Staying in with R A Dalkey

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From time to time a book comes along that has such a fantastic title I simply have to know more. I’ve invited R. A. Dalkey to stay in with me today to tell me about one of his books and I think you’ll see what I mean!

Staying in with R A Dalkey

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

The pleasure is all mine! At the bitter old age of 38, nothing excites me more of an evening than a clear diary. Staying in and chattering books is right up there with putting my feet up and watching golf on the television. The only thing that could make it better is discovering a leftover meal in the freezer…ideally a meaty one.

(I’m sure we can find something in the freezer that will do! As for your age – well I’m old enough to be your mother…)

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

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I’ve brought Never Drive A Hatchback To Austria (And Other Valuable Life Lessons). To be completely honest,  it was a pretty easy choice to make, since this is my first and only book so far.

(Brilliant title!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Never Drive A Hatchback To Austria (And Other Valuable Life Lessons)?

I really hope you’re going to have a good few laughs and say ‘OMG, I know exactly what he means! That’s happened to me too!’ a lot. You shouldn’t have to do any more thinking than you would if you read Bill Bryson – and hopefully just as much smiling. As with most Bryson books, there’s a lot of travel involved.

(Books and travel just happen to be two of my favourite things!)

But my journey isn’t just the headline one from England to Vienna via various corners of Europe – it’s also a trip through the choppy waters of everyday life. I hope you’ll identify with a lot of the frustrations and madness I encounter along the way. Because if we can’t laugh at something as perplexing as the world we live in, how can we possibly make it through the day?

(Now that’s a philosophy I can subscribe to Richard!)

What else have you brought along and why?

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Well, there’s no way I’m sharing that de-frosted meal: I’m pretty selfish when it comes to food. All the more so if it’s one of those Viennese schnitzels. But you can go wild on my Aperol, which I first discovered on my trip to Venice. The ultimate holiday drink was apt reward for sweating our own way through the canals…on a kayak. Just one of the adventures we can read about in my book. Anyone with a chilled disposition is welcome…highly-strung obsessives can stay well away. If we enjoy chapter three together you’ll understand why 😉

Now you have me intrigued I think I’m going to have to read Never Drive A Hatchback To Austria (And Other Valuable Life Lessons). Thanks so much for being here this evening and telling me all about it.

Never Drive A Hatchback To Austria (And Other Valuable Life Lessons)

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Life’s funny: one month you’re trying to work out how to buy a second-hand car without getting screwed over by some dodgy con artist, the next you’re plotting your escape from fanatically neurotic housemates. One year you’re living in small-town Oxfordshire, the next you’re a bewildered new citizen of Vienna. In this meandering meditation on the chance happenings, mindless annoyances and general ridiculousness of modern existence, R.A.Dalkey tells the true tale of five homes, three jobs, two very different countries and one superannuated Peugeot 306.

If being a grown-up were as simple as holding down a job, buying a reliable car, finding the home of your dreams and living happily ever after, there’d be no need for this book. But the author’s unorthodox approach and complete failure to accept the world of adulthood was never going to make it that straightforward. Set against the backdrop of his ever-swelling mid-thirties grumpiness and the growing realization that he might never actually become a millionaire, this story follows him and his trusty hatchback from England to Vienna – a journey that takes him to Cyprus and Venice, Slovenia and Surrey, Belgium and Bonn.

Never Drive A Hatchback To Austria (And Other Valuable Life Lessons) is available for purchase through these links.

About R. A. Dalkey

Richard

R.A. Dalkey has been editing magazines and writing professionally all his life, and has been published by GQ, Reader’s Digest, The Sunday Times, Australian International Traveller, Reuters and Sports Illustrated, to name just a handful.

You can find him on Goodreads.

Staying in with Anne Fletcher and Jon Teckman

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I’m genuinely delighted to welcome Anne Fletcher and Jon Teckman to Linda’s Book Bag today. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Jon here and of reviewing his novel, Ordinary Joe here so it’s high time I redressed the balance and had a chat with Anne too!

Staying in with Anne Fletcher and Jon Teckman

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Anne and welcome back Jon. Thank you both for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you for inviting us Linda, it’s great to get the chance for us both to stay in with you!

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

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Anne: We’ve bought along a book each and it wasn’t until we started to pack them for you that we realised their similar starting points. It hadn’t occurred to us before that we’ve both written books where the central character, Joseph, is desperate to save his family and a journey to the French Riviera becomes a crucial part of that quest.

(Oo. That’s spooky!)

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Jon: But that’s where the similarities end! They are very different reads.My novel Ordinary Joeis the story of a mild-mannered Jewish accountant working in the film industry. He’s an unremarkable man in a very exciting industry who makes a dreadful mistake.

(And having read and thoroughly enjoyed Ordinary Joe, I know ALL about that!)

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Anne: My book, From the Mill to Monte Carlo, is non-fiction and it’s the true story of my great, great, great uncle Joseph Hobson Jagger.  He who grew up in great poverty, working in the mills of Victorian Bradford but when his family fell into destitution and was threatened with debtors’ prison he came up with an ingenious scheme to save them.

(He sounds quite a character!)

Jon: We’ve chosen these books because they are very personal to us. Mine draws on my years working in the British film industry..

Anne: And mine is my search for the truth behind a family legend.

Jon: They also happen to be the only books we have written so far!

(Maybe you should co-author a book together…)

What can we expect from an evening in with Ordinary Joe and From the Mill to Monte Carlo?

Jon:  Ordinary Joe is a comedy which tells the story of Joe West and his desperate attempts to avoid the consequences of a stupid, impulsive act that could destroy his life. He is an ordinary, middle aged accountant but it’s this very ordinariness that lures the attention of glamorous movie star, Olivia Finch,who is disillusioned with the fawning attentions and spiritual emptiness of Hollywood. Following a night of unexpected passion Joe realises that all his fantasies may have come true but his life has turned into a nightmare. The book follows him from New York to London to Cannes in his attempts to shake off the obsessive celebrity whilst trying to hide his infidelity from the wife that he is desperate to keep. It’s a black comedy which in some places may, or may not, draw on people I met and situations that I found myself in whilst working in the movies!

(I think you might need to explain a bit more about those people and situations later after this blog post Jon!)

Anne:  Except the infidelity though he assures me! It is a very funny book but also has quite a few challenging themes. It’s caused quite a lot of conversation about Joe’s character and what would be the right thing to do in this situation. We could have a good chat about that Linda!

(I think we could. I’ve read scores and scores of books since Ordinary Joe but I can still remember him VERY clearly.)

My Joseph is quite different. I grew up on his story; my Dad used to tell me it as a child, and after he died I decided to research it properly. What I discovered was an incredible rags to riches story. In his desperation to save his family, Joseph worked out a legal and infallible way to win at roulette, travelled to the Riviera and became the Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. He returned to Bradford a multi-millionaire.

(Wow! That’s quite a story. I have to reaFrom the Mill to Monte Carlo as soon as I can now!)

I’m not going to tell you how he did it because I don’t want to spoil the book. But it’s a real detective story. For someone who did such an extraordinary thing he left very little trace and so it’s taken me years to track down the truth behind the family story. The book is as much about my search as it is about what Joseph did and I’ve been thrilled in particular by the historian Tracy Borman’s review of it:

‘An utterly compelling and deeply personal account of a working class Victorian man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. In telling the remarkable story of her ancestor, the author brings to life one of the most transformative periods in British history. Her painstaking research is as fascinating as the tale itself. Not to be missed.

(My goodness, that’s quite an endorsement!)

Jon: We’ve had quite a few readers say to us that both books would make great movies. Obviously we agree!  We’ve had a bit of fun imagining who we’d cast as our two Josephs. I think Sam West would make the best Joseph Hobson Jagger as he has a Bradford connection (his father Timothy was born there). He wouldn’t be a bad Joe West either although I could also imagine him being played by someone like David Mitchell or Martin Freeman – opposite Scarlet Johansson as Olivia, of course.

(Actually, I think Martin Freeman would be perfect for Joe West…)

What else have you brought along and why?

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Anne:  The Riviera is central to both of our books and so I’ve bought along a roulette chip that I won in the casino at Monte Carlo. I played in the very room where my ancestor won his millions which was the most incredible part of the whole writing experience for me.  Of course I didn’t have an infallible winning strategy like he did but at least I won this!

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Jon: Well Joe West has quite a large chip on his shoulder so perhaps that would do for me too, although I know you wouldn’t even let me through the door if I wasn’t wearing a pair of Mr Silly socks.  As you know, Linda, they play a significant part in Joe West’s story – everyone else will have to read the book to find out why!

(They will indeed!)

Thank you both for staying in with me this evening. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hearing about both Joes and wish you every success with Ordinary Joe and From the Mill to Monte Carlo.

From the Mill to Monte Carlo

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This is the story of a man who went from Yorkshire mill worker to Monte Carlo millionaire. Amongst the men ‘who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’, Joseph Hobson Jagger is unique. He is the only one known to have devised an infallible and completely legal system to defeat the odds at roulette and win a fortune. But he was not what might be expected. He wasn’t a gentleman or an aristocrat, he wasn’t a professional gambler, he was a Yorkshire textile worker who had laboured in the Victorian mills of Bradford since childhood.

What led a man like this to travel nearly a thousand miles to the exclusive world of the Riviera when most people lived and died within a few miles of where they were born? The trains that took him there were still new and dangerous, he did not speak French and had never left the north of England. His motivation was strong. Joseph, his wife and four children, the youngest of whom was only two, faced a situation so grave that their only escape seemed to be his desperate gamble on the roulette tables of Monte Carlo.

Today Jagger’s legacy is felt in casinos worldwide and yet he is virtually unknown. Anne Fletcher is his great-great-great niece and in this true-life detective story she uncovers how he was able to win a fortune, what happened to his millions and why Jagger should now be regarded as the real ‘man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’.

From the Mill to Monte Carlo is available for purchase here and directly from the publisher Amberley.

Ordinary Joe

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A brilliant, fast-paced comedy about life behind the scenes in the film business, and how to survive when your greatest fantasy comes true and threatens to wreck your perfectly ordinary life.

After the movie, when the credits roll up you might see his name flash past: ‘Joseph West’ and think nothing of it. Not an actor, not a director, Joe is just one of the money men, kept at arms distance from the talent. Until one night in New York the talent comes calling.

Olivia Finch is lit from within, an actress who was born to it but can’t stand the superficiality anymore. Now all she wants is a real conversation with an ordinary guy – and Olivia Finch always gets what she wants. Cue Joe, married, ordinary accountant, Joe.

And then cue a snowball of deception, acting and confusion that puts Joe in the limelight, his marriage in trouble and a dead body on the ground in this hilarious caper.

Published by Borough Press, Ordinary Joe is available for purchase through the links here.

About Anne Fletcher

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Anne Fletcher read history at Oxford University. She has a successful career in heritage and has worked at some of the most exciting historic sites in the country including Hampton Court Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Bletchley Park and Tower Bridge. She is the great-great-great niece of Joseph Hobson Jagger, ‘the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’ and the subject of her first book From the Mill to Monte Carlo. Her search for his story started with only a photograph, a newspaper article and the lyrics of the famous song. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband Jon and their sons Joseph and Matthew.

You can follow Anne on Twitter @Annecfletcher.

About Jon Teckman

Jon Teckman

He served as an advisor on film policy to both Conservative and Labour governments before becoming Chief Executive of the British Film Institute in 1999. He now lives in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire with his wife Anne and sons Joseph and Matthew. Ordinary Joe is his first novel.

You can follow Jon on Twitter @Jontwothreefour.

Staying in with Terje G. Simonsen

Secret Powers

Now, my husband has always said I have a spooky ability to know what he’s thinking or about to say so it gives me great pleasure to welcome Terje G. Simonsen to Linda’s Book Bag today as I think he may be able to enlighten why!

Staying in with Terje G. Simonsen

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

Thanks a lot for inviting me, Linda—it is truly a pleasure!

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

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I have chosen to bring with me my latest book, Our Secret Powers—A Short History of (Nearly) Everything Paranormal. Many people are fascinated with the paranormal—just look at the enormous interest for books as Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings, and also for series as The Magicians etc. But in spite of people’s interest, they often do not know all that much about the paranormal—what is real and what is purely fantasy. So I thought I wanted to give some perspectives on this!

(Sounds like I’m going to be in for a very interesting evening Terje.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Our Secret Powers?

Well, you could expect to find out you probably are a bit more paranormally gifted than you hitherto have thought! For example, have you ever experienced that some day you start thinking of a friend that you haven’t heard from in a very long time—say, weeks, or even months or years. And just some hours later, you get a call or a message from just this person? Many would ascribe such an occurrence to mere coincidence—which it, of course, could be. But there have, in fact, been conducted studies both at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and the University of Freiburg, Germany, that suggest this can be down to telepathy rather than coincidence!

(Gosh! That’s interesting. Could you tell me a little more about how they went about their research?)

Sure—let’t enter the world of parapsychology! Researchers have a volunteer make an agreement with four of his/her good friends (emotional connection in important). These four people are in separate houses with telephones, but NB no individual answering tones! A researcher contacts one of the four friends and tells him/her to call the volunteer. The volunteer will now—before answering the call—make a guess as to who is calling. A research assistant who is with the volunteer writes down the guess. Then the volunteer picks up the phone to check who is actually calling. As there are four friends who may call we should expect the volunteer to guess correctly one out of four times, meaning 25  percent of the cases. But what turns out is the volunteer on average will guess correctly much more often, typically in about 40 percent of the cases!

Oo! That’s fascinating! So presumably there needs to be some kind of telepathy for the volunteer to be able to predict so accurately? Does that mean we all have the potential to communicate telepathically then, if these were just ‘ordinary’ people?

Correct! That’s what I said earlier: You are more paranormally gifted than you thought!

(Hmm. I might have to try that out!)

What else have you brought along and why?

Should I perhaps tell you one of the stories that made me start diving into this fascinating field?

(Yes, please do!)

Well, I had an upcoming date, and out of curiosity I got the idea to call an old man, a Norwegian psychic, who I knew had impressed a journalist in Norway’s perhaps most serious newspaper The Evening Post. So I called him, and in addition to commenting on the date itself, he said: “…and then I can tell you that this woman is 1.64 m tall!” I went to the date, and during the evening I couldn’t keep myself from asking: “By the way: how tall are you?” She answered: ” 1.64 m”. I was floored. It could of course have been a lucky guess, but when I called him back to say I was impressed, he floored me again by—right off the bat and without the possibility to consult Google maps—describing the coloring of my house-front, which is by no means obvious, as there are two different colors. So this experience, together with a lot of others, sparked of the process that resulted in Our Secret Powers!

Thanks so much for staying in with me Terje, to tell me about Our Secret Powers—A Short History of (Nearly) Everything Paranormal. I’ve always thought our minds can do more than we suspect and it has been a fascinating evening.

Our Secret Powers—A Short History of (Nearly) Everything Paranormal

Secret Powers

Is the paranormal normal?

Many readers will be surprised when learning that reputable scientists, among them several Nobel laureates, have claimed that telepathy is a reality. Their curiosity will increase when reading that Cleopatra’s lost palace and Richard III’s burial place were recovered by means of clairvoyance. And some will think it to be science fiction when finding out about Stargate–the espionage program where the American military and CIA engaged in the development of psychic spies!

Simonsen, a Norwegian historian of ideas, introduces an array of entertaining paranormal tales from history, archaeology, anthropology and psychology, and presents scientific research that has provided fascinating results. He argues that the stories we hear about telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition ought not to be dismissed as superstition

In step with spiritual and occult traditions, the author suggests that consciousness is not limited to our own head. Rather he thinks that all humans (and perhaps all living beings) are linked together in a “Mental Internet.’ Via this network we may exchange ‘telepathic emails’ with friends and family and make clairvoyant ‘downloads’ of information. Thus perhaps what we usually call ‘supernatural’ is completely natural but little understood communications via this Mental Internet?

Our Secret Powers gives us an engaging, entertaining and informative analysis of a controversial subject and would make an excellent travel companion.

Our Secret Powers—A Short History of (Nearly) Everything Paranormal is available for purchase here.

There is also a YouTube clip introducing the book you may wish to see here.

About Terje G. Simonsen

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Terje G. Simonsen is a Norwegian author and Historian of Ideas, PhD, specializing in the esoteric and occult. Since childhood Terje has been fascinated by paranormal phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and healing.

He taught introductory courses on central Western philosophical and literary works at the Institute of History of Ideas, University of Oslo. Today Terje works as a freelance writer.

He is also an avid salsa dancer, amateur pianist and chess player.

You can follow Terje on Twitter @terjesim1 and find him on Facebook.

The Lie by Helen Dunmore

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As a change from new books and those languishing on my TBR I’m delighted to have actually read my U3A book group choice again this month! This time it’s The Lie by Helen Dunmore.

The Lie was published by Windmill, a Penguin imprint, in May 2014 and is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

The Lie

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Set during and just after the First World War, The Lie is an enthralling, heart-wrenching novel of love, memory and devastating loss by one of the UK’s most acclaimed storytellers.

Cornwall, 1920, early spring.

A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family.

Behind him lie the mud, barbed-wire entanglements and terror of the trenches. Behind him is also the most intense relationship of his life.

Daniel has survived, but the horror and passion of the past seem more real than the quiet fields around him.

He is about to step into the unknown. But will he ever be able to escape the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie?

My Review of The Lie

Daniel is back in Cornwall after the First World War but its consequences still resonate in his life.

The Lie is a glorious book. It is exquisite storytelling at its best because the reader is compelled to live every moment with Daniel as a result of the fabulous and almost ethereal prose. Helen Dunmore is not afraid to present the realities of the stench of death and decay, or the beauty of a bunch of violets, for example, so that reading The Lie becomes a truly immersive experience. The author’s use of language is poetic at times and always perfectly attuned to the needs of the narrative. Not a syllable is out of place or wasted. I found Helen Dunmore’s appeal to the senses so vivid and astute that I felt Daniel’s experiences with him and felt I was staring into his very soul as he struggled to come to terms with his perceived guilt.

The plot is wonderful, hinging on one spoken lie early on but encompassing so many more, from the oblique and generic letters sent to those whose loved ones had died in the conflict to the difficulty in accepting the sensuality between Dan and Frederick. Self-deception, identity and love and a desire to do the right thing are all wrapped within untruths, near or half truths making for a mesmerising read.

The Lie rings with all kinds of emotion just under the surface, from passion to hatred, so that I found it a very intense and beautiful book. The way in which Dan’s experiences come back to haunt him, quite literally, made me intensely sad and moved me considerably.

On the surface, the plot of The Lie is actually relatively simple, but this is no ordinary book and I feel reading it once has only allowed me to skim the surface of its nuances. I loved the balance between the army training aspects at the beginning of chapters and how they reflected the events within those chapters. Dan’s mental state writhes through the more prosaic elements so that reading The Lie feels all the more effective and affecting.

I really loved The Lie. I cannot believe it is my first Helen Dunmore book and I feel the world has lost a writer of the utmost skill and talent in her early death. I thought The Lie was wonderful.

About Helen Dunmore

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Helen Dunmore was an award-winning novelist, children’s author and poet who will be remembered for the depth and breadth of her fiction. Rich and intricate, yet narrated with a deceptive simplicity that made all of her work accessible and heartfelt, her writing stood out for the fluidity and lyricism of her prose, and her extraordinary ability to capture the presence of the past.

Her first novel, Zennor in Darkness, explored the events which led D. H. Lawrence to be expelled from Cornwall on suspicion of spying, and won the McKitterick Prize. Her third novel, A Spell of Winter, won the inaugural Orange Prize for Fiction in 1996, and she went on to become a Sunday Times bestseller with The Siege, which was described by Antony Beevor as a ‘world-class novel’ and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year and the Orange Prize. Published in 2010, her eleventh novel, The Betrayal, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and The Lie in 2014 was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the 2015 RSL Ondaatje Prize.

Her final novel, Birdcage Walk, deals with legacy and recognition – what writers, especially women writers, can expect to leave behind them – and was described by the Observer as ‘the finest novel Helen Dunmore has written’.

Helen was known to be an inspirational and generous author, championing emerging voices and other established authors. She also gave a large amount of her time to supporting literature, independent bookshops all over the UK, and arts organisations across the world. She died in June 2017.

There is more information on Helen’s website.

#Quercus2019

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When this lovely invitation to join Quercus Books’ Word of Mouth evening arrived I was delighted to have been invited. Little did I realise what a fabulous evening it would be. As well as meeting up with several blogger friends and publicists from Quercus and MacLehose whom I already knew, I got to meet others and to chat with both Sonia Velton and Beth O’Leary about their debut books and I went home with an absolutely bulging goody bag of wonderful forthcoming books.

There were interactive displays showcasing the books as well as nibbles and lots to drink, making for a brilliant evening.

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I even added a special lucky dip book from the shelves which turned out to be Retribution Road by Antonin Varenne that you can buy here:

Retribution road

Although I couldn’t carry them all, much as I would have liked to, let me tell you a little bit about the wonderful books coming in the near future that I was so lucky to bring home with me:

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

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When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

Inside the Thorel’s tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household and set the scene for a devastating day of reckoning between her and Sara.

The price of a piece of silk may prove more than either is able to pay.

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Blackberry and wild rose

Blackberry and Wild Rose is available for pre-order here.

The Lemon Tree Hotel by Rosanna Ley

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In the beautiful village of Vernazza, the Mazzone family have transformed an old convent overlooking the glamorous Italian Riviera into the elegant Lemon Tree Hotel. For Chiara, her daughter Elene and her granddaughter Isabella, the running of their hotel is the driving force in their lives.

One day, two unexpected guests check in. The first, Dante, is a face from Chiara’s past, but what exactly happened between them all those years ago, Elene wonders. Meanwhile, Isabella is preoccupied with the second guest, a mysterious young man who seems to know a lot about the history of the old convent and the people who live there. Isabella is determined to find out his true intentions and discover the secret past of The Lemon Tree Hotel.

The Lemon Tree Hotel is available for pre-order here.

The Lemon Tree Hotel

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

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A captivating and magical story set in 1930s Malaysia about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy who are brought together by a series of unexplained deaths and an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.

They say a tiger that devours too many humans can take the form of a man and walk amongst us…

In 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a mission: to find his dead master’s severed finger and reunite it with his body. Ren has forty-nine days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth forever.

Ji Lin, an apprentice dressmaker, moonlights as a dancehall girl to pay her mother’s debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir that leads her on a crooked, dark trail.

As time runs out for Ren’s mission, a series of unexplained deaths occur amid rumours of tigers who turn into men. In their journey to keep a promise and discover the truth, Ren and Ji Lin’s paths will cross in ways they will never forget.

Captivating and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores the rich world of servants and masters, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and unexpected love. Woven through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

Night Tiger

The Night Tiger is available for pre-order here.

The Dollmaker by Nina Allan

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INFORMATION WANTED ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF DOLLMAKER EWA CHAPLIN AND/OR FRIENDSHIP, CORRESPONDENCE. PLEASE REPLY TO: BRAMBER WINTERS.

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive, but graceful, unique and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped; and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England he reads the fairytales of Ewa Chaplin – potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice – to remain alone with their painful pasts or break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own . . .

The Dollmaker

The Dollmaker is available for pre-order here.

Our Child of the Stars by Stephen Cox

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A lost child, the family who try to protect him and the secret that refuses to stay hidden . . .

Molly and Gene Myers were happy, until tragedy blighted their hopes of children. During the years of darkness and despair, they each put their marriage in jeopardy, but now they are starting to rebuild their fragile bond.

This is the year of Woodstock and the moon landings; war is raging in Vietnam and the superpowers are threatening each other with annihilation.

Then the Meteor crashes into Amber Grove, devastating the small New England town – and changing their lives for ever. Molly, a nurse, caught up in the thick of the disaster, is given care of a desperately ill patient rescued from the wreckage: a sick boy with a remarkable appearance, an orphan who needs a mother.

And soon the whole world will be looking for him.

Cory’s arrival has changed everything. And the Myers will do anything to keep him safe.

A remarkable story of warmth, tenacity and generosity of spirit, set against the backdrop of a fast-changing, terrifying decade.

Our child of the stars

Our Child of the Stars is available for pre-order here.

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

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A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Susan Hill meets Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to tales of murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer R.M. Holland, she teaches a short course on them every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an R.M. Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

stranger diaries

The Stranger Diaries is available for pre-order here.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

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Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

The Flatshare is available for pre-order here.

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

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Maddie and Ian’s romance began when he was serving in the British Army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend Jo in Europe. Now sixteen years later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America.

But when an accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, the years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of shocking crime.

But what in this beautiful home has gone so terribly bad?

Beautiful bad

Beautiful Bad is available for pre-order here.

Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

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Death stalked the Vale.
In every corner, every whisper.
They just didn’t know it yet.

Six neighbours, six secrets, six reasons to want Olive Collins dead.

In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale, people’s lives appear as perfect as their beautifully manicured lawns. Money, success, privilege – the residents have it all. Life is good.

There’s just one problem.

Olive Collins’ dead body has been rotting inside number four for the last three months. Her neighbours say they’re shocked at the discovery but nobody thought to check on her when she vanished from sight.

The police start to ask questions and the seemingly flawless facade begins to crack. Because, when it comes to Olive’s neighbours, it seems each of them has something to hide, something to lose and everything to gain from her death.

Dirty Little Secrets is available for pre-order here.

I’d just like to thank everyone at Quercus for inviting me to such a wonderful evening, from the authors to those serving the nibbles and drinks. I’m so looking forward to reading these fabulous books over the next few months. My godness Quercus – you’ve got some stunning books coming…

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Even when it’s not fun – it’s fun: A Guest Post by Gill Paul, Author of The Lost Daughter

The Lost Daughter

Having met lovely Gill Paul on several occasions, I cannot believe this is her first visit to Linda’s Book Bag! I’m thrilled that Gill has agreed to be on the blog and tell me all about what it’s like in the run up to publication day – especially as Gill’s latest book, The Lost Daughter, will be published in paperback next week.

The Lost Daughter is currently available for 99p as an ebook here and will be available in paperback on 18th October 2018.

The Lost Daughter

The Lost Daughter

A Russian princess. An extraordinary sacrifice. A captivating secret…

From the author of The Secret Wifea gripping journey through decades and across continents, of love, devastating loss and courage against all odds.

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With the country they once ruled turned against them, the future of Russia’s imperial family hangs in the balance. When middle daughter Maria Romanova captivates two of the guards, it will lead to a fateful choice between right and wrong.

Fifty-five years later . . .
Val rushes to her father’s side when she hears of his troubling end-of-life confession: ‘I didn’t want to kill her.’ As she unravels the secrets behind her mother’s disappearance when she was twelve years old, she finds herself caught up in one of the world’s greatest mysteries.

Even when it’s not fun – it’s fun

A Guest Post by Gill Paul

Publication month means Biro-chewing, existential angst and living on wine and adrenaline for most authors of my acquaintance. Six months earlier, there will have been a sunny, optimistic meeting with the PR person, possibly over lunch, when we gleefully planned articles we would write for newspapers and identified lots of marketing angles to explore. In the weeks prior to publication, reality sinks in: few of these early ideas tend to pan out. There will be other opportunities, though, and we start bandwagon-jumping and haunting social media, as if one perfect Tweet will make all the difference.

A few weeks before the pub date, you learn the print run and which shops and supermarkets (if you’re lucky) are going to stock the book, but you generally have no idea if there will be any magazine reviews, or how readers will react to it. If you are brave enough to let your novel be released to Amazon Vine readers, early reviews will pop up there, but it’s nerve-racking because they are a critical bunch and you could be stuck with one- or two-star reviews that will be the first thing anyone searching for your book sees. GoodReads also posts pre-publication reviews, and if you are super-brave you can look on Netgalley and check out what the bloggers are saying. I’ve never done this – I’m far too much of a wuss!

Of course, those of us who write for a living should learn to be business-like about it, but it’s well-nigh impossible when your creativity – and possibly your career – are on the line. It always feels personal.

The blog tour arrives like manna from heaven. Bloggers tend to agree to be on a tour if they already know they like your work, or if the idea of the book appeals to them, so you’re in with a good chance of favourable reviews. Every morning, you haunt social media till the review pops up then you bathe in the glow of any favourable words or phrases. When other bloggers retweet, you want to kiss them. Suddenly you are not alone!

If there is a brilliant new review on Amazon, if a reader contacts you directly to say they loved the book, or if your agent rings with news of a foreign sale, you’re positively floating on air. Fellow authors tend to be supportive too because we all understand the nervy reality behind the chocolate-box images of Prosecco, launch parties and pub day flowers.

Some authors tougher than me log in daily to Amazon Author Central and check their ranking as it surges up – and then down – almost minute by minute. I used to do this but, frankly, I’m not resilient enough any more. The fact is, there’s little I can do to influence it at this stage. My main role was the previous year, when I wrote the best book I could possibly write.

I envy the authors who don’t get involved in any of this. Kate Atkinson said in a Guardian interview last weekend that she refuses to do social media and seldom reads reviews; Elena Ferrante had bestsellers back when no one knew who she was. But for most of us, marketing is part and parcel of the writers’ world because there are thousands upon thousands of new books to choose from at any given time.

In the midst of my adrenaline-angstiness, I heard a wonderfully inspiring, very honest interview on Radio 4 with Stephen Sondheim, who is still writing musicals at the age of 88. He admitted they are not as good as his past work but remarked “What else would I do?” He said that the artist’s life is full of setbacks and rejections, but that we should all paste a notice on our bathroom mirrors and look at it each morning, and the notice should say “Even when it’s not fun – it’s fun.” I’ve been thinking about that ever since and feeling the truth of it: how lucky I am to be a published author and get paid to make up stories; how lucky to work with bookish people like Linda, who generously agreed to host this blog. Hope you are all having a super-fun day!

(It’s my pleasure to host you Gill. I think every author can relate to your words. I wish you every success with The Lost Daughter. It looks an absolutely fabulous book and one which I shall be reading just as soon as I can.)

About Gill Paul

Gill Paul

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history. Her novel, Another Woman’s Husband, is about links you might not have been aware of between Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Gill’s other novels include The Secret Wife, published in 2016, about the romance between cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar, who first met in 1914. Women and Children First is about a young steward who works on the Titanic. The Affair was set in Rome in 1961–62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love while making Cleopatra. And No Place for a Lady is about two Victorian sisters who travel out to the Crimean War of 1854–56 and face challenges beyond anything they could have imagined.

All of Gill’s lovely books can be found here.

You can follow Gill on Twitter @GillPaulAUTHOR, visit her website and find her on Facebook for more information.

An Extract from Double Double Toil by Amber Elby

Double Double Toil Cover

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend an ‘evening in’ with Amber Elby chatting all about her book Cauldron’s Bubble in a post you can read here. Today I’m delighted to be supporting Amber’s latest release, the second book in her Netherfeld series Double Double Toil and to be able to share a fabulous extract from the book with you.

Double Double Toil is available for purchase here.

Double Double Toil

Double Double Toil Cover

Six months after the events of Cauldron’s Bubble, Alda is stranded in her remote cottage, unable to recreate the magical object that allows her to travel between time and place. Meanwhile, Dreng’s home with Miranda on a distant island begins to crumble. They both escape to Fairy Land, where they become embroiled in a battle of immortals as the clans of Queen Titania and King Oberon fight for supremacy. In order to evade capture and return to their worlds, Dreng must rely on his adversary, Caliban, while Alda discovers an ally in the mysterious Ophelia. In a realm where only humans can die, will Alda and Dreng save themselves and, more importantly, each other? Or will they succumb to the fantastical powers in play?

Double Double Toil continues to build on the world introduced in Cauldron’s Bubble by intertwining Shakespeare’s plays in a unique and exciting way, introducing their stories to new readers and established Bard fans alike. Elements and characters from Hamlet, Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet combine in this fast-paced tale of magic and adventure. Read on…

An Extract from Double Double Toil

But then there was silence. Minutes of silence. The cottage grew darker as the moon passed overhead, its beams no longer breaking through the windows.

Alda counted her heartbeats. Once they slowed, she stepped away from the door.

Nothing happened.

She hesitated as she reached for the doorknob but set her jaw and forced her shaking hand forward. As soon as her fingers encircled the iron handle, she swung the door open, hoping to shock whatever was waiting.

Outside, all was calm. Silent. The smell of midnight dew on leaves. The moonbeams flickering through oaks, shining from almost directly above. The distant resort, dark, its electric lights extinguished in the midnight hour. The gentle flow of the Grand River, its waters unmoving and unmoved.

No breeze. No noise. No fireflies. Nothing.

It was not natural.

Alda knew she could not remain in the cottage, fearful and confined, so she summoned all her courage, screwing it into her heart until it stuck, and slowly walked across the bridge, her hands trembling.

She reached a fork in the trail and listened. To her left was the city and civilization. To her right, the railroad bridge and Sandstone Creek and, beyond that, the forest where the spiritualists had pitched their camp.

(Now doesn’t that make you want to dive right in?) 

About Amber Elby

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Amber Elby was born in Grand Ledge, Michigan but spent much of her childhood in the United Kingdom.  She began writing when she was three years old and created miniature books by asking her family how to spell every, single, word.

Several years later, she saw her first Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, in London.

Many years later, she studied Creative Writing at Michigan State University’s Honors College before earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting at the University of Texas at Austin.

She currently resides in Texas with her husband and two daughters and spends her time teaching, traveling, and getting lost in imaginary worlds.

You can find Amber on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter @amberelby. Amber also has a super website.

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