The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

When I read The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs way back in 2016 I knew I had encountered a very special author. You’ll find a guest post from Annabel and my review of The Joyce Girl here. I loved it so much that it was one of my books of the year in 2016, and, despite promising myself I wouldn’t take on any further new blog tours this year I simply had to be involved in this one for Annabel’s latest book, The Language of Food. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate. I’m delighted to share my review of The Language of Food today.

Published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd February 2022, The Language of Food is available for pre-order through these links.

The Language of Food

‘A sensual feast of a novel, written with elegance, beauty, charm and skill in a voice that is both lyrical and unique. The Language of Food is an intriguing story with characters that leap off the page and live, but what sets it apart from it’s contemporaries is Abbs’ outstanding prose’ Santa Montefiore

Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks around the world. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.

Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.

My Review of The Language of Food

A cookery book sparks Ann’s memories.

Reviewing The Language of Food is going to be tricky. I just want to say that is it absolutely fantastic and everyone should buy it and read it over and over again, but I fear that won’t really explain why I adore it sufficiently. Brimming with an intangible, quiet, magnificence The Language of Food is a book to savour: to savour Annabelle Abbs’ exquisite prose, her delectable descriptions and the sheer joy of such a beautifully written narrative.

The plot is relatively simple, albeit steeped in the most assiduous historical research and blended with imagination and the kind of sumptuous and affecting prose most authors can only aspire to. Rich in detail and description, there isn’t a superfluous word so that instead of feeling contrived and bloated (excuse the food metaphor), The Language of Food is as much as delight for the reader as any of the mouth-watering tastes that dance on Eliza and Ann’s palates. It’s just wonderful.

I love the fact that both Ann and Eliza have first person narratives, giving them equal status in the book despite their different social class, because The Language of Food is a feminist text, outlining the role of women in history and giving them a voice in an enormously satisfying way. The treatment of women in society, marriage, motherhood, family, social status, connection, friendship, and so on, all swirl through this story so that by the time I read the final entry from Ann I was moved, uplifted and so entranced by the story that it was a surprise to find myself back in the twenty first century. The intense relationship between Ann and Eliza is vivid and compelling so that the prosaic setting of the kitchen where much of the action takes place feels completely authentic.

Sumptuous, immersive and totally mesmerising, I loved The Language of Food. As I neared the end I read increasingly slowly because I didn’t want the experience of living alongside Eliza and Ann to end. It may only be January, but The Language of Food is going to be hard to beat as my book of the year. If you only read one book this year, make sure it’s The Language of Food.

About Annabel Abbs

Annabel Abbs is the new rising star of biographical historical novels. She grew up in Bristol, Sussex and Wales before studying English Literature at the University of East Anglia and Marketing at the University of Kingston. Her debut novel The Joyce Girl was a Guardian Reader’s Pick and her second novel Frieda: The Original Lady Chatterley earned critical acclaim including Times 2018 Book of the Year. She regularly appears on national and regional media, with recent appearances on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and Sky News, and is popular on the literary festival circuit. She was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, the Caledonia Novel Award and the Waverton GoodRead Award. Annabel lives in London with her husband and four children.

For further information about Annabel, follow her on Twitter @annabelabbs, visit her website or find her on Facebook.

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The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown

Today I’m delighted to share the latest of my online reviews with My Weekly. This time it’s The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown.

The Key in the Lock is published by Penguin imprint Viking on 13th January 2022 and is available through the links here.

The Key in the Lock

I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unravelling from an upper window, and the terrace bathed in a hectic orange light . . . Now I see that the decision I made at Polneath was the only decision of my life. Everything marred in that one dark minute.

By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy – one whose death decades ago haunts her still.

For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.

But once you open a door to the past, can you ever truly close it again?

From the award-winning author of The Witchfinder’s Sister comes a captivating story of burning secrets and buried shame, and of the loyalty and love that rises from the ashes.

My Review of The Key in the Lock

My full review of The Key in the Lock can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Key in the Lock is a brilliant story of intrigue, society and deception, all of which need either a physical or metaphorical key to expose their truths. I loved it.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Beth Underdown

Beth Underdown lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. Her debut, The Witchfinder’s Sister, was an Richard & Judy bestseller. The Key in the Lock is her second book.

For further information, follow Beth on Twitter @bethunderdown and visit her website. You’ll also find Beth on Instagram.

Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire by Andreena Leeanne

It’s a little while ago now that I ‘met’ Andreena Leeanne at an online event and I was thrilled when she sent me a copy of her poetry anthology Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share my review of Charred today.

Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire is available for purchase here.

Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire

There is strong correlation between childhood trauma and mental health issues. I suffer with PTSD and depression, and use poetry to write honestly about the multitude of issues I have experienced in my 39 years. I have found writing to be hugely therapeutic. While I recognize the value of professional therapy, my poetry has helped me to come to terms with some of these issues.

If they’re not already doing so, I hope to inspire the readers of this book to speak and write their truth. We don’t have to be qualified writers to write down how we feel – honesty is the only qualification for this kind of work – and we don’t have to share it unless we want to.

This collection is called Charred. Think of a piece of wood that has been exposed to the flames. You may think of it as damaged – and it’s true it has been burnt and blackened – but it is still resilient, and much stronger after going through this process.

Think of me as a piece of charred wood. – Andreena Leeanne

My review of Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire

A collection of personal poems.

In a sense, I don’t feel I have any right to review Charred. Andreena Leeanne’s writing is so gut-wrenchingly honest, raw and powerful and so far outside my sphere of experience that it feels almost impertinent to write a review.

The poems in Charred are remarkable. Stylistically there’s a mix of rhyme and free verse that fits the themes and content perfectly. I loved the use of enjambment as it illustrates the chaotic life Andreena has survived and her thought processes as she uses poetry as a cathartic tool. Sadly, the poet’s experiences echo those of so many and I truly feel her writing can enable people to connect, understand and begin their own healing journey. Her use of repetition, the variety of line length, rhetorical questions and, above all, of honest reflection are so effective. If the intention of Charred is to inspire others, Andreena Leeanne has done just that.

The themes in Charred are universal and often disturbing. Andreena Leeanne explores difficult issues through her own experiences of sexual abuse, lesbianism, love, homelessness, belonging, hope and despair. Her ostracism in Jamaica, for example, illustrates how those who don’t fit conventional expected ‘norms’ are impacted. This is not to say that Charred is a depressing read. Far from it. A whole gamut of emotions is here, from expletive filled, white-hot rage, through extreme physical passion, to tenderness and joy. I found these poems shocking, thought provoking and educational. Reading Charred made me want to know more about Andreena Leeanne, not least because her humanity shines through these poems.

I loved the way the anthology is closed with space for the reader to write their own thoughts, with the offer from the poet to share and connect and with a list of self-care suggestions, because Andreena Leeanne is providing the opportunity for readers to ‘speak their truth’ too. I also thought the inclusion of helpful contacts was a practical and caring touch.

It’s quite hard to review Charred because it’s not really an anthology you merely read and write about. Andreena Leeanne’s words are far more visceral than that. These are poems that are felt, experienced and that alter the perspective of the reader. I thought Charred was a stunning collection.

About Andreena Leeanne

Andreena Leeanne is an out and proud Black working-class Lesbian Poet, compère, inspirational speaker and mother to a teenage daughter. Born in Edgware, London, Andreena was sent to live with her grandparents in St Ann, Jamaica from age 1. At the age of 7 she returned to London and lived in several London boroughs with her mother. Andreena returned to Jamaica at age 17 to find herself, coming back to the UK at age 18 with a man she married at 19. Having left home at 18, after experiencing a period of homelessness she eventually settled in the London Borough of Waltham Forest where, to cut a long story short, she currently lives with her fiancé, Germaine, and her 18-year-old daughter Renée. Andreena hopes to one day return to Jamaica, to challenge the extensive homophobia and culture of childhood sexual abuse that exists there.

Andreena writes and performs poetry to come to terms with and speak out about her personal experiences with abandon-ment, homelessness, mental health, childhood sexual abuse and the many other challenges she has faced in her life. By speaking her truth, she hopes to inspire and empower others to speak their truth and take action.

In January 2015 Andreena founded Poetry LGBT Open Mic Night. Poetry LGBT is a warm and welcoming space for the LGBTQ+ community to come together to share their experi-ences through poetry and spoken word. It is a vital and much needed space for the LGBTQ+ community to share, create and express themselves. Andreena facilitates these sessions live at physical venues and online via Zoom. Andreena delivers writing workshops online and in person, and often performs her poetry at community-led events, Labour Party events, and for local authorities such as the London Borough of Hackney during LGBT History Month, the Greater London Authority, and at International Women’s Day events; and has had her work published in the anthology Sista! (Team Angelica, 2018). In 2018 Andreena was one of Stonewall’s Black History Month role models. Most recently she was delighted to be shortlisted by the National Diversity Awards as a Positive LGBT Role Model.

For further information, find Andreena on Instagram or Facebook and follow her via @PoetryLGBT Twitter or visit her website.

Behind the Veil by E. J. Dawson

I’m delighted that it’s my turn on the blog tour for Behind the Veil by E. J. Dawson today and I can share my review. My thanks to Lilyan at Blackthorn Blog Tours for inviting me to participate.

Behind the Veil was published by Literary Wanderlust on 21st October 2021 is available for purchase here.

Behind the Veil

Can she keep the secrets of her past to rescue a girl tormented by a ghost?

In 1920s Los Angeles, Letitia Hawking reads the veil between life and death. A scrying bowl allows her to experience the final moments of the deceased. She brings closure to grief-stricken war widows and mourning families.

For Letitia, it is a penance. She knows no such peace.

For Alasdair Driscoll, it may be the only way to save his niece, Finola, from her growing night terrors. But when Letitia sees a shadowy figure attached to the household, it rouses old fears of her unspeakable past in England.

When a man comes to her about his missing daughter, the third girl to go missing in as many months, Letitia can’t help him when she can’t see who’s taken them.

As a darkness haunts Letitia’s vision, she may not be given a choice in helping the determined Mr Driscoll, or stop herself falling in love with him. But to do so risks a part of herself she locked away, and to release it may cost Letitia her sanity and her heart.

My Review of Behind the Veil

Letitia Hawking has psychic skills.

Behind the Veil couldn’t be further from my usual choice of genre, but I absolutely loved this story. It’s packed with such intrigue, excitement, fear and mystery that I absolutely gulped it down.

The plot in Behind the Veil is fast paced and dramatic. Short chapters compel the reader onwards and the italicised sections are particularly exciting and gripping. Towards the end of Behind the Veil my pulse was racing and my heart thumping because E. J. Dawson knows exactly how to create tension through the use of the senses in her writing. Her descriptions are evocative and convincing.

Despite the other-worldliness of the plotting, every aspect of Behind the Veil feels authentic and realistic so that I may now be a convert to the genre! I found the dialogue perfect for the 1920’s setting, because there is a formality that sounds really genuine. I think this book would make a fantastic film too.

Letitia Hawking is a wonderful creation. Both vulnerable and strong, she represents a feminism that I found completely engaging. I loved her rituals, her practices and the darkness of her past that permeates this story and is the driving force for her actions. Her integrity in the face of scepticism and expectation made me care about her completely. Whilst she may indulge in actions that are beyond the scope of readers, she feels so realistic that I was entranced by her. Her developing relationship with Alasdair Driscoll adds another element of entertainment to for the reader too.

Behind the Veil does deal with some difficult themes such as abuse, but E.J. Dawson never presents them gratuitously. They are threaded into the narrative in a manner that illustrates the dangers and horrors of both this and the supernatural life without direct exposition so that they are all the more powerful. I thought the style of writing here was superb. I loved the title too because it represents the veil between this life and the spiritual one, between outward appearance and reality and between convention and deviation so that the story has hugely satisfying layers to uncover. Letitia’s physical veil that she likes to wear embodies the metaphor wonderfully.

Having begun Behind the Veil thinking it might be vaguely entertaining, I finished it in the knowledge that I had been treated to a brilliant narrative that made me think, scared me and engaged me completely. I thought Behind the Veil was absolutely excellent.

About E. J. Dawson

Beginning a writing journey with an epic 21 book series, Ejay started her author career in 2014 and has taken on the ups and downs of self-publishing with her fantasy series The Last Prophecy since 2016. At the start of 2019, she put the series on the backburner to write Behind the Veil in 25 days, and signed a publishing contract for the gothic noir novel to independent publisher Literary Wanderlust.

She resumed self-publishing a scifi series, Queen of Spades released across 2020 and 2021, as well as signing another contract with Literary Wanderlust for NA fantasy, Echo of the Evercry. Believing in more than one path to a career in publishing, Ejay pursues self-publishing alongside querying traditional publishers with multiple manuscripts.

For further information about Ejay, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @ejdawsonauthor. You’ll also find her on Instagram.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

It’s a real pleasure to share another of my online reviews with My Weekly. This time it’s of The Last House on the Street by Nikki May.

Published by Headline on 20th January 2022, The Last House on the Street is available for purchase through these links.

The Last House on the Street

1965. A young white female student becomes involved in the fight for civil rights in North Carolina, falling in love with one of her fellow activists, a Black man, in a time and place where an interracial relationship must be hidden from family, friends and especially the reemerging Ku Klux Klan. As tensions rise in the town, she realises not everyone is who they appear to be.

2010. A recently widowed architect moves into the home she and her late husband designed, heartbroken that he will never cross the threshold. But when disturbing things begin to happen, it’s clear that someone is sending her a warning. Who is trying to frighten her away, and why?

Decades later, past and present are set to collide in the last house on the street…

My Review of The Last House on the Street

My full review of The Last House on the Street can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Last House on the Street is a compelling, unnerving dual timeline narrative that unsettles the reader and provides considerable food for thought. I thought it was excellent.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain is a multiple Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author whose books have been published in more than 20 languages. She is beloved by readers around the world for novels that inspire conversation, are rich with emotion and laced with secrets. Her years working as a social worker and psychotherapist inspired many of her characters and stories. Born and raised in New Jersey, she now makes her home in North Carolina, the setting for her most recent books.

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

Thirty Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani

My grateful thanks to Team Bookends for sending me a copy of Thirty Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Thirty Things I Love About Myself will be published by Headline Review on 20th January 2022 and is available for purchase through these links.

Thirty Things I Love About Myself

When Nina Mistry hits rock bottom – because no one plans to turn thirty in a prison cell – a tatty little self-help book finds its way into her hands. She doesn’t think she needs it; why would a strong, sensible Taurus like her go on a ‘life-changing journey’ to fix herself? But her inner journalist is curious. Within minutes, she’s hooked. By the time the sun comes up, she knows exactly what she needs to do . . .

‘This book will change your life . . . if you’re brave enough to let it.’

This will not be a journey for the faint-hearted, but whatever else Nina has messed up in her life, she’s never been afraid of a challenge.

’30 bold steps. One year.’

Her mother is – as always – appalled. Her brother is too depressed to care. The love of her life? He’s already moved on. And her friends . . . well, that’s another story.

But Nina has Nina.

And she’s about to find out if that’s enough.

‘It’s time for a brand new kind of love story. Are you ready?’

Thirty Things I Love About Myself is a gloriously uplifting novel for anyone who has ever had a self-worth wobble, or is watching someone they love struggle; it is for any woman who has ever failed and got herself right back up again, or whose life is veering a little off track!

My Review of Thirty Things I Love About Myself

Nina has got herself arrested.

Thirty Things I Love About Myself is absolutely glorious. I think it’s the must read of the spring and I loved it. It’s funny, it’s sassy and it’s heartbreakingly refreshing. Radhika Sanghani’s writing sparkles with talent and engagement for the reader. The natural direct speech, Nina’s thought processes and the whirlwind of events all combine into a truly entertaining, mesmerising read.

Nina is an absolute triumph. Her authorial voice is so distinct that it’s impossible to believe she’s a character in a story and not a real person. I adored her. I’m as much in love with Nina as she becomes. Her mother is a wonderfully depicted character too. It was like reading about my own mother in so many ways. Kal’s counterbalance to Nina is perfectly pitched so that his strand to the narrative has all teh more poignancy. The cultural setting for the characters in Thirty Things I Love About Myself may be Indian, but the people, the actions and the themes are completely universal, relatable and compelling for all readers.

Despite the fact Thirty Things I Love About Myself is written in a light hearted, thoroughly engaging manner, with a fast paced narrative, Radhika Sanghani  touches on themes that are so relevant to today’s society, exploring the thorny issue of racism in and between cultures, true friendship, mental health, online and social media realities, and the thin veneer of civilisation in such a way that I was not only cheering for Nina, but rather wished the author held political power in the country. I genuinely feel my world is a better place for Thirty Things I Love About Myself.

Sprinkled with laugh aloud humour, humane truths and the kind of connection for the reader that Nina herself is searching for, Thirty Things I Love About Myself is totally fantastic. I loved it.

About Radhika Sanghani

Radhika Sanghani is an award-winning features journalist, an influential body positivity campaigner and a 2020 BBC Writers Room graduate. She writes regularly for the Daily TelegraphDaily MailElleGuardianGraziaGlamour and Cosmopolitan; was recently featured in Italian Vogue as well as BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, and is a regular guest on Sky News and Good Morning Britain. She has previously written two YA novels: Virgin and Not That EasyRadhika is also a TEDx speaker on body positivity, a yoga teacher, and she runs a charity initiative with Age UK fighting loneliness in older women.

For more information, follow Radhika Sanghani on Twitter @radhikasanghani, visit her website or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Wahala by Nikki May

Today I’m delighted to share another of my online reviews with My Weekly. This time it’s of the fabulous Wahala by Nikki May.

Published by Penguin imprint Doubleday on 6th January 2021, Wahala is available for purchase through these links.

Wahala

Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London.
They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English.
Not all of them choose to see it that way.

Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.

When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.

Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.

Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.

My Review of Wahala

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

However, here I can say that Wahala is going to be one of THE books of 2022. I found it entertaining, engaging and packed with wit and tension. It’s an absolute corker.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Nikki May

Born in Bristol, raised in Lagos, Nikki May is Anglo-Nigerian. She ran a successful ad agency before turning to writing. Her debut novel WAHALA was inspired by a long (and loud) lunch with friends. It will be published around the world in January 2022 and is being turned into major BBC TV drama. She lives in Dorset with her husband, two standard schnauzers, and way too many books.

You can follow Nikki on Twitter @NikkiOMay or Instagram and visit her website to discover more.

Blog Tour Giveaway: The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah

It’s far too long since Sophie Hannah appeared on Linda’s Book Bag when I reviewed The Monogram Murders here and I’m delighted to rectify that by participating in the blog tour for her latest book The Couple at the Table with a wonderful UK giveaway. My grateful thanks to Jenny Platt at Hodder for inviting me to take part.

Published by Hodder and Stoughton on 27th January 2022, The Couple at the Table is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Couple at the Table

You’re on your honeymoon at an exclusive couples-only resort.

You receive a note warning you to ‘Beware of the couple at the table nearest to yours’. At dinner that night, five other couples are present, and none of their tables is any nearer or further away than any of the others. It’s as if someone has set the scene in order to make the warning note meaningless – but why would anyone do that?

You have no idea.

You also don’t know that you’re about to be murdered, or that once you’re dead, all the evidence will suggest that no one there that night could possibly have committed the crime.

So who might be trying to warn you? And who might be about to commit the perfect impossible murder?

****

Doesn’t that sound fabulous? I’m delighted to be able to offer a copy of The Couple at the Table to a lucky UK recipient:

Giveaway

A Hardbacked Copy of The Couple at the Table

For your chance to win a hardbacked copy of The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah, click here.

UK ONLY. Giveaway ends ay UK Midnight on Thursday 20th January 2022. The winner will be chosen at random and must be able to provide a UK postal address to receive their prize directly from the publisher.

About Sophie Hannah

sophie hannah

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling crime fiction writer. Her crime novels have been translated into 34 languages and published in 51 countries. Her psychological thriller The Carrier won the Specsavers National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year in 2013. In 2014 and 2016, Sophie published The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, the first new Hercule Poirot mysteries since Agatha Christie’s death, both of which were national and international bestsellers.

Sophie’s novels The Point of Rescue and The Other Half Lives have been adapted for television as Case Sensitive, starring Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd. Sophie is also a bestselling poet who has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE and A-level throughout the UK.  Sophie is an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. She lives in Cambridge.

You can find out more about Sophie on her website and you can follow her on Twitter at @sophiehannahcb1. You’ll also find Sophie on Facebook and Instagram.

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Hunter’s Rules by Val Penny

I’ve been meaning to read Val Penny’s Hunter’s series for absolutely ages so it gives me enormous pleasure to participate in the blog tour for Hunter’s Rules, the sixth book in the series, by sharing my review. My enormous thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part. Even better, there is currently a giveaway running, open internationally, for an e-copy of Hunter’s Rules and you’ll find details further down this blog post.

Val has previously featured on Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate the audio version of her thriller Hunter’s Chase here. I also reviewed her super book Let’s Get Published here.

Hunter’s Rules is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Hunter’s Rules

When best-laid plans go awry…

Hunter and Meera’s romantic plans come to an abrupt end when they stumble into the scene of a crime.

A young woman was attacked in a hotel lift. She has traumatic injuries, but she clings to life. Hunter notes that her wounds are like those inflicted on two other women, who died from their ordeal.

Can Meera keep the injured woman alive long enough for her to identify the assailant? Is the same person responsible for all three crimes?

When Hunter is identified as a suspect, can he establish his innocence and lead his team to solve the crime and keep Edinburgh safe?

My Review of Hunter’s Rules

Hunter has a new case.

Having heard such good things about Val Penny’s crime writing I should have expected the dramatic start to Hunter’s Rules, but it took me by surprise at how quickly the story leaps into action, completely engaging the reader and compelling them to keep reading. I found it extremely exciting. Although Hunter’s Rules is the sixth book in the series and I haven’t read the others, I didn’t find myself at a disadvantage at all, although I was surprise that Hunter himself wasn’t as present as I had expected. Reading Hunter’s Rules has made me want to go back and read the series from the beginning to see how the characters have arrived at their current roles and relationships, because here is a cast of people I thoroughly enjoyed meeting.

Val Penny’s fast paced style is fabulous because the reader hardly has time to catch their breath. Val Penny is unafraid to use vernacular language that makes the characters feel very real and I found the touches of dark humour, that come through the character interplay, enhanced and alleviated the more gritty aspects of the story. I also loved the way the italicised sections from the perpetrator spoke directly to the reader because they added to the tension and creepiness and kept me guessing who it was. There’s also a feeling of positivity in Eileen that elevates Hunter’s Rules beyond a simple crime story. In Eileen we have a victim who refuses to be cowed by her experience and I found that very refreshing. Hunter’s Rules also presents the reader with the full range of society and I thought it very skilful that Val Penny made me like the rogues rather more than the social elite!

The plot simply races along and having struggled to settle to a book for a while I read Hunter’s Rules in one sitting which attests to the interest it provided. Because there’s such a dynamic plot, it’s quite hard to review Hunter’s Rules without giving too much away.

With themes of obsession and addiction, the reality of prison life, science and medicine, relationships and society, woven through the story, Hunter’s Rules is an exciting and entertaining read that I really enjoyed.

Giveaway

An E-copy of Hunter’s Rules

 

To celebrate Val Penny’s Hunter’s Rules blog tour there is a giveaway for an e-copy of the book. For your chance to enter, click here.

Please note this giveaway is independent of Linda’s Book Bag.

About Val Penny

Val Penny is the author of The Jane Renwick Thrillers. Her other crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force, Hunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and are published by Darkstroke. Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story, Cats and Dogs to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.

Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.

For more information about Val, visit her website or blog.  You’ll find Val on Goodreads, Twitter @valeriepenny, and Facebook.

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Staying in with Andrew Batty

It’s always a real pleasure to find new to me authors, especially at the start of their writing careers, and I’m delighted to welcome new novelist Andrew Batty to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me all about his debut book.

Staying in with Andrew Batty

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Andrew. Thank you for agreeing to staying in with me.

Agree? I love this blog. I would have sold my granny to get on here. It’s the antidote to other blogs. Soothing relief from garish graphics and gibbering garbage. It’s bloghurt, full of gut friendly facteria.

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

My debut novel The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose. It is my only novel, so the choice was relatively easy to make.

I imagine it was! But we all have to start somewhere. What prompted you to write your first book in your late fifties.

I’m an architect. I’d ran out of art galleries and museums to design. I needed a creative outlet. Writing seemed like a welcome change, but what to write? Joan Armatrading leant a hand. I was listening to Love and Affection and was curious as to where that sound came from, where she came from. She went to school in Birmingham in the sixties. I wondered what that school was like. Maybe it was like my down-at-heel secondary modern in Rugby in the seventies. Could I write about a school like that? I created Harribold School, as a mirror image of my own experience.

I love Joan Armatrading so you’ve caught my interest already. Do you know what school she went to?

I don’t know. It might have been the finest grammar school in the country. I never found out.

The setting is a school, so I would expect the ‘Boy’ of the title, but why the ‘Briefcase’?

I got badly beaten in a fight at school. My friend told me I was bound to lose because I was a limp wristed boxer. He briefly became my boxing coach. He had a leather briefcase which he held for me to use as a punch bag. With my better boxing wrists, I never lost another fight. The boy and his briefcase are the inspiration behind my hero character, Winston. However, the briefcase that goes missing in the story, is not necessarily, his briefcase.

Whose briefcase is it?

Nobody at Harribold. It was in a run-down area. ‘Winston’ had the only briefcase in the school.

If not Winston, who then?

Near to my school was Rugby School, one of the poshest independent schools in the country. Ancient buildings and immaculate lawns. A private paradise. Every day the school bus drove past. Students in the shiniest shoes and smartest uniforms strode across those hallowed grounds. They all had a briefcase. It was one of those that is stolen.

But how? It’s a different school.

A student exchange. Two students from Rugby School turn up at Harribold School unprepared for the culture shock they are about to experience. A lapse in concentration, and a briefcase gets nicked. They know who’s got it, but that just makes matters worse.

Okay, that’s the ‘Boy’ and the ‘Briefcase’ explained, but why a ‘Moose’?

The moose just appeared when I was writing the story. It seemed such a good idea. The moose turns out to be the reason everyone has so much to lose. The moose provides jeopardy, and if you want to write an exciting story, you must have jeopardy.

Yes you must. And I could tell you a tale about a briefcase from when I was teaching when a student asked me if I’d ‘seen the axe in X’s briefcase’, but that’s for another time! What are The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose’s main themes?

It’s a book about being a teenager. It’s about heroic success, dismal disaster, cringing embarrassment, and burning desire, but it’s mainly about friendship and fun.

What is your style? How do you tell the tale?

Largely through dialogue. School friends chat all the time. It seemed appropriate. It keeps the story bubbling along. I like the conversations the characters have. My favourite is Karen when she responds to the lovestruck Andrew:

‘But I thought you liked me.’

‘Like you? You are a f**kin disaster area. I don’t know anyone who could f**k things up as much as you. You are a danger to be around. In a war you should be dropped over enemy lines and left to f**k things up for the enemy.’

‘I’m accident prone.’

‘You’re not prone to accidents, they don’t just happen to you, you throw yourself at them. You’re the guy with his head in the lion’s mouth. In a swimming pool full of shit, you’d chose the deep end to dive in. You have no idea of the chaos you cause. You manage to put your foot in your mouth with your head up your arse.’

As an author, you are living inside your characters. You adopt their persona. They say things you don’t expect. Things you wouldn’t say. They surprise you. That is what makes dialogue so much fun.

I see you have brought along a photograph. Is that you?

Yes, this is me at the time of the story. I was a fairly confused individual at the time, and I think that comes across in the picture. I think of myself as fairly well-behaved, but I did get the slipper and detention, and found myself in one or two fights, so I probably wasn’t perfect.

And what’s that second image?

The second photograph is a current photograph of the school I attended. It has hardly changed in forty five years.

 What else have you brought along, and why have you bought it.

I have brought chalk and a blackboard. This was still the height of technology in 1975. From Harrow to Barrow teachers drew things on a board with chalk. This is why the seventies generation is so imaginative. In those scribblings we had to see what the teacher wanted us to see, from the Eiffel Tower to the Mona Lisa.

I’m not sure about the 1975. I worked in New York schools for a while about a decade ago and they were still using chalk and blackboards in many of them!

So, paint your table black, give your kids some chalk, let them scribble away to their hearts content, then spend the next two weeks hoovering up the dust and discarded stubs of chalk.

I have also brought a slipper. This was in frequent use alongside the cane in 1975. So, if your kids really want the seventies experience, this would be a suitable punishment for those appalling pictures. For curious adults, what you do in the comfort of your own home is entirely up to you.

It is indeed! When I first started teaching the cane and slipper were still assiduously applied by the Deputy Head. Not to me, I hasten to add, but mainly to the 4th year (now year 10) boys!

How has The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose been received?

I think readers can relate to my book. Here’s what one said:

‘Secondary school in the 80’s was a very similar experience to that experienced by Andy, albeit ours was an all-girls school. Reading about his and his friends exploits made me chuckle out loud. This is a very funny and uplifting read.’

The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose sounds enormous fun Andrew. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about it. 

The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose

This is a very embarrassing book.

It’s a book about awkward moments, impossible situations and desperate circumstances; it’s about red faces, cold sweats and serious cringing; it’s about putting your heart on the line and hoping it isn’t squashed by the first train into the station. In short, it’s a book about being a teenager. But that means it’s also about heroes, adventure, excitement, and how that first kiss can turn your stomach, and your whole world, upside down.

Two briefcases arrive at a humble secondary school, accompanied by two boys from a posh private school. Tasked with showing them how the other half lives are three pupils: Josephine, Winston and Andrew. They have to guide these newbies through the madness, mischief and miscreants of their new school… without incident. Fat chance!

A briefcase goes missing. They have to get it back. Worse is, they know who has it.

Moose, mayhem and Manchester tart – what’s not to like?

Published on the 28th November 2021 The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose is available in all the usual places including: Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwell’s and WH Smith.

About Andrew Batty

Andrew Batty is a husband, an architect, an author, a collection of memories, and a bag of bones and mushy bits. But, I guess you want more.

He was born in a small village near Rugby and attended a secondary modern school in the town. Andrew was working towards seven CSEs, a second level qualification. A move to Sheffield gave him the opportunity to do O’levels and A’levels and progress to Manchester University to study Architecture. Life since then has been the everyday adventures of buying houses, bringing up children, and earning money. Then one day, Andrew decided to write a book.

For further information, visit Andrew’s website.