Wendy Holden

In the courtyard the Germans separated into several groups and efficiently blocked every entrance to the building. After a while the family heard the clatter of their jackboots on their stairwell followed by loud banging on the doors of their apartment from the front and from the kitchen. It was them they had come for.

Ella recalled, “I was back living with Zula and preparing for my final exams when the Gestapo came. They were looking for Zula and her husband.” As the noise grew louder, the petrified Jowita and Kalina huddled against Pamaja’s legs in their nightclothes, all of them too afraid to move or even speak.

When Artur opened the front door, she said the intruders burst in and began rifling through the whole apartment. “They started with me and seeing that I had a lot of books around me, they asked, ‘What kind of books are they?’ throwing them around, deciding that this or that was illegal.” Jowita recalled that the five men, including two Gestapo officers in uniform, seemed very well informed about the layout of their home. They quickly scattered into the various rooms, shining flashlights into the faces of the occupants, who stood shivering in their nightclothes. They showed no interest in Pamaja, Ms. Nitecka, Miss Linka, or the two little girls, closing the double doors to the parlour after they had checked who they were. Instead, they continued to turn the place upside down and to focus only on Zula, Artur, and Ella.

Jowita still shivers at the memory. “We were so very afraid because, although we lived with the fear that we could be killed at any moment, German soldiers had never come to our apartment before. And of course we didn’t even know then how dangerous it was – with a Jewish girl, the Jewish owner of the flat, and two members of the resistance in our midst. In the dining room the Gestapo gathered only my parents and Ella. We couldn’t see anything because they had closed our door, but I heard shouting and my father falling down. I had no idea what they did to him but learned later that Mama had said something to calm Ella and had taken her hand and a German had shoved her away at which point my father had jumped in to defend her and was beaten to the floor.”

Straining to listen and frozen in terror, Jowita said she and Kalina and Pamaja stood by their beds as if they were statues. “I didn’t understand anything the soldiers said in their fast-barking screams, but I could hear only calm responses from my mother. Unfortunately, she had hidden almost everything from them but forgot to check her nightstand where, the previous evening, she’d carelessly thrown one of her false IDs – the German one with her photograph but the name of Zofia Pauser, a Wehrmacht officer’s widow. If they hadn’t found that then everything might have been different.”

The Gestapo informed Zula, Artur, and Ella that all three would accompany them to their headquarters and ordered them to get dressed. At Zula’s insistence, they allowed Ella to change quickly in the bathroom, while she and Artur were allowed into their bedroom one at a time, with the door half open so that the Gestapo could make ensure that they wouldn’t try to escape. The previous evening Zula and Artur had been to the Name Day party of a friend so she pulled on the evening dress she’d been wearing the night before and Artur put on his suit. Before being taken away, Zula demanded a few moments to say goodbye to her children. She wore a fixed smile as she drew her young daughters into her arms – a moment Jowita will never forget.

“They didn’t want Daddy or Ella to kiss us goodbye. When the door opened, I couldn’t see them in the room beyond, just the two officers. Under the supervision of a soldier standing in the doorway Mama came in very elegantly dressed and kissed us goodbye. I was weeping and told her, “What will I do? I will never see you again!” She was a very strong person but she almost collapsed then. She said something and smiled and then she whispered to Pamaja to take care of us. Pamaja told her, “Of course I will. I promise,” and she then marked the sign of the cross on Mama’s forehead. Then they took the three of them away.”

When the door slammed shut behind the departing Gestapo and soldiers, Jowita said: “Throughout the whole apartment building there was a truly deathly silence then. They didn’t take anyone else from any other apartment, just from ours. In the courtyard we could hear the steady tramp of boots and, in contrast to their military rhythm, the sound of Mother’s little steps in her high heels. It was a sound that haunted me for years. Then it was silent again.”

****

I’m sure you’ll have been as affected by Wendy’s writing as I have. Just a reminder, that I Give You My Heart is available for purchase here.

About Wendy Holden

Wendy Holden was a journalist for eighteen years, including a decade at the Daily Telegraph where she worked as a foreign and war correspondent. She is author and the co-author of more than thirty books, including several bestselling wartime biographies, including Tomorrow to be BraveTill the Sun Grows Cold, and Behind Enemy Lines. She lives in Suffolk, England with her husband and two dogs and divides her time between the U.K. and the U.S.

You can find out more by visiting Wendy’s website, finding her on Facebook and Instagram, or following Wendy on Twitter @wendholden.

Staying in with Deborah Stone

It’s so frustrating that I simply can’t read all the fantastic books there are in the world. However, occasionally I can find out more about them even if I don’t have time to read them and today I’m chatting with Deborah Stone all about her recent release. I’m only sorry it has taken me so long to feature Deborah as I have a feeling the book she’s discussing with me will really appeal to Linda’s Book Bag readers.

Staying in with Deborah Stone

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Deborah and thank you for staying in with me.

It’s an absolute pleasure. It’s so kind of you to invite me in.

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

 

Well, Linda, I’ve brought along my new book, Me and My Shadow, which is my second novel. I wrote it during lockdown. It has been a difficult time for my family, as it has for many others, as I lost my mother to Covid and we went through the trauma not only of losing her, but also not being able to visit or be with her at the end, plus very few of us could attend the funeral.

Oh my condolences Deborah. That must have been devastating for you all. 

Shortly afterwards, I woke up in the middle of the night with the kernel of an idea of this new book. It was very odd, but I thought that I must try to write it and I did.  Me and My Shadow is a psychological suspense with an unreliable narrator – something I’ve always been drawn towards.  It covers some difficult issues relating to family dynamics, sibling rivalry and mental health, but also the themes of the importance of live and support, with some lighter moments too.

It sounds as if Me and My Shadow could be a distillation of everything you went through. Fascinating. How have readers found it?

So far, it’s been well received, which is lovely, as it’s nerve-wracking putting a book out there not knowing what others might think! Some of the latest reviews include:

‘I absolutely loved this book. It kept me engrossed from start to finish. It is my first book of the year and what a book to start the year with. It was definitely a 5-star book for me.’

‘Through her central character, author Deborah Stone creates a compelling account of how life experiences and mental health influence the paths we take and where they can lead. I read this book in a couple of days, not wanting to put it down, as the suspense built, and unexpected and shocking twists emerged. This is a story that will stay with me.’

‘In a year when we have all become more aware of our mental health, and a time when so many of us have become curious about the multiple voices in our heads, this book highlights the games our brains play. Page turning, I was drawn in and intrigued by both character and plot. A great Christmas present and a treat for curling up in front of the fire. Highly recommended.’

Those are such wonderful comments Deborah. You must be thrilled.

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

 

Well, Linda, I’ve brought along a picture of my beloved dog George, who passed away after thirteen and a half years just a few days after I published Me and My Shadow. He was, in effect, my co-author, as he sat with me throughout my writing of this book and my previous novel and non-fiction book. I am lost without him. I must admit that I have started to think about getting a puppy, which I think George would approve of, as he always wanted to make people happy.

Oh my goodness. What an awful time you’ve had. I so hope that Me and My Shadow does as well for you as it sounds it deserves by way of small compensation for your losses. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about the book and for sharing some of these momentous events with Linda’s Book Bag readers. 

Me and My Shadow

When the line between truth and lies blurs…

Imagine being flooded with shame, unworthiness, and paranoia. Each day you wake up to a life that feels just beyond the reach of your control. No matter how many attempts you make to move forward, you are met repeatedly with betrayal and rejection from your family – the very people who are supposed to love you the most. This is the reality for Rachel. Since childhood, all she has ever desired is to be loved, to be seen, to be accepted, yet she faces one disappointment after another.

So, what happens when someone is pushed too far and they begin to lose their grip on reality? How would you cope if you felt that no one loved you? And how far would you go to be happy? Accompany Rachel as she tries to shake off the shadows of her past and attempts to repair decades worth of pain.

This is the second novel from Deborah Stone, the award-winning author of What’s Left Unsaid.

Published on 10th December 2021, Me and My Shadow is available for purchase here.

About Deborah Stone

Deborah Stone read English Literature at Durham University and lives in North London with her husband, two sons.

Her new novel, Me and My Shadow, is a thrilling psychological suspense novel. https://deborahstonebooks.com/

Her first novel, What’s Left Unsaid, won The Chill With A Book Runner Up Prize for Best Book of 2018 and has been highly acclaimed.

Her non-fiction book, The Essential Family Guide to Caring for Older People, is an important manual for any family looking after older relatives. It is published by Bloomsbury.

Deborah Stone is a leading expert in the field of elder care. Through her website, Mature Thinking she provides information and advice for families caring for older people, as well as advising companies on the effective development of products and services for older people. Deborah regularly appears on BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 5 as a care expert, as well as contributing to lifestyle magazines and national newspapers with advice for those making decisions about care for relatives.

For further information visit Deborah’s website where you’ll find all her books, follow her on Twitter @DeborahStone_ and find her on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

It’s A Wonderful World by Jess French

My enormous thanks to Cora Siedlecka at DK for sending me a copy of children’s book It’s A Wonderful World by Jess French with illustrations by Aleesha Nandhra in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Published by DK Books on 10th March 2021, It’s A Wonderful World is available for purchase through the links here.

It’s A Wonderful World

DK brings you a beautifully illustrated and engaging book to teach young readers how to protect our planet and change the world!

Introducing It’s a Wonderful World a captivating storybook set out to encourage children to look after the world around them, one step at a time.

Celebrate your child’s curiosity as they navigate through this perfect conservation book to discover all the wonderful ways to protect and preserve the biodiversity of the natural world, whilst learning about the main challenges our planet faces today.

An empowering and practical guide o looking after our planet, your child can discover:

-An excellent introduction to nature conservation for young readers
-A unique guide to studying different ecosystems and the biodiversity within the environment
-Graphic illustrations to complement stunning photography featured throughout
-An enthralling insight into lesser-known animals that inhabit the natural world

Did you know that more than 50% of child psychologists in England are currently seeing patients distressed about the state of the environment? It’s time to change that!

Invest in this all-encompassing environment book and shape your child’s learning for the better.

Proving to be an excellent education tool for children aged 7-9, this is a must-have volume for any young reader with a passion for protecting the planet, whether it’s researching plastic pollution or studying snow leopards, this nature book for kids really does have it all.

At DK, we believe in the power of discovery. So let us quench your thirst for knowledge and teach you a trick or two about balance and biodiversity along the way!

One book at a time, we believe you can change the world!

My Review of It’s A Wonderful World

An insight into the world’s environment.

I had high expectations for It’s A Wonderful World and each one was not only met, but surpassed. With everything from where the Earth sits in the universe, to dung beetles and humpback whales and through to a glossary of terms, this is a book to ignite a child’s imagination and hook them into an understanding of their place in the world and what they might do to help it.

I thought the direct appeal to the reader from Jess French’s Introduction gave important status to children and made them feel as if they had a role to play. I think it sits best with children aged 6-9, although I can imagine older children with extra educational needs being thoroughly engaged too. There are activities included such as cloud gazing, or creating a wild area even in a small space, that are readily accessible to young readers, but It’s A Wonderful World has so much more to offer in a wider context. That glossary can aid literacy, as can the new vocabulary or using the index to show children how to access information in written form rather than simply googling mindlessly. Science through the water cycle or geography through the section on rain forests or wetlands might lead to further classroom exploration and I can imagine speaking and listening activities, letter writing, project work and forest schools drawing on It’s A Wonderful World time and again.

Alongside small, accessible chunks of text are magnificent illustrations and photographs so that It’s A Wonderful World is vivid, engaging and a real feast for the eyes. As always with this publisher’s books, the cover is solid and robust so that it will withstand much handling in the home or classroom. I also have to admire the fact the book is printed with responsibly sourced materials and soy ink in keeping with its environmental theme.

It’s A Wonderful World is filled with fascinating facts, simple tips for all, not just children, to adopt to help the planet and is beautifully presented to draw in visual learners too. I thought it was excellent.

About Jess French

Jess French is a nature lover, TV presenter, author, and qualified vet. She is known for her show on CBeebies, called ‘Minibeast Adventure with Jess’, which encourages children to explore the outdoors and get to know the bugs around them. She has written two other books for DK, What a Waste, which tackles the subject of sustainability for children, and The Book of Brilliant Bugs, which explores the world of minibeasts. Jess is a keen conservationist and has a passion for oceans and the animal world.

For further information, follow Jess on Twitter @Zoologist_Jess or find her on Instagram.

About Aleesha Nandhra

Aleesha Nandhra is an Illustrator based in London. Aleesha also collaborates in running an artist led café which aims to serve chai and create spaces that nurture friendship and enterprise across class, caste and religion.

For further information, follow Aleesha on Twitter @AleeshaNandhra, find her on Instagram or visit her website.

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

I’ve been meaning to read Space Hopper by Helen Fisher since it was released in hardback, so I’m delighted that it’s my latest review for for My Weekly.

Published in paperback by Simon and Schuster on 17th March 2021, Space Hopper is available for purchase in all formats through the links here.

Spacehopper

If you could go back in time to find answers to the past, would you?

For Faye, the answer is yes. There is nothing she wouldn’t do to find out what really happened when she lost her mother as a child. She is happy with her life – she has a loving husband, two young daughters and supportive friends, even a job that she enjoys. But questions about the past keep haunting her, until one day she finally gets the chance she’s been waiting for.

But how far is she willing to go to find answers?

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

My Review of Space Hopper

My full review of Space Hopper can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that Space Hopper completely took me by surprise. I’d anticipated a romcom style read and instead found a though-provoking, intriguing exploration of what makes us who we are and that contemplates the relationships we make. I found it fascinating.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Helen Fisher

Helen Fisher spent her early life in America, but grew up mainly in Suffolk where she now lives with her two children. She studied Psychology at Westminster University and Ergonomics at UCL and worked as a senior evaluator in research at the RNIB. She is now a full-time author. Space Hopper is her first novel. She is currently working on her second novel.

You an follow Helen on Twitter @HFisherAuthor and find her on Instagram.

Staying in with Jen Smith

It gives me very great pleasure to welcome Jen Smith to Linda’s Book Bag today. My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and for arranging for Jen to stay in with me to chat about her debut book.

Staying in with Jen Smith

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Jen. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I have brought Falling for the Competition, a contemporary YA geeky swoonfest, my debut release (and it’s super pink).

It certainly is! Congratulations on your debut. So, what can we expect from an evening in with Falling for the Competition

I hope you fall in love Quinn and Patrick! She’s a highly strung, ambitious girl and he’s a beautiful, confident, sunshiny boy. It’s a YA contemporary romance with a healthy dose of castles, medieval history, King John and, yes, competition. It’s long looks, academic rivals, shared proximity, enemies to lovers, and a beautiful swoony picnic or two. There’s a toxic relationship, difficult friendships, and a discovery that life isn’t just about achieving.

Crikey. It sounds pretty packed with romance!

I hope you adore it as much as me!

How have other readers reacted to Falling for the Competition?

They’ve said things like:

‘realistic and relatable characters’

‘rich, detail-filled world’

‘A thoroughly enjoyable read’

‘Their banter is delicious and their romance is so sweet you can’t help being drawn in. Jen Smith’s humor is front and center, but you will also find yourself swept away by her historical content, immersive descriptions and wonderfully human characters’

‘if you love YA romance and snarky sweet characters, you’ll breeze through this one’

What smashing responses. What else have you brought along and why?

As we’re staying in, I’ve brought my trusty blanket and an endless supply of the only true major food group: crisps (because who doesn’t love crisps).

Quite right. I hope there are some cheese and onion ones there!

I’ve brought Marc Morris’ book on King John because I spent a lot of time in it, checking that I had my facts straight and, quite frankly, I love King John. Poor guy, has such a bad reputation which I don’t think is entirely deserved. Okay, enough about John. I’m a medieval history geek, and I’m not afraid to admit it. My parents took me to Warwick Castle when I was 11 and that was that, I’ve never looked back. The castle in the book isn’t based on Warwick (it’s too big!), but it’s a smorgasbord of all the castles I’ve dragged my family to (which is a lot).

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of castle visiting Jen. I’m very partial to Conwy myself!

I’ve brought my trusty bullet journal, because I’m super organised and how else will I know what my day consists of (mainly scrolling Twitter and adding to my TBR).

I think we all know that Twitter scrolling. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Falling for the Competition. I think you should open some more crisps whilst I give readers a few more details:

Falling for the Competition

It’s going to be the best summer ever for ambitious, overachieving Quinn. A huge history buff, not only has she landed her dream job interning in the archives department of the local castle, but her best friend will be working there too.

However, Quinn isn’t the only one to be working in Archives this summer; Quinn’s academic rival, Patrick, is sharing her office in Muniments. They’re competing for the Letter of Recommendation (singular) from the research historian that Quinn needs to get her dream future placement.

Their emotionally-loaded and competitive rivalry turns into a reluctant friendship, as they spend every day working together in silence (and sharing the occasional Twix). Until the Re-Enactors arrive. Between Patrick and Harry – the Golden Knight of the jousting team – Quinn’s carefully planned summer is thrown into complete disarray. Meanwhile, her best friend’s relationship may look perfect on the outside, but Quinn is starting to realise that there’s more going on than there seems.

Although Quinn is determined and single minded about planning every detail of her sparkling future, she comes to discover that the best things in life are the spontaneous ones – and that some people are more important than any Letter of Recommendation (singular) could ever be.

Falling For The Competition is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About Jen Smith

Jen lives in the Midlands with her husband and two children. With a Masters Degree in Medieval History, Jen loves castles and King John a little too much. Strangely un-British, she does not like tea, oranges or marzipan, but adores French cheese, guava juice and Chinese food (not together).

When not writing, Jen can often be found pointing out historical inaccuracies in period dramas, being a Lady that Lunches with close friends and playing board games with her family. Note: her handbags are always heavy due to multiple books (just in case she needs them).

For further information, follow Jen on Twitter @jensmith950.

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Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

It gives me enormous pleasure to participate in the blog tour for Sarah Vaughan’s latest book, Reputation. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

Published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd March 2022, Reputation is available for purchase through the links here.

Reputation

Emma Webster is a respectable MP.

Emma Webster is a devoted mother.

Emma Webster is innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist.

Emma Webster is a liar.

#Reputation: The story you tell about yourself. And the lies others choose to believe…

My Review of Reputation

Emma Webster’s political career is on the rise.

My goodness me. Reputation is a stunner of a book. Sarah Vaughan’s scalpel sharp, taut prose, doesn’t miss a beat throughout so that reading Reputation is an affecting, almost contaminating read. That is by no means a criticism, but rather the author plunges the reader into a world of intrigue, social media and duplicity that is so authentic it’s hard not to believe every word of this narrative is true and not simply a story.

Sarah Vaughan presents such a plausible scenario, as Emma Webster fights for her daughter and her reputation, that the narrative compels the reader to confront the reality of rarefied life in public office, alongside the more knowable experience of toxic female relationship in schools, in a perfectly balanced, utterly convincing and frankly, morally terrifying manner. I was unsettled and horrified, shocked and entertained in equal measure. There’s a diamond glitter of menace that runs throughout Reputation that I found breath-taking. It’s impossible to say too much about the plot for fear of spoiling the story for others, but Reputation is a book that is both modern and timeless in its exploration of relationships, power and, of course, reputation. I confess to feeling somewhat shell-shocked by the end.

Emma’s voice is so realistic that she became utterly real to me. She’s both flawed and admirable, illustrating to perfection how we justify our actions and showing how easy it is to slip from the paths we want to tread. The parliamentary setting serves to heighten the sense of authenticity of Emma’s situation and decisions. Reputation is a book that plays with the reader’s mind and moral compass as Emma deserves both our admiration and possibly our contempt at different points of the story.

Reputation is an intelligent, razor sharp exploration of the lies we tell ourselves and others, of the menace of social media, and of the terrifying consequences of the smallest wrong decisions. I thought it was absolutely superb.

About Sarah Vaughan

Brought up in Devon, Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After training at the Press Association, she spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter, political correspondent and health correspondent, before leaving to freelance and write fiction. Anatomy of a Scandal, her third novel was an instant international bestseller and translated into 22 languages, long-listed for the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year 2018 and short-listed for the Audible Sounds of Crime Award, GoodReads Jury’s Out award, French Elle’s Prix des Lectrices and Richard & Judy’s ‘Best of the Decade.’ Anatomy of a Scandal has been adapted for screen and will air on Netflix as a six-part series in Spring 2022. Little Disasters, her fourth novel, was selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month in 2021, has been sold to the US, France, Portugal, Sweden and Spain, and optioned for TV. Reputation is her fifth novel.

You can find Sarah Vaughan on Facebook, visit her website and follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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