Cover Reveal: The Gossip’s Choice by Sara Read

The Gossips Choice - Front cover v2

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and it’s always a pleasure to discover new to me authors and books, so it gives me very great pleasure to support friend and tour organiser Kelly of Love Books Group in helping reveal the cover to The Gossip’s Choice by Sara Read today.

Published by Wildpressed on 6th May 2020, The Gossip’s Choice is available for pre-order here.

Let’s find out more:

The Gossip’s Choice

The Gossips Choice - Front cover v2

“Call The Midwife for the 17th Century”

Lucie Smith is a respected midwife who is married to Jacob, the town apothecary. They live happily together at the shop with the sign of the Three Doves. But sixteen-sixty-five proves a troublesome year for the couple. Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor House and Jacob objects to her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil Wars. Their only-surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie also has to manage her husband’s fury at the news of their loyal housemaid’s unplanned pregnancy and its repercussions.

The year draws to a close with the first-ever accusation of malpractice against Lucie, which could see her lose her midwifery licence, or even face ex-communication.

I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued! 

About Sara Read

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Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research is in the cultural representations of women, bodies and health in the early modern era.

She has published widely in this area with her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England being published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.

She is a member of the organising committee of the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 and recently co-edited a special collection produced to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary.

She is also the co-editor of the popular Early Modern Medicine blog. With founding editor Dr Jennifer Evans, Sara wrote a book about health and disease in this era Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017).

Sara regularly writes for history magazines such as Discover Your Ancestors and History Today. In 2017 she published an article ‘My Ancestor was a Midwife‘ tracing the history of the midwifery profession for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2017. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking programme and is often to be heard on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio WM.

You can follow Sara on Twitter @saralread and visit her website for more information.

Tabitha and the Raincloud by Devon Sillett and Melissa Johns

Tabitha and the raincloud

My enormous thanks to Holly Duhig at Exisle Publishing for sending me a copy of children’s book Tabitha and the Raincloud by Devon Sillett and Melissa Johns in return for an honest review.

Tabitha and the Raincloud by Devon Sillett and Melissa Johns is out in the UK on 10th March 2020 and is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from the publisher here where you’ll also find teacher notes to accompany the book.

Tabitha and the Raincloud

Tabitha and the raincloud

When Tabitha wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, she finds a big raincloud next to her. She tells it to go away, but it won’t budge. At school, she tries to draw a giraffe, but the raincloud distracts her and her art teacher compliments her on her dinosaur! By lunchtime Tabitha is so stormy none of her friends want to sit next to her. Tabitha realises she needs to change her attitude.

An empowering story of resilience and the importance of optimism.

My Review of Tabitha and the Raincloud

Tabitha wakes up in a bad mood.

Tabitha and the Raincloud is a beautifully presented children’s story. The quality of the book is impressive. It has a strong and robust cover that will survive many readings and much handling. The illustrations are engaging and appropriate with a calming and muted palette that suits the story perfectly. They also have a charm and simple style that children can easily relate to. Indeed, I can envisage children emulating the artwork and attempting the painting of a giraffe like Tabitha’s at the end of the story so that if Tabitha and the Raincloud were used in a school setting it could link with art or nature projects too.

The language in the story is accessible so that stronger independent readers could enjoy the story alone, but I think that Tabitha and the Raincloud would work best when read with a child by a parent, or with a class by a teacher, because it because it affords all manner of opportunities for discussion and exploration of emotional intelligence. There’s the consideration of other people’s feelings when Tabitha rejects her breakfast or when her behaviour leaves her isolated from her friends. There’s the way in which negative experiences can be turned into positive ones. There’s the concept of sharing with others. More subtle aspects such as exercise and action to ward off poor moods and unhappiness are also implied so that there really is a great deal to find and consider at the same time as entertaining children.

Tabitha and the Raincloud would make a super addition to any child’s reading. It really does show that every cloud has a silver lining!

About Devon Sillett

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Devon Sillett is a former radio producer, turned writer and reviewer. Born in the US, Devon now calls Australia home. She has loved books as long as she can remember — so much so that she even married her husband Matthew in a library! Currently, she is researching Australian’s children’s picture books for her PhD at the University of Canberra. She is the author of The Leaky StoryScaredy Book and Saying Goodbye to Barkley (EK Books).

You can find Devon on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ladyliterology for more information.

About Melissa Johns

Melissa Johns is an artist, illustrator, an avid upcycler and a closet poet. She produces artworks predominantly made of recycled materials that lend her work a uniquely whimsical quality. Melissa is passionate about her family, her artistic creations and stimulating young minds through art and literature.

Staying in with Nicola White On Publication Day for A Famished Heart

A Famished Heart

I love ‘staying in’ with different authors here on Linda’s Book Bag and when it happens to be a publication day for their brand new novel, it’s very exciting. Today I’m thrilled to welcome Nicola White to tell me all about her latest release and I’d like to thank Rachel Nobilo of Serpent’s Tail books for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Staying in with Nicola White

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

I rather think I know, but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

A Famished Heart

I’ve brought along my new novel, A Famished Heart. It’s just published so I’m eager to share the story.

I know A Famished Heart is out today so happy publication day Nicola. What’s A Famished Heart about?

It’s a crime novel based on a true story, but it is about the afterlife of a tragedy – the ripples that follow. It is told through three voices – the detective obsessed with uncovering what really happened, the sister of the dead women who escaped their fate and the priest who discovered their bodies.

It sounds fabulous. I’m so excited to have a copy waiting to be read on my TBR pile. How is A Famished Heart being received so far?

Although I live in Scotland, I’m originally from Dublin, and I’m thrilled to have received the support of Irish writers I really admire, like Liz Nugent (Unravelling Oliver), who called it  “intriguing, compelling and highly entertaining” and Jo Spain (The Confession) – who described it as ‘Fabulous… very much in the vein of Tana French’, Crime fiction from Ireland is really soaring at the moment, so it is great to feel a part of that.

Those endorsements are wonderful. You must be absolutely delighted that authors Like Liz Nugent and Jo Spain love your writing. How exciting.

What can we expect from an evening in with A Famished Heart?

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It’s a crime story with depth and character, and a certain gothic influence. The book has just been chosen as a ‘star pick’ by The Sunday Times Crime Club, who described it as a ‘terrific new gem of Irish noir’.  Their review also included the line ‘The scene where the priest visits a massage parlour is worth the cover price alone.’ – not many writers can boast that! They also praised its ‘light touch’, so don’t fear that we will be too bogged in darkness.

I think A Famished Heart sounds exactly my mind of read. 

What else have you brought along and why?

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I think we should draw the curtains and stoke up the fire before we start, and maybe put on some music, something old and haunting, like uileann pipe music from the west of Ireland.

That’s a really atmospheric sound Nicola!

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I’ve got a bottle of Redbreast Whisky, distilled in Dublin, to strengthen our nerves, and we can have some toast and honey when we get peckish. There’s a reason for the honey, but I can’t tell you – you’ll have to read the book to find out…

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I’m not much of a drinker Nicola but I’m quite partial to toast and honey and of course, I’m utterly intrigued as to why we’re eating it. I cannot wait to sink my teeth into that toast and into A Famished Heart. Thank you so much for staying in with me to tell me more about it. 

A Famished Heart

A Famished Heart

The Macnamara sisters hadn’t been seen for months before anyone noticed. It was Father Timoney who finally broke down the door, who saw what had become of them. Berenice was sitting in her armchair, surrounded by religious tracts. Rosaleen had crawled under her own bed, her face frozen in terror. Both had starved themselves to death.

Francesca Macnamara returns to Dublin after decades in the US, to find her family in ruins. Meanwhile, Detectives Vincent Swan and Gina Considine are convinced that there is more to the deaths than suicide. Because what little evidence there is, shows that someone was watching the sisters die…

Published today, 27th February 2020 by Serpent’s Tail, A Famished Heart is available for purchase here.

About Nicola White

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Nicola White won the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award in 2008 and in 2012 was Leverhulme Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University. Her novel The Rosary Garden won the Dundee International Book Prize, was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, and selected as one of the four best debuts by Val McDermid at Harrogate. She grew up in Dublin and New York, and now lives in the Scottish Highlands.

You can follow Nicola on Twitter @whiteheadednic and there’s more with these other bloggers too:

Famished Heart Blog Tour Image

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

the hidden girl

I almost never feature fantasy, science fiction, post apocalyptic, dystopian or steam punk fiction. However, until recently I rarely read short stories either and I have grown to love them so when Amber at Midas PR got in touch to see if I would like to feature The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, I thought it was about time to broaden my reading horizons, especially as the descriptions of the writing sounded just my kind of read.

Although I didn’t have time to read the entire collection, I do have a mini-review and an extract to share with you today.

Published yesterday 25th February 2020 by Head of Zeus, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories is available for purchase here.

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories

the hidden girl

From a Tang Dynasty legend of a young girl trained as an assassin with the ability to skip between dimensions on a secluded mountain sanctuary to a space colony called Nova Pacifica that reflects on a post-apocalyptic world of the American Empire and ‘Moonwalker’ Neil Armstrong, award-winning author Ken Liu’s writings are laced with  depictions of silkpunk fantasy, Sci-Fi and old Chinese folklore, wrapped up in a mesmerising genre-bending collection of short stories.

Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This much anticipated collection includes a selection of his latest science fiction and fantasy stories over the last five years – sixteen of his best – plus a new novelette. In addition to these seventeen selections, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories also features an excerpt from book three in the Dandelion Dynasty series, The Veiled Throne.

An Extract from The Hidden Girl and Other Stories

The Hidden Girl

Beginning in the eighth century,the Imperial court of Tang Dynasty China increasingly relied on military governors—the jiedushi—whose responsibilities began with border defense but gradually encompassed taxation, civil administration, and other aspects of political power. They were, infact, independent feudal warlords whose accountability to Imperial authority was nominal.

Rivalry among the governors was often violent and bloody. 

On the morning after my tenth birthday, spring sunlight dapples the stone slabs of the road in front of our house through the blooming branches of the pagoda tree. I climb out onto the thick bough pointing west like an immortal’s arm and reach for a strand of yellow flowers,anticipating the sweet taste tinged with a touch of  bitterness.

“Alms, young mistress?”

I look down and see a bhikkhuni. I can’t tell how old she is—her face is unlined but there is a fortitude in her dark eyes that reminds me of my grandmother. The light fuzz over her shaved head glows in the warm sun like a halo, and her grey kasaya is clean but tattered at the hem. She holds up a wooden bowl in her left hand, gazing up at me expectantly.

“Would you like some pagoda tree flowers?” I ask.

She smiles.“I haven’t had any since I was a young girl. It would be a delight.”

“If you stand below me, I’ll drop some into your bowl,” I say, reaching for the silk pouch on my back.

She shakes her head. “I can’t eat flowers that have been touched by another hand—too infected with the mundane concerns of this dusty world.”

“Then climb up yourself,” I say. Immediately I feel ashamed at my annoyance.

“If I get them myself,they wouldn’t be alms now would they?” There’s a hint of laughter in her voice.

“All right,” I say. Father has always taught me to be polite to the monks and nuns. We may not follow the Buddhist teachings, but it doesn’t make sense to antagonize the spirits, whether they are Daoist, Buddhist, or wild spirits who rely on no learned masters at all. “Tell me which flowers you want; I’ll try to get them for you without touching them.”

She points to some flowers at the end of a slim branch below my bough. They are paler in color than the flowers from the rest of the tree, which means they are sweeter. But the branch they dangle from is much too thin for me to climb.

I hook my knees around the thick bough I’m on and lean back until I’m dangling upside down like a bat.It’s fun to see the world this way, and I don’t care that the hem of my dress is flapping around my face. Father always yells at me when he sees me like this, but he never stays angry at me for too long, on account of my losing my mother when I was just a baby.

Wrapping my hands in the loose folds of my sleeves, I try to grab for the flowers. But I’m still too far from the branch she wants, those white flowers tantalizingly just out of reach.

“If it’s too much trouble,” the nun calls out, “don’t worry about it. I don’t want you to tear your dress.”

I bite my bottom lip, determined to ignore her. By tightening and flexing the muscles in my belly and thighs, I begin to swing back and forth. When I’ve reached the apex of an upswing I judge to be high enough, I let go with my knees.

As I plunge through the leafy canopy, the flowers she wants brush by my face and I snap my teeth around a strand. My fingers grab the lower branch, which sinks under my weight and slows my momentum as my body swings back upright. For a moment, it seems as if the branch would hold, but then I hear a crisp snap and feel suddenly weightless.

I tuck my knees under me and manage to land in the shade of the pagoda tree, unharmed. Immediately, I roll out of the way, and the flower-laden branch crashes to the spot on the ground I just vacated a moment later.

I walk nonchalantly up to the nun and open my jaw to drop the strand of flowers into her alms bowl. “No dust. And you only said no hands.”

In the shade of the pagoda tree, we sit with our legs crossed in the lotus position like the buddhas in the temple. She picks the flowers off the stem: one for her, one for me. The sweetness is lighter and less cloying than the sugar dough figurines Father sometimes buys me.

“You have a talent,” she says. “You’d make a good thief.”

I look at her,indignant. “I’m a general’s daughter.”

“Are you?” she says. “Then you’re already a thief.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I have walked many miles,” she says. I look at her bare feet: the bottoms are callused and leathery. “I see peasants starving in fields while the great lords plot and scheme for bigger armies. I see ministers and generals drink wine from ivory cups and conduct calligraphy with their piss on silk scrolls while orphans and widows must make one cup of rice last five days.”

“Just because we are not poor doesn’t make us thieves. My father serves his lord, the Jiedushi of Weibo, with honor and carries out his duties faithfully.”

“We’re all thieves in this world of suffering,” the nun says.“Honor and faith are not virtues, only excuses for stealing more.”

“Then you’re a thief as well,” I say, anger making my face glow with heat. “You accept alms and do no work to earn it.”

She nods. “I am indeed. The Buddha teaches us that the world is an illusion, and suffering is inevitable as long as we do not see through it. If we’re all fated to be thieves, it’s better to be a thief who adheres to a code that transcends the mundane.”

“What is your code then?”

“To disdain the moral pronouncements of hypocrites; to be true to my word; to always do what I promise, no more and no less. To hone my talent and wield it like a beacon in a darkening world.”

I laugh. “What is your talent, Mistress Thief?”

“I steal lives.”

You’ll have to read the rest of this story for yourselves how it ends!

My Review of The Hidden Girl and Other Stories

Although I’m not providing a full review, I do want to say something here about the physical quality of The Hidden Girl and Other Stories. This is a beautifully presented book. The literal hidden girl on the cover image, the woven place marker, the pages of dots within the text that echo the cover all contribute to a feeling of mystery and luxuriousness.  I loved the Preface, because Ken Liu articulates brilliantly my own long held view that a story is not a single entity provided by a writer, but rather a vehicle for readers to apply their own experiences and tenets, making for a different reading experience for every reader. I loved the way too, that the dots on the cover and within the book seemed to echo thought bubbles, and conceptual explorations of the kind that swirl through the pages.

This mini-review comes with the caveat that I haven’t read all the stories in The Hidden Girl. That said, those I have read I have found skilfully written and thoroughly engaging. Ken Liu writes with an incisive insight into the human condition so that although these stories might be dystopian or futuristic, at their heart is what it is to be human, to need connection and to feel emotion.

Although there is an excellent balance between first and third person narratives, it was the first person stories I read that I enjoyed the most. Stories like The Reborn and Thoughts and Prayers have an intimacy as if the writer is actually speaking directly to the reader so that they almost become part of the narrative too. That said, the third person, final and briefest story, Cutting, I thought was sheer perfection. In less than three pages Ken Liu makes the reader contemplate memory and identity, completely inverting how we believe one creates the other, in a way I found incredibly moving. As text is cut, the structure on the page is altered until it becomes almost poetry. Cutting also brings into question religious texts and beliefs so that the reader understands how layers of time and interpretation affect truth and tenet. I thought this was very powerful

Ken Liu’s The Hidden Girl is political, philosophical and existential in ways that make the reader think, at the same time as entertaining them through vivid and intoxicating writing. I really recommend it. Although this is a genre I’d normally avoid, I’m so glad to have a copy of The Hidden Girl and am off to read the rest of the stories.

About Ken Liu

ken

Ken Liu is an American author and the winner of the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, Sidewise, and Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards.

He emigrated to the US from China at age of 11 and graduated from Harvard with a degree in English Literature and Computer Science. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Ken worked as a software engineer, corporate lawyer, and litigation consultant.

His work includes the epic fantasy series, The Dandelion Dynasty and his debut collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. His short story Good Hunting was adapted for an episode for Netflix’s science fiction web series Love, Death and Robots.

You can follow Ken on Twitter @kyliu99 and visit his website for more information.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Hidden Girl Blog Tour Banner

Staying in with K.T. Findlay

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It’s always a pleasure to find new to me authors, especially when they are writing in a genre I really rather like, and I’m delighted to welcome K.T. Findlay to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me about one of his books.

Staying in with K.T. Findlay

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

Hi Linda, it’s lovely to be here.

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 along my time travel story In Two Minds because it gives us so many things we could talk about over dinner. It’s one of those books where you can just get swept along by the story, or you can slow down a bit to enjoy all the little underpinnings that bring its Anglo Saxon world to life.

Oo. I like a book that can be read on different levels. So, what can we expect from an evening in with In Two Minds?

Well, we might expect a long night by the fire! I got the most wonderful email from a new fan in Sweden who’d selected In Two Minds basically by chance, just to kill time while his girlfriend studied for an exam. He read it right through the night, finishing at 6 AM when he fired off his email to me and a review to Amazon before showering and heading straight to work. If I never sell another copy, it was worth writing the book just to get that email!

What a wonderful reaction to your writing. You must be delighted to hear how much he loved In Two Minds.

While it was the fantasy aspects of the story that first attracted my Swedish fan, the time travel and the idea of two souls sharing the same body, there’s another side to In Two Minds. Look past the fantasy and it’s a thoroughly researched Dark Ages historical novel. Everything’s true to the time and the place. There are real people, real events, real places, and our time traveller’s new ideas really could have worked back then.

But above all you should expect a swashbuckling tale full of fun and adventure as a team of incredible women set out to become the finest blades in the land.

I think that sounds very persuasive. I don’t usually read fantasy but I do like well researched historical fiction. I may just have to fit in In Two Minds to my towering TBR pile!

What else have you brought along and why?

Fickle Mistress seaside

We should of course be drinking Anglo Saxon beer, but as it’s an acquired taste, I’ve brought along a bottle of Fickle Mistress pinot noir from Central Otago to go with the Beef Wellington.

I can fully relate to the name of that wine!

The Anglo Saxon upper crust liked their meat, but a Beef Wellington’s a lot easier to cook than a stuffed goose!

It is the way I cook things. The simpler the better!

To start with though, I’ve got us a bottle of Dom Perignon and the box set of James Burke’s Connections TV series, not to watch, but to toast.

Connections dvd set by James Burke

James Burke takes me back, but why him?

I got terribly ill a while back, and as well as helping me to retrain my brain, Connections inspired me with the knowledge that a single new idea could change the world as long as it had the right person behind it, and that was the inspiration for In Two Minds. So once the bubbles die down a little, I’d like you to join me in raising your glass to say “Thank you James!”, and to celebrate the astonishing fact that Connections is still for sale, more than forty years after it was made.

Then after dinner, I thought it might be nice for us to sit by the fire and I can read you the first couple of chapters while we finish our wine. How does that sound?

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That sounds perfect. Thanks for staying in with me. You pour another glass of Dom Perignon and I’ll tell everyone a bit more about In Two Minds

In Two Minds

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Hurled twelve hundred years into the past, into someone else’s body, things could hardly be worse. And then the body’s owner wanted it back…

Museum curator Thomas and ten year old Anglo Saxon Wulfstan have to cope with a fifty year age gap, a huge culture clash and never knowing from one moment to the next who’s going to be in control. They also face almost certain death in a year’s time because Wulfstan’s father King Offa of Mercia has challenged him to find a team of untrained women who can beat his champions in battle.

Out there somewhere are ten amazing women, women with vision, women with courage, women willing to take on the impossible and show the world just what they can do. But where are they, and can Thomas use his knowledge to find some kind of edge within the confines of eighth century Britain with all its colour, violence, ignorance, and a disturbingly cavalier attitude to hygiene?

In Two Minds is available for purchase here.

About K.T. Findlay

KT Lindley

K.T. Findlay lives on a small farm where he dovetails his writing with fighting the blackberry, and trying to convince the quadbike that killing its rider isn’t a core part of its job description. He also enjoys travel and has worked in over a dozen different countries around the world

He’s the author of In Two Minds, and A Thoughtful Woman.

You can find out more about K.T on his website, YouTube channel, on Facebook and by following him on Twitter @KTFindlay.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

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It was last September at a Penguin blogger event (that you can read about here) that I first got my hands on a copy of Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano and I’ve been desperate to share my review ever since.

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It has been my absolute pleasure to meet Dear Edward‘s author Ann Napolitano last week at Penguin’s headquarters and I would like to thank Hannah Sawyer both for my invitation to that event and to participating in this blog tour.

Ann was a fascinating interviewee, telling us that it took eight years to write Dear Edward and that it was inspired by real events. She described how she loved writing the book and experienced a ‘stickiness of obsession’ in the process, spending a year plotting and researching before the real writing began. Ann told us that the first 150 words probably took around 5 years to get absolutely right as she felt the novel, like a house, needed to be built on a strong foundation.

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Although Dear Edward explores grief, it was inspiring to hear how Ann feels that when something terrible happens we step forward and show kindness. She believes that we all need love and that taking care of others makes us feel better too. I agree Ann!

Dear Edward was published on 20th February 2020 by Penguin imprint Viking and is available for purchase through the links here.

Dear Edward

dear edward

One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles. There are 216 passengers aboard: among them a young woman taking a pregnancy test in the airplane toilet; a Wall Street millionaire flirting with the air hostess; an injured soldier returning from Afghanistan; and two beleaguered parents moving across the country with their adolescent sons, bickering over who gets the window seat. When the plane suddenly crashes in a field in Colorado, the younger of these boys, 12-year-old Edward Adler, is the sole survivor.

Dear Edward depicts Edward’s life in the crash’s aftermath as he struggles to make sense of the meaning of his survival, the strangeness of his sudden fame, and find his place in the world without his family. In his new home with his aunt and uncle, the only solace comes from his friendship with the girl next door, Shay. Together Edward and Shay make a startling discovery: hidden in his uncle’s garage are sacks of letters from the relatives of the other passengers, addressed to Edward.

As Edward comes of age against the backdrop of sudden tragedy, he must confront some of life’s most profound questions: how do we make the most of the time we are given? And what does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

My Review of Dear Edward

Being the sole survivor in a plane crash isn’t easy for Edward.

When I first began reading Dear Edward, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I hadn’t expected the book’s structure, thinking it would just be about the aftermath of the crash, and I needed to readjust my expectations. However, it wasn’t long before I was entirely engrossed in the events on the plane and Edward’s post crash life to the extent that I simply couldn’t stop reading and thought about the book when I wasn’t actually reading it. From being unsure if I’d like it I ended up loving Dear Edward. In fact I was so immersed in the story that it wasn’t until I’d finished reading that the relevance of the title hit me, even though it is clear in the writing. You’ll need to read the book to see what I mean!

I found the characters on the plane very affecting. Ann Napolitano has managed to create a fascinating microcosm of society with her people in Dear Edward from a baby yet to be born to an old man at the end of life, regardless of the crash. There’s consideration those characters’ sexuality, lives and relationships, and of so many human emotions such as fear, love, envy, avarice, frustration and joy that all life is here even as the people on the plane crash to their deaths. I found this very moving.

Ann Napolitano’s writing is beautifully adept. The dialogue in particular is sparse and yet conveys meaning with razor sharp clarity. The way the Ann Napolitano outlines the technical aspects of the crash so skilfully that they are a smooth, natural element of the narrative is exemplary – although I confess she has unnerved me rather when it comes to flying! As the plot structure balances between the plane and times after the crash it echoes the way Edward is at a pivotal stage in his life. He can move on or he can crumble completely and the exploration of this balance is totally compelling.

Indeed, it is Edward himself who makes this narrative such a triumph. He captures the reader’s heart on so many levels because he epitomises grief and humanity in his persona. I found his physical and emotional development completely spellbinding. His inertia, and his inability to sleep and eat, are pitch perfect examples of his grief and loss so that I understood completely what he was going through and lived it with him. Whilst Dear Edward should feel depressing because of the subject, 191 people dying in a plane crash, Edward gives it a both depth and a simultaneous lightness that makes it glorious and incredibly inspiring.

The essential message of Dear Edward is that life is for the living. It is what we make it and if we can be kind, do a little good and spread a little happiness along the way so much the better. I can’t argue with that. Ann Napolitano captures these sentiments perfectly without saccharine mawkishness, but with humour, emotion and humanity. I really recommend Dear Edward.

About Ann Napolitano

ann napolitano

Ann Napolitano is the author of the novels A Good Hard Look and Within Arm’s Reach. She is also the Assistant Editor of One Story literary magazine. She received an MFA from New York University; she has taught fiction writing for Brooklyn College’s MFA program, New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and for Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

You can follow Ann on Twitter @napolitanoann and visit her website for further information.

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Blog Tour part 2

Staying in with Christine Raafat, Author of The Will to Succeed

The Will to Succeed

I’m such a fan of historical fiction that not being able to fit in a book for reading is a huge disappointment but at least I can stay in with Christine Raafat to hear all about her book, The Will to Succeed thanks to the lovely folk at Bookollective.

Staying in with Christine Raafat

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

Hello Linda, thank you for inviting me.

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

The Will to Succeed

I’ve brought along The Will to Succeed, which is not only my first novel but also the first novel to be published about its 17th century heroine, Lady Anne Clifford.  There is a lot of information about her in the form of her own diaries and record books and so on, and many biographical studies of her are available but this is the first time her story has been fictionalized.  She battled for her rights for 28 years after her father left his lands to his brother instead of her and it makes a great story.

What a great subject. So, what can we expect from an evening in with The Will to Succeed?

I hope that in settling down with The Will to Succeed you will be transported to the seventeenth century and gripped by the tale of a woman who stood up for her rights against the rest of the world, including the King, and refused to take no for an answer.

Even if your setting is the seventeenth century I think the themes will still resonate today Christine!

You will want to know what happens so the pages will keep turning through all the troughs and peaks of Lady Anne’s story. She lived by her motto, ‘Retain your loyalty, Preserve your rights’, however difficult life became. She rarely enjoyed living at Knole House or later at Wilton, but she fell in love with Appleby-in-Westmorland, the town where I went to school, and she is remembered there for the beautiful almshouses she built for elderly widows who can no longer work. Elderly widows still live there today.

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It looks a glorious setting now. I expect life was very different in Lady Anne’s time.

What else have you brought along and why?

Vita's Lady Anne's Diary

I’ve brought along a little book I bought online whilst I was researching the novel.  It is The Diary of the Lady Anne Clifford With an Introductory Note by Vita Sackville-West. The gold curlicues on the spine are similar to the ones Pam Grant used in the design of the lovely cover of The Will to Succeed.

Spine of Vita's Lady Anne 's Diary 1

How lovely to have that visual connection.

I paid £10 for it and was rather surprised when it arrived to find that it is a First Edition, 1923.The title page is embossed with the words ‘PRESENTATION COPY’ so Vita Sackville-West may even have handled it herself!  It has a  fold-out Genealogical Table showing all seventeen of Lady Anne’s grandchildren – her two daughters did her proud, despite none of her five sons surviving beyond infancy.

What an exciting find! I love the sound of The Will to Succeed Christine, so thank you so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it.

The Will to Succeed

The Will to Succeed

When the 15-year-old Lady Anne Clifford’s father died in 1605, she was his sole surviving child and expecting to inherit the Cliffords’ great northern estates. But the Earl of Cumberland leaves a will which ignores an ancient law and bequeaths the lands to his brother, in the belief that a prophecy by his great-grandfather will eventually come true and return the estates to Anne. She and her mother vow to contest the will.

Anne spends the next three decades battling for what she believes is rightfully hers. She risks everything by opposing her beloved husband, her family and friends, the nobility, the law courts, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the King. She steadfastly (and treasonably) refuses to accept the King’s decision, whatever the consequences, but is defeated and left with the prophecy as her only hope.

Widowed at thirty-four, she survives an anxious period alone with her two young daughters before surprising everyone with an ill-judged second marriage which gives her access to the highest in the land. But the Civil War destroys that power and confines the 52-year-old Anne to a grand palace in London for six years. Still convinced of her rights, will she ever attain “ye landes of mine inheritance”?

Published by Unicorn on 1st February 2020, The Will to Succeed is avaailable for purchase here.

About Christine Raafat

Christine Raafat grew up in the Eden Valley, in what was then Westmorland. An early fascination with Ancient Egypt led to an ambition to be an archaeologist; instead she became a Clinical Psychologist and married an Egyptian Psychiatrist. Twins were born two years later.

She lived in East Sussex for over 20 years, working with children and families and published Parenting Skills in 1995.

Widowed and then retired, she took up painting and returned to Cumbria, but was later seduced by the fascination of words and published several magazine articles of local interest.

The Will to Succeed is her first novel, taking us back from the court of James I to the Eden Valley.

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