Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief written and illustrated by Decima Blake

Decima Blake has appeared on Linda’s Book Bag a couple of times when we’ve been chatting about about her novels Hingston’s Box in a post you’ll find here and Hingston’s Mispers here. Today, however, I’m realising what a talented individual Decima is as I review her latest book Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief which is both written and illustrated by Decima. My enormous thanks to her for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief is published today, 28th April 2022, by Pegasus Books and is available for purchase through the links here.

Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief

Detective Dachshund of Battersea Police wears a smart blue hat and a matching fleece. He has boundless energy for fighting crime, but his detective skills, sadly, are far from sublime.

Now, Detective Dachshund one night was told, to catch a fluffy thief who was sneaky and bold.

The thief went by the name of Clawdius Cat… and should our detective trust Reece the Rat?

Wanted posters showed the cat’s cheeky face, blowing raspberries from lamp posts all over the place!

Officers had already scoured the city… how could Detective Dachshund find this bad kitty?

My Review of Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief

Detective Dachshund has a new case to solve.

Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief is a smashing children’s book that works on many levels so that it can be enjoyed by all ages. Young children will enjoy the story as a simple adventure alongside the brilliant illustrations, with the cadences of rhyme and rhythm drawing them in to the narrative. There’s some lovely humour like grease on a drainpipe that will appeal too.

Slightly older readers will find even more to enjoy and I can see Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief being used in classrooms to exemplify rhymes, homophones and a varied vocabulary because Decima Blake introduces new and unfamiliar words in an accessible context. I though this was an excellent aspect of the text.

The illustrations are brilliant and this makes Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief appealing to reluctant readers. As the narrative is written in rhyming couplets, it also means there isn’t too much text for struggling readers to encounter at any one time. I thoroughly appreciated the correct use of speech marks within the rhyming couplets too as an exemplar to emergent writers. I’d love to see the book used as a stimulus for drama with children acting it out as a play for a real audience because I think its balance of simplicity and excitement would lend itself very well.

I thought the themes of Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief were pitch-perfect for any age group. Decima Blake exemplifies that all is not always as it seems, that team work can give excellent results and that just because something isn’t easy it doesn’t mean it’s worth giving up. These are valuable life lessons.

Add in the fact that some of the royalties from Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief will be donated to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Great stuff.

About Decima Blake

Decima Blake, author of the Hingston series, has a long-standing interest in child protection and is deeply passionate about child victims of crime. Hingston: Smoke and Mispers is the second in the series, following Hingston’s Box which was published in 2016. Decima combines historical research, accurate police procedure and a touch of spookiness to provide readers with an immersive experience as they join Hingston on his race to solve cases involving missing persons and murder. A percentage of royalties are donated to the charity Embrace Child Victims of Crime.

Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief is written and illustrated by Decima Blake. She created Detective Dachshund to entertain audiences of all ages with humorous stories and to inspire young readers to explore the fun of writing in rhyme. A percentage of royalties will be donated to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

For more information about Decima, follow her on Twitter @decimablake and Instagram or find her on Goodreads.

The Spa Break by Caroline James

I’m a huge fan of Caroline James – both as an author and as a generous human being – so I’m very grateful to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Caroline’s latest book The Spa Break. Not only am I sharing my review today, but I have a wonderful giveaway for you too.

Caroline has featured often on Linda’s Book Bag. Previously Caroline was celebrating her novel The Best Boomerville Hotel in this post and I reviewed the book here. Caroline provided her top ten writing tips here, when Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me was published and allowed me to interview her here.  Caroline also told me about writer’s block and I reviewed her novel Jungle Rock here.

The Spa Break was published by One More Chapter on 15th April and is available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play and Barnes and Noble.

The Spa Break

The Spa Break – The laugh-out-loud romantic comedy of the year for fans of The Book Club with Jane Fonda & Judy Leigh!

A weekend at the spa will leave four old friends with a whole lot more than they’d bargained for…

The glossy brochure promised a serene experience of total tranquillity and rejuvenation, but what best friends Bridgette, Emily, Serena and Marjory get is a weekend that upends their lives!

There for a girls’ weekend to celebrate Bridgette’s impending seventieth birthday, the spa soon has these spicy sexagenarians realising that there are unexpected benefits to age and experience, and that over the hill certainly doesn’t mean out of the game…in any respect…

My Review of The Spa Break

Four friends are off for a birthday spa break.

The Spa Break is an absolute joy. It’s slightly mad, funny, uplifting and filled with warmth and friendship so that it’s impossible not to feel happier as a result of reading it.

I so enjoyed meeting Serena, Bridgette, Emily and Marjory. It’s absolutely wonderful to encounter women in their sixties with all their attendant anxieties, routines and habits amassed over the years so that they feel much more real and relatable than so many thirty somethings in books. As The Spa Break allows them to discover sexual, emotional, artistic and professional creativity, there’s a joie de vivre that makes the reader feel they can achieve what they want too. It’s as if Caroline James is giving her readers the chance to be reminded of who they are and who they might like to be every bit as much as the four ladies in the book. That’s not to say that everything runs smoothly, but the bumps along the way add authenticity and the immense pleasure in reading The Spa Break.

There’s a relatively simple plot set over a long weekend that is all the more realistic because all the action takes place in the hotel and its grounds, making the reader believe any of the events could, genuinely, have happened. I loved the concept that, whist supporting one another and celebrating Brigitte’s seventieth birthday, each of the ladies is able to be an individual, find what works for her and doesn’t need to be just another adjunct to the group. All the minor characters are equally memorable too so that The Spa Break feels natural and engaging.

But within the fun and frolics are weightier themes that make The Spa Break such a good read. Professional duplicity, fame, ambition, marriage, relationships, identity, the role of social media in the modern world, ageism, expectation, parenthood and so on make this a layered and maturely written narrative that gently teaches even as it entertains.

I so enjoyed reading The Spa Break. I’ve come to expect humour, humanity and entertainment from Caroline James. The Spa Break has them all with added sexiness so that it’s a cracking read. I loved this treat of a book because it made me feel happy.


Giveaway to Win a Fred the Westie soft toy and a personalised box of chocolates (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter by clicking here.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

About Caroline James

Best-selling author of women’s fiction, Caroline James, has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that often features in her novels. She is based in the UK but escapes whenever lockdown allows. A public speaker, which has included talks and lectures on cruise ships worldwide, Caroline is also a consultant and food writer. Caroline writes articles and runs writing workshops, is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association, the Society of Women’s Writer & Journalists and the Society of Authors. In her spare time, Caroline can be found walking with Fred, her Westie and in summer, wild water swimming. In winter, when not working, she relaxes with her head in a book and hand in a box of chocolates.

You can find out more about Caroline on her website and by following her on Twitter @CarolineJames12. You’ll also find her on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

A Publication Eve Interview with Chris Malone, Author of A School Inspector Calls

Many moons ago, before I decided life was too short to keep working, one of my educational roles was as a school’s OfSTED inspector. As a result it’s an absolute delight to welcome back Chris Malone to Linda’s Book Bag today because I have a feeling that her latest book will be right up my street!

Chris has previously featured on the blog chatting all about two of her other books including #isolate here and #stoptheglitch here.

Discussing A School Inspector Calls with Chris Malone

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

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

Hi Linda, it is such a pleasure to spend some time with you again, on the eve of publication day for my satirical novella about school inspection. This time I have brought with me A School Inspector Calls, but who is the fool in the school?

What can we expect from an evening in with A School Inspector Calls?

We can expect wry enjoyment. It is a cracking tale, with a touch of naivety and a good dose of parody, as the cover implies. In fact, the amazing front and back cover designs were created by my eldest daughter, I think any readers of the book will agree, Heather really captures the spirit of the characters, including Ayiesha on the back.

Wow. What a talented family you are. You must be so proud of Heather.

Tell me a little more about Ayiesha. 

Ayiesha is the star of the show, a selective mute who learns to speak out about injustice. The plot hinges on her silent participation in the drama at Marsh Street, and her courage to confront the inspectors head-on.

And the weather plays its part throughout the book: ‘The children’s footwear is wet and muddy simply from walking along the pavements, and the floor of the school hall is now smeared with a combination of four-hundred shoes and two-hundred bottoms.’ As the floods rise, the action steps up, resulting in a possibly unexpected denouement.

A School Inspector Calls sounds very different to your thrillers. Why the change?

My move into this new genre is a result of a burning feeling inside me that such a book needed to be written. I am grappling with a hiatus in thriller-writing, and certainly in dystopia, while raw and serious real-life scenarios plague mankind. I definitely need more laughter in my life, and am told that others do too, so here is a sneak peek:

‘Gloria is speaking loudly on her phone, letting all present know that she is talking to the Chief of the Inspectorate himself. She preens, and Jill Grimly pounces.

‘Excuse me Mrs Dart, but we have a zero tolerance on mobile phones in this school, including visitors. You must either give me your phone to place in the security of the school office, or you must leave the premises to take your call.’ She looks out at the teeming rain and adds, ‘Perhaps in your car?’

Gloria is utterly indignant. She stands agape, unused to such treatment. Her mouth forms an odd circle but she seems unable to utter a sound. She is rescued by Ann, who takes the phone, in its jewelled case …

Jill has certainly proved that she can challenge the esteemed senior inspector, but Margaret questions the wisdom of antagonising an extremely influential figure on this day, and at this point in Jill’s educational career.

‘You do realise who she is?’ Margaret asks weakly.’

That’s brilliant Chris. I think you’re right. We all need a bit of a lift from all the real world misery at the moment and A School Inspector Calls sounds just the thing! Is there a serious aspect too?

There is, of course, a serious side to the book. I have taught classes during inspections, I have led inspections, lived and breathed the role of headteacher, and I do not hide my views of an inspection system which can torment passionate, hardworking professionals. The inspection system in the book (NB the only mention of Ofsted is in my biography), is outdated, corrupt and overly bureaucratic. It needs to change so that communities like Marsh Street can thrive without the threat of a school takeover, and so ‘inspirational’ ‘misfits’ like Ayiesha, are no longer ‘beaten by the system.’

I’m with you there Chris.

In my view, there is a fine line between schools as community centres and schools as havens of focused learning. I am certainly not a fan of hot houses for the latest educational fad dreamt up by an out of touch government, and I hope to bring these tensions to life. I also touch on academisation as a concept, as readers will discover.

Drawing in colleagues and friends from the world of education, I shaped the final text. In fact, I actually changed the name of one character, and adjusted the ending as a result of their comments. One thing was clear, they all thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, several binge-reading in one sitting! It is deliberately short, with busy people in mind.

I’m going to have to squeeze it in to my TBR Chris. What did those readers have to say about A School Inspector Calls?

‘I found this novel gripping. I was invested in the narrative, and in the characters. The pace was a strength, moving the reader through the days of floods and inspection.’ (Sandra North, retired headteacher)

‘I found myself relating to the story and descriptions of the school in the context of my own experiences in teaching and advisory work, which really endeared me to your writing.’ (Liz van Santen)

What brilliant responses. You must be thrilled. So, what else have you brought along and why?

In keeping with the staff room in Marsh Street Primary School, I have brought pink wafer biscuits for us to enjoy with our cups of tea, in a nostalgic mood for the grab-and-go life of school break times. Finding gluten and lactose free was a challenge.

‘The inspector steps across the room, crunching on a scree of fallen pink wafer biscuits and says quietly, ‘I just reminded them of the teaching criteria …’’

I bet! I love a wafer biscuit and a cuppa! But what’s that you’re holding?

In addition to my book, I have also brought two treasured items: firstly, the original artwork for the cover, now framed on the chimney breast by my desk, and secondly a beautiful wooden Wentworth jigsaw puzzle of the cover, which has featured on Twitter and Facebook in recent weeks.

It was a present from my husband Ken and has already given me much pleasure (I have been a jigsaw puzzle addict for many years, using the process to destress and sort my thoughts into some sort of order).

That’s just wonderful. What gorgeous keepsakes for your book. Thanks so much for chatting with me about A School Inspector Calls Chris. I wish you every success for publication day tomorrow. Now, you pass me a wafer and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details:

A School Inspector Calls, but who is the fool in the school?

Two primary schools face each other across the river; one outstanding, the other inclusive.

At precisely 8am, Margaret Jones’ hire car draws up outside Marsh Street Primary. The beleaguered inspector is being quality assured by two senior colleagues who defend the outdated inspectorate with vigour.

Jill Grimly, the dedicated acting headteacher, teeters precariously between failure and success, assisted by one of her devoted pupils, Ayiesha, a girl with special needs.

The inspection slides into a fiasco; who is the blackmailer, and who is the fool in the school?


Chris Malone tackles school inspection, academisation and exclusion of special needs pupils, head on, through her entertaining yet unforgiving parody. As an ex-headteacher, ex-inspector and parent, she writes from the heart. As well as humour, she portrays an underlying regret that schools like Marsh Street and St Drogo’s still exist.

Interested to see a glimpse of the uncomfortable reality of this school inspection? Then read on …

Published tomorrow, the 27th April by Burton Mayers, A School Inspector Calls, but who is the fool in the school? is available for purchase from Amazon and Brown’s Books.

About Chris Malone

During a thirty-year career in education, Chris saw numerous school and early years inspections through the eyes of the local authority, the inspectorate, a class teacher and parent. She was also a primary headteacher for four years, somehow escaping the call.

Chris worked as a freelance early years inspector, and spent eight months as an Ofsted HMI, responsible for leading school inspections, including placing a primary school in special measures.

Since retiring from the role of Head of Education in Warwickshire, Chris has written three novels: Zade, and two political thrillers published by Burton Mayers Books, #stoptheglitch and #isolate. A School Inspector Calls, but who is the fool in the school? is her fourth book.

Chris lives with her husband in Herefordshire, and has three grown-up children. This time, the cover design is by her daughter Heather:

For more information about Chris, visit her website and follow her on Twitter @CMoiraM.

Staying in with Greg Hickey

My apologies to Greg Hickey that is has taken me over three months to find the opportunity to stay in with him and chat about his writing. I’m very pleased finally to welcome Greg to Linda’s Book Bag today. Let’s see what we’ve been waiting to find out:

Staying in with Greg Hickey

Welcome, at last, to Linda’s Book Bag Greg and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

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

I’ve brought Parabellum as it’s a book that reflects what happens in society.

What can we expect from an evening in with Parabellum?

Obviously, Parabellum deals with a very serious and disturbing subject matter, so this won’t be a Netflix-and-chill kind of evening. That said, I believe the conversations around violence in society, its perpetrators and their motivations are important.

I think books have a very important role to play in enabling us to consider difficult topics Greg. 

I set out to write this novel wondering what would drive someone to shoot up a theatre or school or concert hall full of random, helpless people. But as I researched and wrote the novel, that question evolved into something bigger. I found myself trying to understand and develop empathy for people who are capable of senseless violence while acknowledging that these perpetrators do not show empathy for their victims. I also wanted to avoid aggrandizing mass shootings, a practice that we often see in media coverage of these incidents and one which plays into the shooter’s aims.

Gosh. That’s very ambitious.

So I hope that through this fictional treatment of the subject, I’ve managed to come up with a compelling story that will also ask readers to confront the dark parts of themselves and others with honesty and empathy. Parabellum is a dark novel about a dark subject. But I also believe that readers will find some hope in this story.

We all need that hope Greg, regardless of the darkness in life.

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

Parabellum is set in my home city of Chicago, and I wanted that setting to play a big role in the novel. I spent a lot of time walking around different neighbourhoods and riding various bus routes so that I could get a feel for the city and how it would change depending on where my characters were in Chicago and what was going on in their lives.

There’s an important series of scenes where a college-aged white girl from a well-to-do family goes to dinner with her boyfriend in Pilsen, a historically Mexican-American neighbourhood in the city. The restaurant they visit is fictional, but I’ve brought some dishes from 5 Rabanitos, a real restaurant in that neighbourhood. I spent a chilly and rainy evening walking around Pilsen, ducking in and out of the art galleries there, and trying to capture some details that would bring my story to life before joining my wife for dinner at 5 Rabanitos. So hopefully, this meal will help readers get a better sense of this small part of Chicago and what they can expect from Parabellum as a whole.

I love Mexican food Greg. If you’re going to bring that kind of meal with you, you’re welcome back any time! Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Parabellum. I think it sounds gritty, authentic and important. Let me give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details:


One devastating crime. Four troubled suspects. And a vibrant, powerful journey inside the mind of nameless, faceless evil.

A mass shooting at a Chicago beach leaves several dead and dozens injured. In the year before the crime, four individuals emerge as possible suspects.

An apathetic computer programmer.
An ex-college athlete with a history of head injuries.
An Army veteran turned Chicago cop.
A despondent high school student.

One of them is the shooter. Discover who and why.

Parabellum is available for purchase here.

About Greg Hickey

Greg Hickey is a former international professional baseball player and current forensic scientist, endurance athlete and Amazon-bestselling author. His previous works include the novels Parabellum, The Friar’s Lantern and Our Dried Voices, the latter of which was a finalist for Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Science Fiction Book of the Year Award. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Lindsay.

You can follow Greg on Twitter @greghickey5 and visit his website for further information. You’ll also find Greg on Goodreads, Facebook and Instagram.

Extract and Giveaway: Wet Paint by Chloë Ashby

I’m thrilled to have Wet Paint by Chloë Ashby on my TBR and even better, if you’re in the UK you could have Wet Paint on your reading pile too if you enter the fabulous giveaway I’ve been allowed to share today for the blog tour. You’ll find details below along with a cracking extract to whet your appetite. My enormous thanks to Alex Layt for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

Published by Orion imprint Trapeze on 14th April 2022, Wet Paint is available for purchase through the links here.

Wet Paint

Since the death of her best friend Grace, twenty-six-year-old Eve has learned to keep everything and everyone at arm’s length. Safe in her detachment, she scrapes along waiting tables and cleaning her shared flat in exchange for cheap rent, finding solace in her small routines.

But when a chance encounter at work brings her past thundering into her present, Eve becomes consumed by painful memories of Grace. And soon her precariously maintained life begins to unravel: she loses her job, gets thrown out of her flat, and risks pushing away the one decent man who cares about her.

Taking up life-modelling to pay the bills, Eve lays bare her body but keeps hidden the mounting chaos inside her head. When her self-destructive urges spiral out of control, she’s forced to confront the traumatic event that changed the course of her life, and to finally face her grief and guilt.

An Extract from Wet Paint


‘I can tell this is one of those days when you’re not going to say a word and I do all the talking. Which is fine – really. And anyway, if it wasn’t fine, would that make any difference?

‘It is harder when you go quiet, though, when it’s me doing all the work. Do you remember the day we both sat in total silence? That was terrible. I actually feel a bit sick. It’s hot in here, hotter than usual. Mind if I open a window? Thanks. That’s better, a breeze.

‘I’ve been thinking about what you said – that fear-of-abandonment thing. At first, I found it funny. I know, defence mechanism (I’m getting good at this). It just hadn’t occurred to me that I might be afraid of something I grew up with. Sort of like being an only child or missing a limb.

‘If I’m honest, yes, I suppose I have been a bit . . . what was the word you used? Compulsive. I know it sounded like stealing, but really it was just borrowing. The sex – that came earlier – probably was escapism. The drinking . . . Oh for fuck’s sake, sorry, can I have a tissue? I can’t blame Dad for everything, but I can blame him for the drinking.

‘Anyway, I’m doing it again – back to the timeline. That’s what you want, isn’t it ? I can’t seem to focus on the hours, days or weeks before. I just keep rushing forward to that moment. It was morning. We were going to catch a train. I wanted – Gah, sorry, I’m picking at your chair again. I know, it’s better than pulling at my cuticles. But still, I’d rather not leave your armrests looking like one of those cats – you know the ones I mean, with not enough hair and too much skin. Is it OK if I stand?

‘When we got to the station something snapped inside me – here, just under my ribs. In my head it sounded like cracking knuckles, the finger joints popping. I was tired and worried about what I’d done, worried I wouldn’t be allowed to see her again. I remember wondering if there was an alternate universe where all the people who stepped out of my life hang out together – I know, I know, abandonment – and if she’d end up there too.

‘People were getting off a train on the platform opposite. I remember taking a step towards the tracks and peering down at my feet. There was that yellow line. And then the nubby bit. Some grooves. A faded white stripe at the very edge. The edge of the abyss. God, that’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it? It’s funny how some things stay with you, though. Like these! How long have you had them? I’m pretty sure they had to wipe “mansize” from the box a couple of years ago. Because women blow their noses too. Sorry – tangent. Maybe if I sit down again.

‘When I looked up, the train was gone. There was another coming, this time on our side of the tracks. A speaker announced that it wouldn’t be stopping.

‘I know what you’re thinking: what was I doing there in the first place ? I probably told you I hadn’t been back since university. The truth is, I can’t remember making any decisions, I just felt I had no choice. I had to go back because that’s where it started so that’s where it had to end. But I never meant for the ending to look like that: me standing on a platform, toes sticking out over the tracks.

‘Honestly I don’t know why I’m smiling – obviously there’s nothing to smile about. Not a thing. It’s just, if you’d told me a year ago that I’d be sitting here, I’d have laughed.’


Isn’t that amazingly intriguing? I have to know more!


I’m delighted to be able to offer a hardbacked copy of Wet Paint by Chloë Ashby to one lucky UK reader. The giveaway ends at UK midnight on Tuesday 26th April. The winner will need to provide a UK postal address to receive their prize which will be sent from the publisher. No other personal details will be retained after the giveaway closes.

For your chance to win a copy of Wet Paint, click here.

About Chloë Ashby

Chloë Ashby is an author and arts journalist. Since graduating from the Courtauld Institute of Art, she has written for publications such as the TLSGuardianFT Life & ArtsSpectator and friezeWet Paint is her debut novel.

For further information, visit Chloë’s website, follow her on Twitter @chloelashby, or find her on Instagram.

Thrown by Sara Cox

I’m a huge fan of Sara Cox’s BBC 2 Between the Covers so when the lovely folk at Team Bookends sent me a surprise early reader copy of Sara’s debut novel, Thrown, in return for an honest review, I couldn’t have been happier. I’m delighted to share my review of Thrown today.

Published by Coronet on 12th May, Thrown is available for purchase through the links here.


Becky: a single mum who prides herself on her independence. She knows from painful experience that men are trouble.
Louise: a loving husband, gorgeous kids. She ought to feel more grateful.
Jameela: all she’s ever done is work hard, and try her best. Why won’t life give her the one thing she really wants?
Sheila: the nest is empty, she dreams of escaping to the sun, but her husband seems so distracted.

The inhabitants of the Inventor’s Housing Estate keep themselves to themselves. There are the friendly ‘Hellos’ when commutes coincide and the odd cheeky eye roll when the wine bottles clank in number 7’s wheelie bin, but it’s not exactly Ramsay Street.

The dilapidated community centre is no longer the beating heart of the estate that Becky remembers from her childhood. So the new pottery class she’s helped set up feels like a fresh start. And not just for her.

The assorted neighbours come together to try out a new skill, under the watchful eye of their charismatic teacher, Sasha. And as the soft unremarkable lumps of clay are hesitantly, lovingly moulded into delicate vases and majestic pots, so too are the lives of four women. Concealed passions and heartaches are uncovered, relationships shattered and formed, and the possibility for transformation is revealed.

My Review of Thrown

Pottery classes are about to begin!

Is Thrown the most literary novel you’ll encounter? Well no. Is Thrown, however, jam packed with warmth, relatable themes and characters, and a wonderful sense of having been royally entertained so that the reader finishes the story feeling uplifted and happy? Completely!

Insightful, warm-hearted with a magical sprinkling of humour balanced by human insecurities and relatable anxieties, Sara Cox creates a community any reader would love to belong to. Reading about these vivid, ordinary folk is an absolute delight. I adored this cast of characters. Sara Cox isn’t afraid to convey them with complete humanity. I found Tony scarily plausible and I’d happily have caused him physical injury. I think it’s powerful writing to create such a response in the reader. My heart went out to all of the others although Becky was the person I most enjoyed getting to know.

The metaphor of pottery is perfect for Thrown. Not only do many characters find themselves thrown by events, but they themselves are like the items made in the community centre. Some are more perfect than others. Many have flaws. Some are broken and every single person is unique. What I found so successful too, is the fact that at the end of the book, not every single plot element is resolved; just like real life not everyone gets a happy ending or knows exactly what will happen next.

There’s considerable humour in the depiction of the characters and moments in the plot, but as well as a wonderfully entertaining and uplifting story, Thrown has a darker element too. The lives of Becky, Louise, Jameela and Sheila are riven with the kind of problems, sacrifices and tribulations so many of us face so that it feels as if all modern life is present. There were times I felt tense, desperately sad and enraged as well as occasions when I laughed aloud and felt uplifted so that Thrown has depth and texture far beyond my expectations.
I have to admit to being sceptical about so-called celebrity authors, but in Thrown Sara Cox’s warm, narrative voice reverberates with such authenticity that this book couldn’t have come from anyone else. She balances comedy and tragedy with equal élan. Thrown is a smashing book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Sara Cox

Sara is known and loved by millions of Radio 2 listeners, where she presents the Sara Cox Show 5-7 pm. She has also hosted Sounds of The 80s and steered the helm of her own nightly Radio 2 show. She cut her teeth on Radio 1 and presented The Breakfast Show for 4 years, reaching 8 million listeners. Sara currently hosts the popular weekly TV book programme Between the Covers on BBC2. Her most recent TV work includes The Great Pottery Throwdown (BBC2), Back In Time… (BBC2), and BBC2’s dating series Love In The Countryside. Her memoir, Till the Cows Come Home (2018), was a Sunday Times bestseller. Sara’s TV career began with The Girlie Show, and she’s gone on to present numerous shows for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. She is a regular co-presenter of Radio 4’s Loose Ends and has written columns for the Mirror and Guardian. Sara’s latest TV project is Britain’s Best Takeaway, due to air on BBC 2 in 2022.

You can find out more by following Sara on Twitter @sarajcox and on Instagram.

Staying in with Robert Croly

It’s always a pleasure to ‘meet’ new to me authors and today I’m delighted to welcome Robert Croly to stay in with me and tell me all about his latest book. I also need to apologise to Robert as I had intended to post this yesterday as part of a YA feature but life got the better of me.

Staying in with Robert Croly

Welcome To Linda’s Book Bag Robert, Thank you so much for staying in with me today.

Thank you for inviting an unknown to the hallowed reams of established authors. Being here feels like swimming among sharks! Especially as I’m probably the only writer here aiming at the very difficult 11 – 15 age group.

It’s my pleasure – and I feature young adult and children’s books quite frequently so you’re in good company. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I have brought along my latest self published book, P.J. Holden – Freedom Fighter. I have brought it as a sequel to my second book, The Boys of Junior Red, and it completes the vision I have of a successful society on a new world, suddenly threatened by the very world they originally came from.

It gives me the chance to really expand how important the freedom we take for granted is, and the possible sacrifices necessary to retain it.

Oh. I have a feeling that both books are incredibly relevant to today’s world Robert.

What can we expect from an evening with P.J. Holden – Freedom Fighter?

The book follows the adventures of a group of youngsters raised in this new unspoiled world living in what is basically an agrarian society, where much of a distant Earth’s technical miracles have been forgotten, leading to a distinctly prosperous community, which has made the grave error of sending a ship back to a dystopian Earth, ruled by a corrupt United Nations, informing them of the success of the colony.

The returning ship is doom laden for this blissful world, bringing military threat and more corrupt leadership. Against this overwhelming might, the farmers and scientists are helpless, and only the tiny naval facility and academy, with its few officers and cadets, decide to stand firm in their determination to keep their way of life. The book follows their adventures in this fight.

That sounds scarily possible. Where did you get the idea of your characters?

I forge my characters from normal kids with their innocence and vulnerability, into acts of immense courage and determination, and while I try to keep the action realistic, I do not let it get too visceral.

From the few kids who have read the final mss, I am pleased and relieved that they all liked the book, one even wishing he could be a naval cadet! I am not afraid of adult review, but I am far more concerned with what my target readers think. After all they are why I love to do this, and to see a kid select one of my books from a shelf would be heaven sent for me.

I think adults love fiction for younger writers too Robert. I know I do. But I agree, positive feedback from your target audience would be a real thrill. What interests you about the sci-fi genre?

The sci-fi genre does let writers fly free with little restraint, so I try to keep the gadgetry to a minimum. Character and a feeling for this new world are more important, and I believe my young readers can get along without lightspeed spaceships and horrific monsters. I have actually eased a possible alien factor into both books, but not to take front stage, so to speak!

So there it is. I have stacks of ideas pending for the future, so I will continue doing this lonely but so satisfying job, and hopefully one day we will see more young people put down those phones and pick up a book, – even if it isn’t one of mine !!

Ha! Even if they don’t put down their phones, maybe they could read an ebook version of P.J. Holden – Freedom Fighter on them! 

What else have you brought along with you this evening and why have you brought it?

My perfect idea for an evening at the keyboard, includes a stack of CD’s blasting movie soundtrack music, especially John Williams or Dimitri Tiomkin, even Elmer Bernstein. To further help the thought process, a generous glass of Mister Jack Daniels should be in reach. Using the memories of a long active life, I have more than enough plots to bring to life.

I think that P.J. Holden – Freedom Fighter sounds great Robert. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about it. Now, you put on some music and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details. 

P.J. Holden – Freedom Fighter

Haven Port was a beautiful colony, the only colony outside the solar system, with seemingly nothing to trouble its inhabitants ‒ that is
until the arrival of the first ship to make the return trip from Earth. What it brought would cause tragedy and conflict, because the settlers valued their way of life and were not about to lose it without a fight ‒ even against overwhelming odds!

P.J. Holden – Freedom Fighter is available for purchase on Amazon, Blackwell’s, Waterstones, YPS and Gardners.

About Robert Croly

Robert Croly was born in Scotland; but has lived most of his life in Norfolk. Apart from regular trips to California and the western states for research on new story lines. He spent most of his working life in the book printing trade, covering most aspects of the process. Despite this he still loves books! An enthusiastic biker with an inside knowledge of youth motorcycle road racing, which made his book, The Kid in White Leathers the first novel on racing for youngsters. He started writing after retiring, deciding to concentrate on writing stories to encourage kids to pick up a book and read; simple as that! He says, ‘My characters are like my kids; if you like them, I’ve got it right. Nothing beats that!

Cover Reveal: My Paris Romance by Olivia Spring

When I got married my husband and I had our honeymoon in Paris. Steve had been a perpetual student, finishing his Ph.D. before doing the P.G.C.E where we’d met ten months earlier and I’d only completed my degree the year before so we were fairly limited in what we could do. However, Paris provided us with the perfect few days and we returned with a better budget 25 years later for our silver wedding anniversary. Consequently, Paris holds a special place in my heart and so I’m delighted to participate in the cover reveal for Olivia Spring’s My Paris Romance with Rachel’s Random Resources.

Let’s find out all about the book:

My Paris Romance

My Paris Romance: Falling in love with a billionaire…

Cassie swore she’d never fall for another rich guy. Her heart has other ideas.

After a whirlwind holiday romance with hot billionaire Frenchman Nico, personal assistant Cassie receives an invitation to visit him in Paris.

Although she’d love a fairy-tale reunion, Cassie cannot fall for Nico. They live in different countries, come from different worlds, plus he’s more loaded than a bank vault. And after her rich ex and his snooty family left her feeling heartbroken and worthless, Cassie swore off dating wealthy guys. If she’d known Nico was France’s most eligible bachelor when they met, she’d never have got involved.

But their connection is undeniable and she’d be crazy not to see him again. If Cassie suppresses her feelings and just goes for the experience, she can avoid getting hurt, right?

Except when Nico sweeps her off her feet with a string of sexy, romantic dates around Paris, her plan not to fall in love unravels. She hopes he feels the same, but then a shocking revelation turns her world upside down…

Can they overcome their obstacles? And will Cassie get the happily-ever-after she’s been dreaming of?

Order this fun, steamy, fish-out-of-water, billionaire romantic comedy now and join Cassie in Paris to find out!

Read as a standalone novel or as book three in the My Ten-Year Crush series.

Publishing on 30th August 2022, My Paris Romance is available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About Olivia Spring

Olivia Spring is a British, London-based writer of contemporary women’s fiction, sexy chick lit and romantic comedy. Her uplifting debut novel The Middle-Aged Virgin, which was released in 2018, deals with being newly single in your thirties and beyond, dating, relationships, love, sex and living life to the full.

In addition to The Middle-Aged Virgin, Olivia has published The Middle-Aged Virgin in Italy, Love Offline, Losing My Inhibitions, Only When It’s Love and the sequel When’s The Wedding?

Olivia’s seventh novel, My Ten-Year Crush, was published in September 2021. Book two in the series, My Lucky Night followed in November 2021 and book three, My Paris Romance will be published in summer 2022.

When she’s not writing, Olivia can be found enjoying cupcakes and cocktails and of course, seeking inspiration for her next book!

You can find out more by following Olivia on Twitter @ospringauthor, visiting her website or finding her on Facebook, Instagram and Bookbub.

The Fall by Rachael Blok

Today I’m thrilled to share another of my My Weekly magazine online reviews. This time I’ve been reading Rachael Blok’s The Fall.

Published by Head of Zeus imprint Aria on 14th April 2022, The Fall is available for purchase through the links here.

The Fall

The sins of the past echo in the present in the new literary thriller from crime-critic favourite, Rachael Blok.

The bigger the sin, the further the fall…

With Easter approaching, the verger of St Albans Cathedral was supposed to be readying the church. Instead he discovers a man lying dead, fallen from the famous 150-foot-high tower. Did he jump, or was he pushed?

For DCI Maarten Jansen, it’s a simple case of suspected suicide. Until a stranger, Willow, who witnessed the jump, prompts a deeper investigation into a long-buried past, involving a psychiatric hospital, a pregnant woman, and fifty years of silence. As Willow’s own family history entwines with the case, Jansen starts to wonder how everything is connected.

The Fall is a haunting literary thriller about loss, trauma, silence, and how our past shapes who we are.

My Review of The Fall

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

However, here I can say that The Fall is a fast paced and exciting narrative that I thoroughly enjoyed. If The Fall is indicative of other books in the DCI Maarten Jansen series then I have some serious catching up to do. I thought it was riveting.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Rachael Blok

Rachael Blok is a best-selling author of the UK crime series set in the cathedral city of St Albans. Here, DCI Maarten Jansen struggles against his plain-speaking Dutch upbringing when faced with the seemingly polite world of the picturesque city.

About writing, she has said: ‘I’m constantly surprised how differently stories turn out on paper than in their original planning. Fiction has a life of its own’.

For further information, follow Rachel on Twitter @MsRachaelBlok, visit her website or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Staying in with D. A. Mucci

The genres that don’t feature on Linda’s Book Bag nearly enough are fantasy and young adult fiction, so it gives me great pleasure to welcome D. A. Mucci to the blog today to tell me all about one of his books. Let’s find out more:

Staying in with D.A. Mucci

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

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

Today I’m sharing with you the Young Adult Lit fantasy book: Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw.  It was released in October 2021.

I don’t read much fantasy David. How did Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw come about?

In addition to being an author, I’m an emergency room physician.  When the pandemic hit, my wife encouraged me to write the book I had been thinking about writing for years. With everything shut down, professional sports, theater, even dinner out with friends, my wife saw that I needed something to immerse myself in to take my mind off the horrors I was seeing in the ER.  So I dove into writing my story.  My co-workers would ask how the book is going and I would share some of the story with them.   One of my co-workers even started writing her own book.  When you work in a stressful environment, it is important to have a passion that you can work on that helps you get the stresses off your mind so you don’t burn out.  Writing was my way to do that.

I can’t imagine what an awful time you must have had. How wonderful that something so creative came out of such horrors.

What can we expect from an evening with Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw?

This story is filled with a very diverse set of characters embroiled in a fantastical adventure.   There are all kinds of unlikely heroes and characters of all ages, genders races, ethnicities, abilities and disabilities. I wanted every reader to have a character they could identify with, not necessarily like them since there are good guys and bad guys in the story, but characters like the one who doesn’t always have confidence in themselves, the one who others think is dingbat crazy but are the most heroic, the the quiet character that finds their voice when something important happens they really care about, the person in power who doesn’t like what they are doing but goes along with things to protect a loved one.  I am hoping each reader can connect with a character and find themselves rooting for the main character, Iggy.

With the kind of world we’re living in, I think any fiction that aims to be inclusive is more important than ever. Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw sounds very much needed.

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

I have brought along some photos and background on a few of the fantasy creatures from my story. While authors describe the creatures they create in their mind, my wife decided to have an illustrator help readers visualize the creatures and had those illustrations loaded up onto my author website,

The first creature is a Tipei (pronounced like tip pee)

A Tipei is a Surviving from prehistoric times, the first tipeis came to Matreach from the faraway land of Alkebulan with the fierce Dahomey warrior, Nzinga. The tipeis and Nzinga quelled the corrupt takeover of Matreach by Minister Jetrix. To this day the tipeis remain loyal to a single Matreach master to ensure peace throughout Matreach.

Next is a rockhopper: Rockhoppers are indigenous to Matreach and live symbiotically with the people of this land. With feathers and fur in green and gray tones, these creatures could easily camouflage within the natural landscape. Many rockhoppers are happy to regularly run and glide for human riders in exchange for food and comfortable shelter.

And finally I have brought a Nostaw (short o in first syllable, aw pronounced like “ow”, I hurt myself in second syllable)

Nostaw Warriors make their home in Cambria. They are an isolated race by choice, living by a code of honor that rules every aspect of their life. Males and females are treated the same, without distinction. Their fierceness on the battlefield is legendary. Though they prefer to live in peace they are not hesitant to kill if they or their way of life is threatened. The people of Skye only know of Nostaw from the stories passed on by storytellers and elders.

Wow. Those are impressive creatures and fabulous illustrations. 

I came up with the name Nostaw because it is Watson spelled backwards. Watson was our little Shih Tzu dog named Watson. Though small he always thought he was a badass dog and would get up in the face of dogs five times his size. He has since crossed over the rainbow bridge so when I needed a fierce warrior, I decided to fulfil Watsons dreams and make him a badass Warrior, so Watson became Nostaw. Here is a picture of Watson:

Oh yes! I can see exactly where your Nostaw warrior came from.

Thanks so much for chatting with me about Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw David. I’m thrilled for you that out of such difficult times you have managed to produce something so creative. Let me give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details about the book:

Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw

The towering stone Castle Maol, the unrivaled seat of power in the Kingdom of Skye, sat inland almost bereft of life.
Once known for its inspirational beauty, Skye’s forests and meadows were more barren than green now, enveloped by stillness instead of bustling wildlife. Lakes and waterways once teeming with marine life lay stagnant. Most of those who lived here survived under gray clouds of despair.
Several of the eldest knew of the prophecy that would return the land to its prior golden age and quietly hoped it was true.
Only a handful knew the secret that would allow the prophecy to come true. They refused to speak of it.

Fifteen-year-old Iggy is good at three things: languages, witty retorts, and running from a fight. When a guy pulls a knife on him during a high school argument, all the banter in the world isn’t enough to save him, so Iggy resorts to his backup plan—running. But before he can make his escape, the locket he always wears around his neck heats up, and someone tackles him from behind, pinning him to the ground.

Iggy’s never thought of himself as a fighter. He’s spent his life running from anything that can’t be solved with a quick one-liner or a snarky comeback. But as he learns more about the strange place he’s landed, one thing becomes abundantly clear: in the World on Skye, they need a hero. And Iggy just might be the one they’re looking for, even if he’s not so sure.

Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw is available for purchase here.

About D. A. Mucci

Being an Emergency Room physician for close to forty years, Dr. Mucci found that the pandemic brought forth new horrors in the ER. Writing this fantasy story about Ignatius became an enjoyable escape for him from all that was happening in the real world.

You can find more about D.A. Mucci and Ignatius and The Swords of Nostaw at or by following David on Instagram and Facebook.