Single in the Snow by Helen Whitaker

My enormous thanks to the publicists at Team Bookends for sending me a copy of Single in the Snow by Helen Whitaker in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published in paperback by Hodder on 29th December 2022, Single in the Snow is available to order through the links here.

Single in the Snow

Jen is turning thirty and has spent her entire life jumping from man to man. So, when her latest relationship ends in disaster, she decides she needs to stop pleasing others and focus on herself. And where better to start afresh than the beautiful Canadian ski resort of Whistler?

Okay, she’s broke, unemployed, and has never so much as strapped on a pair of skis – but Jen is determined to make it on her own. She just has one rule: to stay single for the entire ski season.

When a new job forces Jen into contact with snowboarding instructor Art, the two of them are set on keeping their distance. It shouldn’t be hard, since they hate one another on sight – and Art knows better than anyone how to keep other people at arm’s length.

The problem is, the more time they are forced to spend together, the clearer it seems that Jen’s promise to stay single might not be quite so simple . . .

My Review of Single in the Snow

Jen’s making a fresh start in life.

What a fabulous book! Single in the Snow is funny and sad in equal measure and is a really wonderful read.

The plot is so important to today’s world. Certainly there is romance in the background, but Helen Whitaker explores love in many forms, including that in families and between friends, the most important of all being self-love. She illustrates to perfection the way so often we mould ourselves to fit in with others, or how we suppress our true feelings so that we don’t get hurt or display our real emotions. Both Jen and Art have demons to overcome and their development through the narrative is just brilliantly done.

Indeed, I adored the way that Helen Whitaker links the similarities between Jen’s physical efforts and Art’s mental health in a way that acts as a catalyst for the reader’s emotions and makes Single in the Snow absolutely belie the opinions that romantic fiction is ‘fluffy’ or meaningless in any way. This is a book that has lightness of touch, romance and humour but which thrums with mature emotion too, making it highly effective and affecting.

The characters have depth and attraction – often because of, rather than in spite of, their flaws. The one exception for me was Eduardo. Much as I abhor violence, if I ever met Eduardo in real life, I really would have to punch him! Jen is a triumph. She is a kind of Everywoman who embodies traits that all readers can appreciate and Art’s realistic struggles to come to terms with what has happened in his past are simply heart rending.

Aside from the developing, and repairing, relationships in the story, the themes are wonderfully explored. Workplace harassment and bullying, taking a chance, being true to yourself, mental and physical health, happiness and how we find it and so much more fill the pages of Single in the Snow to the extent that I laughed and cried reading this story and thought it was fabulous.

With a gorgeous snowy setting, romance and reality woven together with consummate skill and characters to fall in love with, Single in the Snow is the perfect winter read. I loved it.

About Helen Whitaker

Helen Whitaker is a journalist and author living in London. Formerly the Entertainment Director of Glamour UK, her day job is currently Editor of High Life magazine and she writes books in her lunch hour, in the evenings and in any free time she has around parenting. She has been published in Grazia, The Telegraph, Fabulous, Stella, Red and BBC Three. She lives in Walthamstow with her husband and son. Her first novel, The School Run, came out in 2019, and I Give it a Year came out in 2021.

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

The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley

A short while ago I was privileged to share an extract from The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley in a post you’ll find here. Today, over on the My Weekly website, I’m thrilled to share my review. I also reviewed A Special Cornish Christmas by Phillipa Ashley on the My Weekly website here.

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Avon on 10th November 2022, The Christmas Holiday is available for purchase through the links here.

The Christmas Holiday

She’s planned the perfect Christmas. But fate might have other ideas…

Krystle didn’t have a normal childhood and longed for warm family Christmases with presents under the tree. Now she makes sure everyone else has the perfect Christmas she never had, bringing beautiful decorations to cheer as many people as possible.

With her festive business booming, she decides to celebrate by renting a secluded house in the Lakes, with a plan to make this the ultimate yuletide getaway.

But fate immediately throws a spanner in the works in the form of a broken-down car, a flooded river and Max; a man who despises Christmas.

Krystle becomes determined to show Max the joys of the holiday. She won’t take no for an answer.

Can she melt Max’s Grinch-like heart? And can he show her that life doesn’t need to go to plan to take you somewhere magical…

Let Sunday Times bestseller Phillipa Ashley whisk you away to the Lakes this Christmas, with a story full of unexpected romance, second chances, snowflakes and starlight! Perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Karen Swan and Heidi Swain.

My Review of The Christmas Holiday

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

However, what I can say here is that The Christmas Holiday absolutely brims with the true meaning of Christmas in an exciting, engaging and emotional story that I adored.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Phillipa Ashley

Philippa Ashley

Phillipa Ashley writes warm, funny romantic fiction for a variety of international publishers. The first two books in her best-selling Cornish Café series made the Amazon Top 20 and Top 10 chart in 2016.

Phillipa lives in a Staffordshire village with her husband and has a grown-up daughter.

For more information about Phillipa, visit her website or find her on Instagram or Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @PhillipaAshley.

Giveaway: Two @bbcmaestro Writing Courses

As we come to the end of NaNoWriMo when many of us will have been turning our hands to writing rather than reading for a change, I could not be more excited by today’s blog post. Thanks to Siobhan McDermott I have two fabulous vouchers to give away for the BBC Maestro writing courses worth £80 each. As I’ve been lucky enough to trial one of the courses I can assure you that they are simply wonderful.

I chose to follow Lee Child’s Writing Popular Fiction which gave me access to a set of course notes that included advice from Lee Child, summarising his video classes, with exercises to complete and bullet take-aways that get right to the heart of being a writer.

However, what was so wonderful about Writing Popular Fiction was the videos. In this particular course there are over 30 video clips with Lee Child exploring all manner of aspects about writing, but in an intimate manner that feels as if he’s speaking directly to the learner in their own sitting room. This makes the course feel personal and tailored to the individual. The course is a fascinating insight into the writing process and world, even if you think you don’t want to write, but for those who do, Lee Child is interesting, inspirational and educational. He’s also a fantastic communicator who draws you in and gives you confidence.

If you’re not familiar with BBC Maestro writing courses, simply click on the italicised links to find out more about them and then enter further down this blog post on Linda’s Book Bag for your chance to win a voucher for one of the courses to either keep for yourself or maybe give as a Christmas gift:

Writing Children’s Picture Books with Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson has written some of the world’s best-loved children’s books, including modern classics The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, which together have sold over 25 million copies worldwide and have been translated into over one hundred languages. Her other books include Room on the Broom, Stick Man and Zogillustrated by Axel Scheffler, The Hospital Dog, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie and the hugely successful What the Ladybird Heard adventures, illustrated by Lydia Monks. Julia also writes fiction, including the Princess Mirror-Belle series, illustrated by Lydia Monks, as well as poems, plays and songs – and her brilliant live shows are always in demand. She was the UK Children’s Laureate 2011–13 and has been honoured with a CBE for Services to Literature. Julia and her husband Malcolm divide their time between West Sussex and Edinburgh.

Julia Donaldson – Writing Children’s Picture Books

Writing Books for Children with David Walliams

David Walliams – comedian, actor and author – continues to take the children’s literary world by storm. His tenth novel, Bad Dad, was an immediate number one, following the triumph of The Midnight Gang, the biggest-selling children’s book of 2016. World’s Worst Children 2, which published in early 2017, spent four weeks at industry number one and eight weeks at the top of the children’s chart. They have achieved unprecedented critical acclaim – and Ratburger, Demon Dentist and Awful Auntie have all won the National Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year.

David’s books have now exceeded 100 non-consecutive weeks in the children’s number-one spot, and have been translated into 53 languages, selling more than 35 million copies worldwide.

David Walliams – Writing Books for Children

Writing for Young Adults with Malorie Blackman

Malorie Blackman has written over seventy books for children and young adults, including the Noughts & Crosses series, Thief and a science-fiction thriller, Chasing the Stars. Many of her books have also been adapted for stage and television, including a BAFTA-award-winning BBC production of Pig-Heart Boy and a Pilot Theatre stage adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz of Noughts & Crosses. There is also a major BBC production of Noughts & Crosses, with Roc Nation (Jay-Z’s entertainment company) curating the soundtrack as executive music producer. In 2005 Malorie was honoured with the Eleanor Farjeon Award in recognition of her distinguished contribution to the world of children’s books. In 2008 she received an OBE for her services to children’s literature, and between 2013 and 2015 she was the Children’s Laureate. Most recently Malorie wrote for the Doctor Who series on BBC One, and the fifth novel in her Noughts & Crosses series, Crossfire, was published by Penguin Random House Children’s in summer 2019.

Malorie Blackman – Writing for Young Adults

Storytelling with Alan Moore

Alan Moore is an English writer most famous for his influential work in comics, including the acclaimed graphic novels Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell. He has also written a novel, Voice of the Fire, and performs “workings” (one-off performance art/spoken word pieces) with The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels, some of which have been released on CD.

Alan Moore – Storytelling

Writing Popular Fiction with Lee Child

Lee Child is one of the world’s leading thriller writers. He was born in Coventry, raised in Birmingham, and now lives in New York. It is said one of his novels featuring his hero Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every nine seconds. His books consistently achieve the number-one slot on bestseller lists around the world and have sold over one hundred million copies. Two blockbusting Jack Reacher movies have been made so far. He is the recipient of many awards, most recently Author of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards. He was appointed CBE in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Lee Child – Writing Popular Fiction

Writing Drama for Television with Jed Mercurio

Jed Mercurio is one of Britain’s most successful television writers. He is the award-winning creator of Bodyguard, Trigger Point and Line of Duty. His first novel, Bodies, published by Jonathan Cape, was chosen by the Guardian as one of the five best debuts of 2002. He adapted the novel for the BBC, winning the Royal Television Society Award for Best Drama Series of 2005. Jed grew up in England and currently splits his work between London and Los Angeles.

Jed Mercurio – Writing Drama for Television

For more about BBC Maestro, visit the website, follow them on Twitter @bbcmaestro and find them on Instagram, Youtube and Facebook.


Giveaway – Two BBC Maestro Writing Courses

Click here for your chance to win one of two vouchers worth £80 giving access to your choice of course from the following:

Julia Donaldson – Writing Children’s Picture Books
David Walliams – Writing Books for Children
Malorie Blackman – Writing for Young Adults
Alan Moore – Storytelling
Lee Child – Writing Popular Fiction
Jed Mercurio – Writing Drama for Television

Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Monday 5th December 2022. Open to those in the following countries: United Kingdom, Isle of Mann, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, Australia, South Africa, Canada, India, Brazil, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, UAE and USA as these are the places that can access the BBC Maestro Writing Course.

The Sanctuary by Emma

It’s over a year since I reviewed Emma Haughton’s debut crime thriller The Dark in a post you’ll find here. With huge thanks to Jenny Platt for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Emma’s latest book, The Sanctuary, I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 24th November 2022, The Sanctuary is available for purchase through these links.

The Sanctuary

Zoey doesn’t remember anything about last night. But she knows something went badly wrong. For she is no longer in New York. She’s woken up in the desert, in a white building she doesn’t recognise, and she’s alone.

When she discovers she’s been admitted to The Sanctuary, a discreet, mysterious, isolated refuge from normal life, to avoid jail, she is stunned. She knows she has secrets, troubles, but she thought she had everything under control. But as she spends more time with other residents, she begins to open up about what she’s running from. Until she realises that not everyone in The Sanctuary has her best interests at heart, and someone might even be a killer . . .

My Review of The Sanctuary

Zoey’s in a spot of bother!

I’ll be absolutely honest and say that, in order to enjoy The Sanctuary fully, a reader needs willingly to suspend their disbelief. That said, The Sanctuary thrums with menace from the very first page. It’s a pressure cooker of simmering tension that keeps the reader hooked throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The locked-room style plot is suffused with suspicion that makes the reader feel edgy, and the Mexican desert heat adds to the intense atmosphere. It feels as if there’s danger lurking and it’s only a matter of time before something awful happens. Indeed, the nearer to the end of the story, the more dramatic the narrative becomes so that the pace in the second half of The Sanctuary, fittingly after the pivotal ‘ceremony’, feels changed in the same way some of the characters are different and altered. 

With a reduced cast of characters in The Sanctuary I found myself suspecting everyone of some ulterior motive for being in the sanctuary which added to my enjoyment as I strove to categorise the people in my head. Emma Haughton knows exactly how to create unreliable people. For the majority of the story I loathed Zoey because she’s rash, making impulsive, thoughtless decisions that make her her own worst enemy. However, I was also completely compelled by her character. I found Zoey not knowing the reason for her arrival at the Sanctuary and who had paid for her to be there, frustrated and annoyed me. This was a brilliant technique because it meant I experienced Zoey’s own puzzlement and frustration just as she did and it built the tension in the narrative still further. 

As well as the people, the setting is every bit as much a character. Like the people, it can be benevolent, providing food or it can be a danger, supplying life threatening heat, situations and creatures. I thought the way Emma Haughton wove these aspects into The Sanctuary was incredibly skilful. I could feel the heat as I read.

The Sanctuary embodies mature and thought-provoking themes too. There’s mental health, addiction and morality right at the heart of the story that illustrates just how we can become welded to negative behaviours. I actually found reading parts of the story surprisingly helpful and cathartic and I loved the development of the characters over time as relationships fractured and shifted.

The Sanctuary is a compelling, atmospheric thriller that builds slowly to a dramatic conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Emma Haughton

Emma Haughton grew up in Sussex, studied English at Oxford and worked as a journalist for several national newspapers, including The Times Travel section. Emma has written several non-fiction books for schools as well as YA thrillers. This is her first crime novel.

For further information, follow Emma on Twitter @Emma_Haughton and visit her website. You’ll also find Emma on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

An Extract from Disobedient Women by Sangeeta Mulay

When lovely Isabelle Kenyon from Fly on the Wall got in touch about Disobedient Women by Sangeeta Mulay I was devastated that I simply couldn’t fit in a review as it sounds exactly my kind of read. However, I was thrilled to be able to host an extract for the blog tour and it’s my pleasure to share that with you today.

Disobedient Women was published by Fly on the Wall on 25th November 2022 and is available for purchase here.

Disobedient Women

Set in contemporary India, Sangeeta Mulay’s unforgettable debut novel is a compelling story of four unforgettable characters:

Aparna – a courageous campaigner of rationality and freedom of expression. Will the patriarchal grip of a religious society manage to silence her?

Hari –the passionate founder of a religious organisation. As Hari becomes a rising star for the local Hindu right-wing, will he lose himself?

Naseem – Aparna’s wise daughter who is discovering her sexuality. Will she have the strength to stand up for her mother against societal stigma?

Kashi – Hari’s daughter who is in love with science and…girls? Confused about her sexuality, will she be able to lead life on her own terms?

Confronting issues of religion, bigotry, sex and politics, DISOBEDIENT WOMEN tells the interwoven stories of two families and their battle of ideologies.

A novel of the choices women make under pressure, where to be disobedient is the only option that offers change.

An Extract from Disobedient Women

Chapter Thirty-Three

6th May 2014. Time: 12:00


Two years after his daughter’s birth, Hari hoped for a son, but despite his best efforts (he made Lata narrate thirteen different shlokas), Lata could not conceive. Kashi would remain their only child.

When Kashi was five, she was besotted with a stray dog loitering in the neighbourhood. After feeding him scraps of bhakri for two consecutive days, the dog parked himself permanently outside their house waiting for Kashi, and then followed her everywhere after she emerged. He was a scruffy, skinny creature, but Kashi was smitten.

“Don’t bring that dirty mongrel inside the house,” Lata shouted.

“Aai, he wants to be a part of the family too. I’ve named him Ganu, short for Ganesha.”

“You cannot name him after a god, you little fool,” hissed Lata.

“But why? I love him,” protested Kashi, hugging the dog.

“You can’t. Dogs are dirty. They don’t wash their bums. Call him something else. If your father finds out, he will be very angry.”

Kashi, held onto Lata’s sari, refusing to let go. “He won’t. Ganu is such a nice name.”

“Ugh! Don’t touch me after you’ve touched that dirty beast. Go and wash your hands at once. You don’t know what diseases he is carrying.”

That afternoon at lunch, Kashi hollered, “Baba, why can’t I have a tail?”

Hari looked up, speechless. Lata, worried about an eruption, muttered inconsequential words which made no sense but softened the sudden silence. Then Hari laughed, and the room became happier.

“Why do you want a tail? Yuck! Dirty little things hanging off bums.”

Kashi giggled. “Tails are not dirty, Baba. I so want one. Please can you get one for me?”

The family laughed and thought that was the end of it, but Kashi kept up a constant refrain of wanting a tail. Finally, Hari fashioned one out of a towel for her. She stuck it in her knickers and frolicked with Ganu.

“She will forget about it tomorrow,” Hari said, in a low voice.

“Thank God for that,” Lata sighed.

Kashi did not forget. The tail, tightly tucked in her knickers, mocked them again the next day.

What’s with the child? Is she going to carry the tail for the rest of her life? Lata worried about her daughter.That afternoon, she spotted Kashi lifting Ganu’s tail and peering underneath. Lata caught hold of Kashi by her frock and dragged her away from the dog.

“I was just looking at the attachment. His tail is attached differently to mine,” said Kashi.

That night, Lata narrated the incident to Hari. “Her behaviour is abnormal. Instead of playing with dolls, she is interested in mongrels and their tails!”

Hari grunted. “Don’t worry. I will teach her shlokas. The act of memorisation will help her.”

The next morning, after Kashi had her bath and was about to go out to play, Hari stopped her. “Today, I’m going to teach you something new.”


“A new shloka. If you chant this shloka every time you have a bath, you will feel refreshed and have more energy.”

“I don’t want to,” said Kashi, the tail hanging resolutely behind her. “I already have lots of energy. See.” She flexed her arm muscles to show him.

“Kashi. Wait. You will find this interesting.” He led her by the hand and made her sit in front of him. As he chanted, a glazed look appeared on her face and then she nodded off despite the morning hour.

Hari got up in disgust. Lata did not have the same fondness for shlokas that Hari did, so Kashi was left alone.


About Sangeeta Mulay

Sangeeta Mulay was born in Pune in India and now currently works in London as a UX writer. She received an honourable mention in the 2021 NYC midnight micro-fiction challenge. Her book for young adults, Savitribai Phule and I was a notable book of 2020 for The Bombay Review. She has also had a short story highly commended in the Sydney Hammond short story competition. Another of Mulay’s short stories will be published in a 2022 Fox and Windmill anthology.

To find out more about Sangeeta, follow her on Twitter @groggy_eyes and find her on Instagram and Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

A Mother’s Christmas Wish by Glenda Young

It’s far too long since I have read a saga and so I simply couldn’t resist A Mother’s Christmas Wish by Glenda Young. My grateful thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blog tour by sharing my review today.

Published in paperback yesterday by Headline, A Mother’s Christmas Wish is available for purchase in all formats through the links here.

A Mother’s Christmas Wish

‘I hope this Christmas is better than last year’s.’

Following a scandalous affair, wayward Emma Devaney is sent in disgrace from her home in Ireland to Ryhope, where she will live with her widowed aunt, Bessie Brogan, and help run her pub. Bessie is kind but firm, and at first Emma rebels against her lack of freedom. Struggling to fit in, she turns to the wrong person for comfort, and becomes pregnant.

Accepting she must embrace her new life for the sake of her baby, Emma pours her energy into making the pub thrive and helping heal the fractured relationship between Bessie and her daughters. She catches the attention of Robert, a gruff but sincere farmer, who means to win her heart.

As December approaches, thankful for the home and acceptance she’s found, Emma is determined to bring not just her family, but the whole Ryhope community, together to celebrate – and to make one very special mother’s Christmas dreams come true.

My Review of A Mother’s Christmas Wish

Emma needs a fresh start.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Mother’s Christmas Wish. In this story Glenda Young has created a vivid and authentic 1920s world that is filled with a realism that completely engages the reader. The small town prejudices, rivalries and gossip feel absolutely authentic as Emma begins her new life. The Ryhope setting is described very effectively, providing the reader with a clear impression of the place without dominating or overpowering the narrative so that the story races along.

I thought the plot was really well constructed, being unsentimental and compelling, and I loved the way the women in Ryhope are the lynchpin of the narrative. At the heart of A Mother’s Christmas Wish is a sense of family and community that makes the reader feel they belong every bit as much as Emma and Bessie.

Emma is a triumph of a character. She can be her own worst enemy and at times at the beginning of the story I wanted to shake some common sense into her and yet I found myself admiring her in spite of myself. She’s feisty, loyal, and hardworking, even when she’s rash, rude and ill-disciplined, giving her interesting layers and complexity. Emma also develops completely convincingly through A Mother’s Christmas Wish so that she feels warm and real. 

I loved the themes here too. What Glenda Young does so entertainingly is to provide an insight into the lives of ordinary people, their relationships, their attitudes, triumphs and setbacks. She explores loyalty and trust, reputation and society, poverty and employment, crime and marriage, weaving these concepts into a thoroughly engaging story. 

Add in some lovely extras such as a short story, a recipe for apple cakes and background information about Ryhope and A Mother’s Christmas Wish is an absolute treat of a book. I thought it was smashing and through A Mother’s Christmas Wish Glenda Young has reignited my enjoyment of the genre. What more could a reader ask? 

About Glenda Young

Glenda Young credits her local library in the village of Ryhope, where she grew up, for giving her a love of books. She still lives close by in Sunderland and often gets her ideas for her stories on long bike rides along the coast. A life-long fan of Coronation Street, she runs two hugely popular fan websites.

For further information, visit Glenda’s website, find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @flaming_nora.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Staying in with Jessie Wells

Life has been a bit of a trial of late so what better than to invite lovely Jessie Wells to stay in with me to chat about her debut book that will lift our spirits? Let’s find out more.

Staying in with Jessie Wells.

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

These days, there’s nothing I love more than staying in! With two young primary school-aged children with a very active social life, I spend most of my time in the driving seat of a car, on the side of a football pitch, or in a dance school car park. These days, staying in is an absolute joy.

The more I hear about parenthood, the more pleased I am I don’t have children – though it would be grand children for me now I suppose. I’m at the opposite end of the scale with an 89 year old to run about after! 

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

It’s the eve of publication of my debut novel, THE GOOD NEWS GAZETTE, and I’m so excited about it.

Ooh! Happy publication day for tomorrow Jessie. You must be very excited.

I read vociferously as a child and always dreamt of writing my own book, but as I grew into adulthood with a full-time career and became a mum, it seemed less and less likely it would ever happen. Ironically, if it hadn’t been for the unexpected amount of time we all found ourselves with during lockdown, I’m not sure it ever would have.

How wonderful to have achieved something positive in difficult times. Congratulations. So, what can we expect from an evening in with The Good News Gazette?

Good news! The last few years have been tough, and we’re all more than due an injection of the feel-good factor. Fortunately, our trusty heroine Zoe Taylor is on hand to track down those upbeat news stories to make you smile.

That sounds perfect. So is The Good News Gazette all positive?

That said, it’s not all fun, fun, fun! This single parent is juggling trying to cheer up an entire community with bringing in enough money to support her and her son. And with a sexy football coach and a mean and moody property developer on hand to challenge her, not to mention the upstanding and not-so-upstanding residents of Westholme, she certainly has a battle on her hands.

I love the sound of that!

Fortunately, there’s plenty of giggles along the way as Zoe single-handedly takes on Westholme’s finest and fights for the very future of the town.

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

Face masks, pasta and toilet roll. As the bulk of this book was written during lockdown, these three things sum up perfectly to me a time when, for a short period, the world seemed upside down and items we never particularly valued suddenly became some of the most wanted products in the country.

I think that’s no bad thing actually. It made us realise what is important in life!

I’d also bring a massive cake and a good coffee – both of which feature heavily in The Good News Gazette – on the basis that the introduction of one or preferably both of them can turn a miserable day into a great one.

I’ll have tea with mine as coffee doesn’t suit me, but whilst you put the kettle on Jessie, I just wanted to say thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about The Good News Gazette, to say congratulations and to give readers a few more details:

The Good News Gazette

Because we all need something to smile about!

She may be down but don’t count this determined single mum out just yet…

Nine years ago, Zoe Taylor returned from London to the quiet hamlet of Westholme with her tail between her legs and a bun in the oven. Where once her job as a journalist saw her tearing off to Paris at a moment’s notice after a lead, now the single mum covers the local news desk. At least, she did…until she’s unceremoniously let go.

When Zoe invites her friends over to commiserate, wine and whining soon turns into something more… and before the night is out she’s plotted her next step: The Good News Gazette.

Now, as a developer threatens to force Westholme into the twenty-first century, Zoe’s good news movement finds her leading a covert campaign as a community crusader. She may have started The Good News Gazette as a way to save herself, but she might just be able to save Westholme in the process…

Published by Harper Collins imprint One More Chapter tomorrow, 25th November 2022, The Good News Gazette is available for purchase through the links here.

About Jessie Wells

Jessie Wells is the pseudonym of Rachael Tinniswood. Jessie lives with her husband and two children in Merseyside. She has always written in some form, and previously worked as a journalist on the Liverpool Echo and Sunday Mirror and as a freelancer for various national women’s magazines and newspapers before moving into finance. She loves nothing more than getting lost in her imaginary worlds, which are largely filled with romance, communities bursting with character and a large dose of positivity.

For further information, follow Rachel/Jessie on Twitter @JessieWells22, find Jessie on Instagram or Facebook.

The Coming Darkness by Greg Mosse

My thanks to the team at Midas for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Greg Mosse’s debut novel The Coming Darkness. I’m delighted to share my review today.

The Coming Darkness was published by Moonflower on 10th November 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Coming Darkness

Paris, 2037. Alexandre Lamarque of the French external security service is hunting for eco-terrorists. Experience has taught him there is no one he can trust – not his secretive lover Mariam, not even his old mentor, Professor Fayard, the man at the centre of the web. He is ready to give up. But he can’t.

In search of the truth, Alex must follow the trail through an ominous spiral of events, from a string of brutal child murders to a chaotic coup in North Africa. He rapidly finds himself in a heart-thumping race against chaos and destruction. He could be the world’s only hope of preventing THE COMING DARKNESS . . .

My Review of The Coming Darkness

Alex has a new mission.

The Coming Darkness is quite a book and I’m not certain my limited intellect coped with every facet of this rich, engaging and absolutely blistering narrative!

Intricately plotted, I found I had to concentrate hard on retaining who was who and how the various aspects were interrelated in the story. I’d say The Coming Darkness is not a book to read in short blasts. It needs, and deserves, sustained concentration fully to appreciate how interconnected the different strands are and I think it best for readers to immerse themselves completely. Greg Mosse’s style is skilfully eloquent and I loved the balance of exposition to short pithy dialogue because it drives the narrative forward with rapidity and tension. This is intelligent writing.

Short chapters create a fast paced, episodic style. Indeed, the seemingly fragmentary, and yet totally interconnected, plotting has all the hallmarks of a film or television series that would garner cult status. It’s so difficult to define, but I found The Coming Darkness thrums with menace so that I felt unnerved and tense most of the time I was reading it.

I thought the near future setting was pitch perfect. With reference to aspects like viruses, reliance on technology, cultish terrorism and the unsettling desire for some to control and dominate others, Greg Mosse has put his finger right on the pulse of modern life in an authentic manner. I found the Parisian setting particularly effective because it was simultaneously familiar and unusual. This means that although The Coming Darkness is slightly futuristic, it is entirely plausible and disturbing.

In amongst the big themes and global aspects, what resonated so beautifully was Alex’s relationship with his mother and with Mariam. Through this strand the author gives hope and humanity, illustrating the human ability to love and to care in amongst the greed, the desire for power, and the need to for dominance. I’m hoping The Coming Darkness will not be the last we see of Alexandre Lamarque.

Terrifying, taut and prescient The Coming Darkness might be one of the most disturbing thrillers I’ve read in years because Greg Mosse manages to blend all the potential terrors of the world into an enthralling and convincing story that could just happen very, very soon.

About Greg Mosse

A theatre director, playwright and actor Greg Mosse is the founder and director of the Criterion New Writing programme at the Criterion Theatre in London, running workshops in script development to a diverse community of writers, actors and directors. In addition, since 2015, Greg has written, produced and stage 25 plays and musicals.

Greg set up both the Southbank Centre Creative Writing School – an open access program of evening classes delivering MA level workshops – and the University of Sussex MA in Creative Writing at West Dean College which he taught for 4 years.

The husband of the bestselling novelist Kate Mosse, Kate’s hit novel Labyrinth was inspired by a house that Greg and his mother bought together in the French medieval city of Carcassonne, where the couple and their children spent many happy summers. Following the success of Labyrinth, Greg created the innovative readers-and-writers website MosseLabyrinth. The first of its kind MosseLabrynth was the world’s first online accessible 3D world, and the inspiration for Pottermore – the popular Harry Potter website.

A multilinguist, Greg has lived and worked in Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Madrid and has worked as both an interpreter at a variety of international institutions and a teacher in the UK.

Greg and Kate live in Chichester, where Kate’s parents founded the Chichester Festival Theatre, they have two grown up children.

The Coming Darkness was written during lockdown and is Greg’s debut novel.

For further information, visit Greg’s website, or follow him on Twitter @GregMosse. You’ll also find him on Instagram and Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Night-Time Stories Edited by Yen-Yen Lu

I’m very fond of short stories and must extend my enormous thanks to Christi at The Emma Press for sending me a copy of Night-Time Stories edited by Yen-Yen-Lu in return for an honest review. I wasn’t intending on reading and reviewing this collection for another month, but I got caught up in the stories!

Published by The Emma Press on 1st December 2022, Night-Time Stories is available for purchase here.

Night-Time Stories

Night-time Stories is an anthology of short fiction themed around the night-time, by authors including Angela Readman, Winifred Mok and Leanne Radojkovich and edited by Yen-Yen Lu. Cover design by Emma Dai’an Wright.

‘The bush next to me rustles. Two spots of yellow light reflect back. These stars creep closer, blink, then duck and hop over the boundary between us. A black cat, her fur seeming to shimmer as it breaks up the light from the lamppost, looks up towards me.
Ancestral night trapped in a physical, adorable form.

I offer her my hand. She regards it. Sniffs it. Pushes her face towards it. I ruffle her ears and she backs up a little, then moves towards me, touching my ankles gently as she walks past me, then swings back round and pushes her head yet again. Ruffle.
She purrs, and the dance is complete.’ 
 – from ‘Even This Helps’, by Zoë Wells

My Review of Night-Time Stories

Ten short stories.

Night-Time Stories is a phenomenal collection that I adored. In fact, the writing here couldn’t be anything other than short stories because it is so exquisite that any longer pieces would be almost too intense to bear. 

The introduction to Night-Time Stories by Yen-Yen Lu sets the tone for a wonderful collection, but also gives the reader an insight into why night is such a powerful iterative image in the book that I found very interesting. I also thoroughly appreciated the biographies of the contributors included at the end of the anthology because I had been so entranced by their writing that I wanted to know more. 

The stories themselves, as the title might suggest, give glimpses into a world dominated by night. From relationships to consideration of the more fantastical, through creatures and places, each story invites the reader to observe the world around them, to consider what might be happening in the cosmos, in an empty room and even in Tesco at 3AM, in a heightened manner. The wonderful employment of the senses from the taste of salty soup to the touch of a cat’s fur means that reading Night-Time Stories somehow enhances the reader’s perceptions and their ability to notice the world around them and simply to ‘be’. I thought this effect was outstanding.

Night-Time Stories might only be a slim volume, but it is so filled with nuanced and beguiling prose that it thoroughly entertains and has huge impact. There’s an eclectic mix of styles and authors so that any reader will find a piece that resonates with them. I thought it was excellent.

About Yen-Yen Lu

Yen-Yen Lu is a freelance editor and writer. Her short stories have been published in online zines and the anthology In Which Dragons Are Real But (Fincham Press, 2018). As an editor, she is passionate about promoting underrepresented voices in independent publishing. She studied Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton. Her favourite things about the night-time are the lack of crowds, and sleeping.

Discussing Do What You Love with MJ Mallon

It’s over four years since last I stayed in with lovely MJ Mallon to chat about her book The Curse of Time in a post you’ll find here. With Marjorie’s latest book Do What You Love, Fragility of Your Flame coming out on 25th November I simply had to invite her back for a further chat. As well as staying in with Marjorie today I’m delighted to share my review of Do What You Love, Fragility of Your Flame too.

Let’s find out more:

Staying in with MJ Mallon

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

Hello Linda, many thanks for inviting me to an evening in with you.

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

The book I have brought along today is my latest poetry, flash fiction and photography collection entitled Do What You Love, Fragility of Your Flamean inspiring little number!

It really is! I know I’ve already read it, but tell others what they can expect from an evening in with Do What You Love

Amongst other things, it features me chatting philosophically with the three sisters of fate about my life-to-date. I share my photos, thoughts, poems about life, family, travel, love and all manner of shenanigans and.. being brave, embracing change and always doing what you love!

At the moment… hubby and I are in the process of altering our lifestyle by moving abroad… tricky due to Covid, Brexit and oodles of bureaucracy. But, in time, with patience I am sure we will get there.

You will! So where are you going?

This is where we are living part of the year… Tavira in Portugal.

How wonderful! But you say part of the year?

The rest of the time I live in Edinburgh, my home from home, and I also spend time with kind friends in Cambridge, (both of these cities triggered my enthusiasm for writing and I have a deep fondness for both – I grew up in Edinburgh, and discovered the ‘real author/blogger me,’ in Cambridge.)

This is a poem excerpt from Do What You Love relating to the above photo of Tavira.

a fairy tale sight,

three bridges cross the river,

tranquil Tavira,

magic me to new delights,

a ferry to the beaches!

Image and Poem © M J Mallon

That’s lovely Marjorie. So why did you decide to present your work in Do What You Want in this way?

Why poetry, short prose and photography? I have a fondness for poetic and short form expression and believe that a few well chosen words can convey so much. I’m thrilled that two of my poetry collections Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose and Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity have been requested by prestigious libraries in the UK. So, perhaps I am doing something right!

You must! Congratulations. 

What about photography? I am a keen photographer. It’s in the genes… my grandfather and uncle had a photography business and were very successful before the advent of war.

This is a house with strong photography links too Marjorie – did you know I was a wedding photographer’s assistant to my husband for several years? Tell me, how has Do What You Love been received so far?

There have been some interesting observations from early reviews of Do What You Love

★★★★★ 5 stars Oh what a lovely book, filled with poetic gems and beautiful prose!
I enjoy reading MJ Mallon’s poetic fiction, where she ties poetry with prose, and have read several of her previous books written similarly.
Do What You Love is almost autobiographical in a sense that she has taken her memories and written them in poetic form, and the fictional, almost fantastical element is where she meets the three sisters of fate through her journey of reminiscences, and they talk about her different memories.
It’s not linear, but no conversation ever is, is it? Memories jump from the more recent to the older ones as they come tumbling into your mind.
I felt a keen connection to the poems about her daughters, and the autumn trees. Autumn is one of my favourite seasons.
A lovely book with a personal touch. Ritu – But I Smile Anyway.

★★★★★ 5 stars I’ve read this author’s work before: young adult novels, poetry and flash fiction, and I love her imaginative handling of the magical, the phantasmagorical and surreal. This short book is no exception to the quality of MJ Mallon’s output. I found her exploration of her past life captivating.

We may consider that the inclusion of often very personal material in a compilation of this sort would make it difficult for the outside reader to find a way in. This is not true at all of MJ Mallon’s poetry and prose: in many places, I related so much to what she writes, especially about a daughter ‘flying the nest’ to a faraway country. I particularly loved the device MJ Mallon uses to draw all this together: she presents it as a conversation with Atropos, one of the three Fates in Greek mythology: the Morai.

Atropos presides over the past. I thought this worked extremely well as a central metaphor. It had me googling the three Fates, and reading all about them: Clotho, who spins the threads of life, guardian of the present; Lachesis, who measures the length of life with her measuring rod, and is guardian of the future: and Atropos, who is the guardian of fate and destiny, and who chooses the manner of death by snipping the threads of an individual’s life.

MJ Mallon has had a fascinating and varied life experience: born in Singapore, she spent her childhood in Hong Kong and her teens in Edinburgh. She now lives in Cambridge. Every culture she has lived in, I believe, has influenced her imagination, her interests and her approach as a writer. In this book, we find a compilation of words and images which draw us in: poignant, sensitive, delicate, playful, as she opens up for us her past and present relationships, the places she has loved and spent time in, and her thoughts and feelings about it all.

A highly recommended book for you. Review by Sheila Robinson

You must be utterly thrilled with those responses Marjorie!

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

Ah, an easy one to answer! I am missing certain foods at the moment, living part of the year in Portugal! There are no Chinese dim sum restaurants here. So I have brought along a small selection of my favourites, char sui dumplings and prawn sui mai. And… a little morsel of cake that I mention in the book… don’t worry I have brought an extra piece for you Linda!


Sometimes, the tiniest of foods, whether savoury or sweet, are akin to the shortest forms of poetry – the most delectable and delicious! Here is said morsel… one bite, then another and it is all gone! Even though this darling mouthful was in my tummy years ago, I can still taste the strawberry mousse and the tiny white chocolate twirl on top. Sublime.

shall I start eating?

this cheeky dessert mouthful,

or just admire it?

fork poised in the air trembling.

such decisions, decisions!

 Image and Poem © M J Mallon

I’m not sure I’d be able to wait long enough to make the decision! I’d need to eat it right away! Thanks so much for coming back to Linda’s Book Bag Marjorie. It’s been lovely chatting with you about Do What You Love. Now, you dish up the dim sum and I’ll give readers a few more details about Do What You Love before I share my review:

Do What You Love, Fragility of Your Flame

Do What You Love is a personal poetry collection celebrating how the fates may have a part in all that we do.

With special poems and short reflective moments inspired by family, flowers and nature, love, scrumptious morsels, places I’ve visited, lived and intend to live in, the friendships and hopes I have for the future.

The overarching theme is to live a life well lived… And to do what you love.

float along with me
create clouds of sweetest joy
to do what you love
hold fate’s hand as we venture
near and far on life’s journey

Published on 25th November 2022, Do What You Love, Fragility of Your Flame is available on Amazon UKAmazon US and Amazon Canada.

My Review of Do What You Love, Fragility of Your Flame

A small and perfectly formed collection about finding your way in life.

Do What You Love is simply lovely. Marjorie Mallon bases her collection on an iterative image of and conversation with the Fates as well as the concept of doing what a person loves and she affords the reader a personal insight into her life and family as she does so. I really recommend reading her author introduction in advance of the rest of the book because it sets the scene so beautifully.

Given that this is a very personal book, I was concerned that it would be too specific to the author. Not a bit of it.  There’s a wide range in Do What You Love that encompasses poetry, prose and photography so that there really is something for every reader. I particularly enjoyed the variety of writing style. The first entry, Fragility Of Your Flame, feels very traditional in style, reminiscent of traditional fables and this is continued throughout the collection, giving balance to the shorter entries as the author imagines conversations with the Fates that enable her to reflect on her life and family.

There’s such a range of emotion in Do What You Love. Parents will experience the pain of letting go of their children even whilst they might be immensely proud of them. Marjorie Mallon illustrates love, joy, sadness, pride, the impact of nature on an individual and so much more. Her sense of place and history comes through with just a tweak of her pen and she so celebrates a childlike sense of awe and joy that she helps readers connect (or indeed reconnect) with their own happiness. I especially enjoyed the entries about trees because the author reignited my love of nature.

Do What You Love is a highly personal collection to Marjorie Mallon, but at the same time as giving readers a glimpse into who she is and where she has come from, she gently guides readers to contemplate their own lives, to live more positively and to appreciate each moment. This is such a wonderful message. and a much needed one in today’s world.

About MJ Mallon


M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives sometimes in the UK, and often times in Portugal.. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile to greet her.

Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too.

You’ll find Marjorie on Facebook and Instagram and can follow her on Twitter @Marjorie_Mallon or visit her blog for further information.