Staying in with Daisy Chapman

Now, I don’t watch much television and recently suffered terrible FOMO when Bridgerton was on as I don’t have Netflix and couldn’t see it. When Sophie Morgan told me about Daisy Chapman’s debut book and how it might help fill that gap I felt, I simply had to invite Daisy on to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me and tell me more.

Staying in with Daisy Chapman

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

Thank you for having me Linda.

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

I have brought along my debut novel Mary and the Duke which is a Regency romance that I’m excited to share with the world and it is available from the 28th of November.

How exciting to have your debut published. Congratulations Daisy. 

What can we expect from an evening in with Mary and the Duke?

Well to start off with the heroine of my story Mary Barker isn’t like any other young woman from the regency period as she has no interest in balls or finding a husband. She’s a very knowledgeable young woman as her father didn’t stop her from studying. But when it comes to men and the world, she’s completely clueless. Mary has a way of telling it how she sees it and she tends to jump in head first and not think things through which sometimes lands her in trouble. But when she spends more time with the Duke she ends up learning more about herself and the world around her and that there is more to the man than meets the eye.

You have made her sound very modern and appealing Daisy. I have a feeling I’d like to meet Mary!

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

I have brought along a copy of Clementi Sonatinas and Sonatas for piano which my character Mary Barker would have certainly had a copy of as she is a truly talented pianist and it would have been her most prized possession and Mary would have most likely have spent most of her days practising the pieces of music at her piano.

Ah, that’s a skill I’d have loved to have.

Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Mary and the Duke Daisy. You put on the music and I’ll give readers a few more details.

Mary and the Duke

It’s the height of the regency period, and the season is in full swing…

Miss Mary Barker is one of two daughters in a fine family of seven that remains unmarried; Mrs Barker expects both to marry by the end of the season, but Mary has other ideas. She would much rather remain independent like a man and has no need of a husband.

‘Captain’ Dylan Cravendish, handsome and charming, hears his uncle’s final wishes in Bristol: for him to become Duke Cravendish of Cattleton.

When Duke Cravendish quite literally falls over Miss Mary Barker when attending his first ball in Cattleton, she’s the only one not bowled over by his charms and wastes no time on telling the Duke her opinion of him.

But as the two continue to cross paths in Cattleton and Bath, steadily getting to know each other, can Mary find a way to see past the pirate to the man underneath? Or will she allow his past to ruin their possible future?

Published on 28th November 2021, Mary and the Duke is available for purchase in all the usual places like Waterstones, and Blackwells and including directly from the publisher here.

About Daisy Chapman

Daisy Chapman grew up in the countryside in Lincolnshire but she currently works in the hospitality industry in a hotel in Northampton. During her free time Daisy enjoys baking and watching romantic movies.

A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland

My grateful thanks to Grace Pilkington for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland. I’m delighted to close the tour with my review of A Sin of Omission today.

Published in the UK by Envelope on 18th November 2021, A Sin of Omission is available for purchase through the links here.

A Sin of Omission

Torn from his parents as a small child in the 1870s, Stephen Mzamane is picked by the Anglican church to train at the Missionary College in Canterbury and then returned to southern Africa’s Cape Colony to be a preacher.

He is a brilliant success, but troubles stalk him: his unresolved relationship with his family and people, the condescension of church leaders towards their own native pastors, and That Woman-seen once in a photograph and never forgotten.

And now he has to find his mother and take her a message that will break her heart.

In this raw and compelling story, Marguerite Poland employs her considerable experience as a writer and specialist in South African languages to recreate the polarised, duplicitous world of Victorian colonialism and its betrayal of the very people it claimed to be enlightening.

My Review of A Sin of Omission

Stephen Mzamane’s life isn’t quite what he’d hoped.

A Sin of Omission is, quite simply, a remarkable book. I’m not sure that I enjoyed reading it, because, despite its historical setting it felt too raw, only too familiar in a world supposedly now more enlightened, and so emotionally charged that it was a book that consumed and affected me as much as it entertained.

Inspired by a real-life person, Marguerite Poland’s depth of research, the beauty and variety of her writing, and her complete understanding of the human condition so sensitively portrayed here is amazing. A Sin of Omission is a feast for the senses and the writing is intense. I found the smatterings of local language added both to the authenticity of the narrative and the sense of place as well as to my feeling of otherness so that I experienced some of Stephen’s emotions with him.

Stephen is a complex character who touches the reader entirely. A man more sinned against than sinning he is not himself blameless so that he feels fully rounded and realistic.

Beautiful, affecting and assiduously researched writing aside, with powerfully depicted characters, A Sin of Omission is so impactful because of the themes Marguerite Poland explores. Our identity, race, sense of belonging and isolation, duty and belief, selfishness and generosity, all layer the textures of the narrative

I found A Sin of Omission a difficult book to read. It caused me to rage at the establishment of the late 1800s, to realise we are not so far advanced now as we might like to believe, and to grieve for a man displaced by his own existence; by his own sins of omission as well as those of others.  A Sin of Omission is a book I won’t forget in a hurry.

About Marguerite Poland

Marguerite Poland (born 1950 in Johannesburg and brought up in the Eastern Cape) is a celebrated South African writer of books for adults and children. She studied Social Anthropology and Xhosa, took a master’s in Zulu literature and folktales, and was awarded a doctorate for her study of the cattle of the Zulus. Two of her books won South Africa’s Percy FitzPatrick Award. The Train to Doringbult was short listed for the CNA Awards. Shades has been a matriculation set text for over ten years. The Keeper received the 2015 Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award as the title South African booksellers most enjoyed reading, selling and promoting the previous year. Translated into several languages but still largely unknown in the UK, the author won South Africa’s highest civic award in 2016 for her contribution to the field of indigenous languages, literature and anthropology.

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The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd

I’m thrilled to share details of my latest My Weekly review which is of Dani Redd’s The Arctic Curry Club. Although I have a mini-review below, my full review of The Arctic Curry Club is on the My Weekly website here. I also spoke about The Arctic Curry Club online here recently too.

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Avon, The Arctic Curry Club is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Arctic Curry Club

‘For my whole life I had been looking for home. But why would that be in a place that I’d left? Perhaps I had to keep moving forward in order to find it…’

Soon after upending her life to accompany her boyfriend Ryan to the Arctic, Maya realises it’s not all Northern Lights and husky sleigh rides. Instead, she’s facing sub-zero temperatures, 24-hour darkness, crippling anxiety – and a distant boyfriend as a result.

In her loneliest moment, Maya opens her late mother’s recipe book and cooks Indian food for the first time. Through this, her confidence unexpectedly grows – she makes friends, secures a job as a chef, and life in the Arctic no longer freezes her with fear.

But there’s a cost: the aromatic cuisine rekindles memories of her enigmatic mother and her childhood in Bangalore. Can Maya face the past and forge a future for herself in this new town? After all, there’s now high demand for a Curry Club in the Arctic, and just one person with the know-how to run it…

A tender and uplifting story about family, community, and finding where you truly belong – guaranteed to warm your heart despite the icy setting!

My Review of The Arctic Curry Club

My full review of The Arctic Curry Club can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Arctic Curry Club took me by surprise. I was expecting a fairly standard, light, but enjoyable read and found far more interest and depth than I had anticipated. Dani Redd blends entertainment and weightier themes with real skill so that The Arctic Curry Club is a pleasure to read. Don’t miss this one!

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Dani Redd

Dani Redd is the debut author of The Arctic Curry Club, which was longlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Prize. She has an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. This involved research trips to some of Europe’s remoter islands, including Spitsbergen, in the Arctic Circle. After this, she spent two years living in India. She now lives in Norwich with her husband, and is working as a food editor while writing that tricky second novel.

You can follow Dani on Twitter @dani_redd and find her on Instagram.

B: A Year in Plague and Pencils by Edward Carey

With Edward Carey’s Little still calling to me from my TBR pile, I was determined to read his latest book, B: A Year in Plague and Pencils immediately it arrived. My enormous thanks to Katrina Power and FMcM Associates for sending me a copy of B: A Year in Plague and Pencils by Edward Carey in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

B: A Year in Plague and Pencils was published by Gallic Books on 4th November 2021 and is available to purchase here.

B: A Year in Plague and Pencils

‘I blame the pencil. I hadn’t meant to do it. I wasn’t thinking. It just happened that way.’

In March 2020, as lockdowns were imposed around the world, author and illustrator Edward Carey published a sketch on social media, with a plan to keep posting a drawing a day from his family home in Austin, Texas, until life returned to normal. One hundred and fifty pencil stubs later, he was still drawing.

Carey’s hand moved with world events, chronicling pandemic and politics. It reached into the past, taking inspiration from history, and escaped grim reality through flights of vivid imagination and studies of the natural world. The drawings became a way of charting time, of moving forward, and maintaining connection at a time of isolation.

This remarkable collection of words and drawings from the acclaimed author of Little and The Swallowed Man charts a tumultuous year in pencil, finding beauty amid the horror of extraordinary times.

Featuring an Introduction by Max Porter.

My Review of B: A Year in Plague and Pencils

A series of illustrations completed during the Covid pandemic.

Before I begin my review proper, I’d just like to comment on the lovely physical quality of B: A Year in Plague and Pencils as it is the perfect size for holding in the hand and the hardbacked version I have is so robust and elegant that it would make a superb gift.

I confess I hadn’t even got to the foreword by Max Porter before I was captivated by B: A Year in Plague and Pencils. The dedication in the front and the Shakespearean quotation at the beginning felt so apt and so attuned to what we’ve all been experiencing that I felt an instant emotional connection. Add in the superb eloquence of Max Porter in introducing Edward Carey’s work and B: A Year in Plague and Pencils feels less like a book of illustrations and more like the recreation of human connection. I loved it.

Edward Carey’s commentary on his drawings is wonderful. He manages to articulate exactly how so many of us have felt in recent times, whilst providing us with the escapism he knows we have all missed. His own sense of displacement, marooned in Texas but yearning for the UK, feels utterly identifiable making B: A Year in Plague and Pencils a microcosm of the pandemic world. However, at the same time, the book affords the reader the opportunity to meet new people, recall forgotten memories and to travel through time and space vicariously. Edward Carey’s illustrations led me to research the unfamiliar, so that the book has an existence beyond its pages that adds value to the reading. And, indeed there is reading as well as the visual delights to be found in B: A Year in Plague and Pencils so that I finished the book feeling as if I’d been introduced to a new friend and that I had been given a privileged insight into Edward Carey’s personal life.

There’s incredible variety in the illustrations from my favourite poet John Donne to a tardigrade so that absolutely anyone of any age picking up B: A Year in Plague and Pencils will find a connection, a relevance and something they can relate to. The progression (or should that be decline) of ‘A determined young man’ throughout the book is so good. But then so are all the illustrations covering categories from art to nature, literature to history, making this boom an absolute joy. It’s fascinating, sometimes disturbing, but always totally absorbing and entertaining. As someone who has no artistic talent whatsoever, I found myself in awe of the way Edward Carey depicted everything from the instantly recognisable hair of Albert Einstein to the scales on a pangolin.

B: A Year in Plague and Pencils is a book that immortalises perhaps the most challenging year in modern history, but it does so with humanity, respect and an intensity of emotion in the illustrations that have given me limitless respect for Edward Carey. I loved B: A Year in Plague and Pencils.

About Edward Carey

Edward Carey was born in Norfolk, England. He is a novelist, visual artist, playwright and director. He is the author of four novels, including Little, which was a Times and Sunday Times book of the year, and the YA series The Iremonger Trilogy. His collection of lockdown drawings, B: A Year in Plagues and Pencils, was published in November 2021.

Edward lives in the United States and teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

For more information visit Edward’s website of follow him on Facebook, Twitter @EdwardCarey70 and Instagram.

The Girl Downstairs by Iain Maitland

I’m a huge fan of Iain Maitland’s writing and its far too long since I have featured him here on Linda’s Book Bag. I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for Iain’s latest book, The Girl Downstairs. My enormous thanks to Zoe of Zooloo’s Book Tours for the opportunity to share my review today.

You’ll find my review of Iain’s Mr Todd’s Reckoning here which was one of my books of the year in 2019 and of Sweet William here.

Published by Inkubator Books on 21st November 2021, The Girl Downstairs is available for purchase here.

The Girl Downstairs

He’s been watching and waiting. And now he’s found her.

Rosie is homeless and winter is closing in. So she can’t believe her luck when a total stranger, Mr. Adams, invites her to stay.

But Mr. Adams has a secret. He has chosen Rosie because she reminds him of someone very special from long ago. Maybe she can even help him recapture that distant happiness.

Of course, she might need a little encouragement, but that’s fine…

What he doesn’t realise is that Rosie has a secret too, a secret that will have horrifying consequences for them both.

So instead of the heaven he had hoped to find, Mr. Adams finds himself fighting to escape the nightmare of… the girl downstairs.

The Girl Downstairs – the stunning psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Mark Edwards, K. L. Slater, Miranda Rijks.

My Review of The Girl Downstairs

Philip Adams befriends the homeless Rosie.

Good grief. I have no idea how to review The Girl Downstairs. It’s a transfixing narrative that disturbs the reader even as it entertains them. I found it highly uncomfortable to read at times – indeed I felt almost tainted – and yet simply had to know the outcomes of the story and the truth about Philip Adams.

In Mr. Adams Iain Maitland creates a his protagonist with such dexterity that it makes the reader as complicit in his actions as if they’d carried them out themselves. He’s repulsive and attractive as a human being in such equal measure that I couldn’t decide if I felt sorry for Philip Adams even as he made my flesh creep or if I found him contemptible even as I admired him. This is such skilful writing. Even after I’ve read the book I still have some ambivalence about this complex, flawed, dangerous, compassionate and totally fascinating man.

Rosie too is an unreliable character so that reading The Girl Downstairs felt a bit like balancing on the pivot of a see-saw. One moment I felt my allegiance to her and the next to Mr. Adams. I trusted neither and felt unsettled by them both. The ironically named dog Fluffy aside, with just two characters present for the majority of the story there’s a terrifying claustrophobia enhanced by the deep snow cutting off Bluebell cottages that creates a dramatic and unnerving atmosphere.

The plot often focuses on the prosaic aspects of life such as preparing meals, showering and sleeping. This means that the major events become all the more shocking and the effect on the reader is even more profound because it is easy to identify with aspects like making lunch, so that the reader feels part of the creepy story. What Iain Maitland does so brilliantly is drop clues into his writing that can be interpreted in so many ways that the reader isn’t sure what to think.

The themes in The Girl Downstairs are those that are crucial to today’s society. Homelessness, identity, the need for love and shelter, family, addiction, mental health and assumptions and expectations are so sensitively presented. Iain Maitland forces his reader to confront aspects of life we’d rather ignore so that I genuinely feel altered by reading The Girl Downstairs.

I’m aware I haven’t effectively described this book as it’s so difficult not to give anything away, but I can say that, deliciously dark, shocking and compelling, The Girl Downstairs is a must read. Read it for yourself to find out what I mean!

About Iain Maitland

Iain Maitland is the author of three previous psych thrillers, The Scribbler (2020), Mr Todd’s Reckoning (2019) and Sweet William (2017), all published by Contraband, an imprint of Saraband. Mr Todd’s Reckoning is coming to the big screen in 2023.

Iain is also the author of two memoirs, Dear Michael, Love Dad (Hodder, 2016), a book of letters written to his eldest son who experienced depression and anorexia, and (co-authored with Michael) Out Of The Madhouse (Jessica Kingsley, 2018).

He is also an Ambassador for Stem4, the teenage mental health charity. He talks regularly about mental health issues in schools and colleges and workplaces.

Find Iain Maitland on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @iainmaitland and visit his website for more information.

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Giveaway: Celebrating the 25th anniversary edition of Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes

It may be a quarter of a century since I first read Rachels’s Holiday by Marian Keyes, but I can remember it so vividly and I’m thrilled to be part of the 25th anniversary celebrations. In advance of the sequel to Rachel’s HolidayAgain, Rachel –  coming out in February 2022, I’m delighted to be able to offer a lucky Linda’s Book Bag UK reader a brand new updated copy of Rachel’s Holiday to help start off the anniversary blog tour. My enormous thanks to  Rhiannon Morris at FMcM Associates for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. Follow all the excitement on social media using #RachelsBack.

I can’t believe I haven’t actually featured Marian Keyes for four years since I reviewed The Break in a post you can find here.

Published by Penguin on 9th December 2021, this glorious new edition of Rachels’ Holiday is available for purchase through the links here.

Rachel’s Holiday

Meet Rachel Walsh.

She’s been living it up in New York City, spending her nights talking her way into glamorous parties before heading home in the early hours to her adoring boyfriend, Luke.

But her sensible older sister showing up and sending her off to actual rehab wasn’t quite part of her plan.

She’s only agreed to her incarceration because she’s heard that rehab is wall-to-wall jacuzzis, spa treatments and celebrities going cold turkey – plus it’s about time she had a holiday.

Saying goodbye to fun and freedom will be hard – and losing the man who might just be the love of her life will be even harder.

But will hitting rock bottom help Rachel learn to love herself, at last?

***

If you haven’t read Rachel’s Holiday before (where on earth have you been?), here’s a chance for a lucky UK reader to win a paperback copy of this brand new edition of Rachel’s Holiday:

UK Giveaway

For your chance to win a paperback of the 25th anniversary edition of Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes, click here.

UK only. The prize will be sent by FMcM Associates and the winner will need to supply a UK address to redeem their copy of Rachel’s Holiday.

Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Thursday 2nd December 2021,

About Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes is a phenomenon.

The multi-million copy, internationally bestselling author of some of the most widely loved, genre-defying novels of the past thirty years – such as Rachel’s Holiday, Anybody Out There and Grown Ups – has millions of fans around the world. They are irresistibly drawn by her warmth and wit, fearless honesty, relatable characters and relationships, and sheer storytelling magic.

Not only has Marian inspired and entertained countless readers, but also the next generation of writers too. As a beloved author herself, Marian is a passionate champion of storytellers everywhere, playing an active role in encouraging new voices. She has been the chair of judges for the Comedy Women in Print prize, a sponsor of the Curtis Brown Creative Marian Keyes scholarship, and most recently ran her own hugely popular Instagram Live series bringing free creative writing courses to thousands of viewers.

Marian also uses her position to raise some of the most challenging issues of our time, including addiction, immigration, depression, domestic violence and the Repeal the Eighth campaign.

Both critically acclaimed and commercially unstoppable, Marian’s fourteenth novel Grown Ups went straight to No.1 in hardback and paperback in four global territories: UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards Audiobook of the Year. In addition to her novels, Marian has written two collections of journalism, as well as been the star of the second series of her hit show Between Ourselves aired on BBC Radio 4 at the start of 2021. Again Rachel, the sequel to her ground-breaking novel Rachel’s Holiday, will be Marian’s fifteenth novel.

Marian is based in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin.

You can find Marian on Facebook and Instagram and follow her on Twitter @MarianKeyes. Marian Keyes also has a wonderful website.

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Staying in with Bob on Dog About Town publication day!

Regular Linda’s Book Bag readers will know I’ve stayed in with many authors and a couple of characters, but staying in with a dog is a new departure for me! I’m delighted to welcome Bob to the blog and would like to thank Grace Pilkington for putting us in touch with each other.

Staying in with Bob

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

Thank you for having me.

It feels odd to ask but what can I expect from our chat this evening?

I think it’s safe to say that you can expect something rather different, the reason being that I am actually a miniature labradoodle.  My owner is quite bashful and prefers me to do the interviews.  So, bear with me please.  I’m not really used to the literary world. I suppose it would be true to say that I’m more comfortable with tummy tickles.

Oh! I’ve never had to tickle a guest’s tummy before! Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought Dog About Town which I guess you could call semi-autobiographical.  The idea for the book came about during lockdown when I was taken on some pretty cool walks around the strangely deserted streets of central London.  Although I’m not usually one for culture – mud is more my thing – even I had to admit that the sights of the capital were majestic against the empty roads, silent skies and clear pavements.  And so, in return for some pretty tasty treats, I agreed to pose graciously for the camera.  Dog About Town is the result.

That was very generous of you. Tell me a bit more.

The book is a collection of photos and captions featuring some of the great landmarks of the capital as you’ve never seen them before – and me. You can see me at Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Tower Bridge, Smithfield Market, at the Royal Albert Hall, and many more – but what all the photos have in common is that the streets were so quiet and there was nobody there but me. In some shots you will find me alluring, sophisticated, fluffy, scruffy even. Sometimes I may even be drooling. But whatever the mood I hope you agree that I lend a certain something to the occasion and that you will enjoy a gentle stroll through the pages of Dog About Town, viewing the strange days of lockdown London from an entirely new perspective.

That sounds utterly charming Bob. I understand Dog About Town is a charity book too isn’t it?

Profits from the book are going to All Dogs Matter, the rescue and rehoming charity for dogs less fortunate than myself, which has been busier than ever during the last year.

That’s such a worthwhile cause Bob. I hear many dogs taken on in lockdown are being dumped now.

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

Obviously, I’ve bought a bone, but thought it would give readers a slightly better flavour of the book if I shared some of the photos with you.  They have some rather witty captions too, even though I say so myself.

I’m not sure about that bone, but I love the photos Bob. I bet other dogs have very much enjoyed looking at them. 

They have Linda. This is what Rocky, a miniature poodle said:

“What a great collection of photos! I always knew there was more to you than stick collecting”

That’s brilliant! Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about your adventures and Dog About Town, Bob. I’ll give dogs an their reader humans a few more details:

Dog About Town

During lockdown, when rules allowed, Bob accompanied his owners on walks around the deserted streets of London. In return for some tasty morsels, he agreed to pose in front of some of the capital’s iconic, and some less familiar landmarks.

Bob didn’t set out to make a book. In fact, he is normally someone to shun the limelight, generally more interested in mud and sticks than museums and monuments. However, even Bob realised that his photos of London at this extraordinary time were rather special.

He hopes that Dog About Town will give dog and London lovers alike something to smile and chuckle about.

Profits from the book goes to the dog rescue and rehoming charity All Dogs Matter

Published today, 29th November 2021, Dog About Town is available for purchase here.

About Bob

Bob lives in London.  He enjoys travelling, swimming, chasing balls and eating anything he can get his paws on.  He is also very cuddly.

Dog About Town is his first book.

For more information about Bob, visit his website, follow him on Twitter @Dogabouttown, or find him on Facebook and Instagram.

A Extract from The Lost Girls by Heather Young

I’m delighted to have an extract to share with you today from The Lost Girls by Heather Young as part of the blog tour. My thanks to Hollie McDevitt at Oldcastle for inviting me to participate in the tour.

The Lost Girls was published by Verve on 25th November and is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from the publisher here.

The Lost Girls

A stunning debut novel that examines the price of loyalty, the burden of regret, the meaning of salvation, and the sacrifices we make for those we love, told in the voices of two unforgettable women linked by a decades-old family mystery at a picturesque lake house.

In 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys the family–her father commits suicide, and her mother and two older sisters spend the rest of their lives at the lake house, keeping a decades-long vigil for the lost child.

Sixty years later, Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before her death, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person who might care: her grandniece, Justine. For Justine, the lake house offers freedom and stability–a way to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the home she never had. But the long Minnesota winter is just beginning. The house is cold and dilapidated. The dark, silent lake is isolated and eerie. Her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more about the summer of 1935 than he’s telling.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives to steal her inheritance, and the man she left launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house haunted by the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children…

An Extract from The Lost Girls

Lucy

I found this notebook in the desk yesterday. I didn’t know I had any of them left, those books I bought at Framer’s with their black-and-white marbled covers and their empty, lined pages waiting to be filled. When I opened it, the binding crackled in my hands and I had to sit down.

The edges of the book’s pages were yellow and curled, but their centers were white, and they shouted in the quiet of the parlor. Long ago, I filled these books with stories, simple things the children enjoyed, but this one demanded something else. It was as though it had lain in wait beneath stacks of old Christmas cards and faded stationery until now, when my life has begun to wane with the millennium and my thoughts have turned more and more to the past.

It’s been sixty-four years. That doesn’t feel so long, strange though it may seem to you, but Mother is dead, and Father, and Lilith; I am the last. When I am gone, it will be as though that summer never happened. I’ve thought about this as I sit in my chair on the porch, as I take my evening walk up to the bridge, and as I lie awake listening to the water shifting in the dark. I’ve even taken to sleeping in Lilith’s and my old room, in the small bed that used to be mine. Last night I watched the moonlight on the ceiling and thought of the many nights I have lain there: as a child, as a young girl, and now as an old woman. I thought about how easy it would be to let all of it pass from the earth.

When morning came, I made my buttered toast and set it on its flowered plate, but I didn’t eat it. Instead I sat at the kitchen table with this book open before me, listening to the wind in the trees and feeling the house breathe. I traced my finger along the scratches and gouges in the elm table my great-grandfather made for his new wife in the century before I was born. It was the heart of the cabin he built on their homestead, and of the home their son built in the town that came after, but their grandson thought it crude, fit only for this, his summer house. Its scars are worn now; the years have smoothed them to dark ripples in the golden wood. As I said, I am the last. Since Lilith’s passing three years ago, the story of that summer has been mine alone, to keep or to share. It’s a power I’ve had just once before, and I find I am far less certain what to do with it now than I was then. I hold secrets that don’t belong to me; secrets that would blacken the names of the defenseless dead. People I once loved. Better to let it be, I told myself.

But this notebook reminds me it’s not so simple as that. I owe other debts. I made other promises. And not all the defenseless dead, loved or not, are virtuous. Still, I have no doubt that I would have remained silent, waiting for my own death to decide the matter, had I not found it. Its empty pages offer me a compromise, one that I, who have rarely had the fortitude to make irrevocable choices, have decided to accept.

I will write my family’s story, here in this book that bided its time so well. I will tell it as fully as I can, even the parts that grieve me. When I am done I will leave it to you, Justine, along with everything else. You will wonder why I’ve chosen you and not your mother, and to that I say that you are the only one to whom the past might matter. If it does, you will come here when I am gone, and Arthur will give this to you, and I will trust you to do with us as you see fit. If it does not – which may well be, for I knew you so briefly, and you were just a child – then you won’t come. You’ll be content to let the lawyers and the realtors do their work, to continue your life without seeing this house or the lake again. If that is the way of it, I will instruct Arthur to burn this book unread. For I believe it will then be all right to let that summer slip away, and Emily with it. Like all the other ghosts of forgotten things.

****

I don’t know about you, but that excerpt has made me desperate to read The Lost Girls.

About Heather Young

Heather is the author of two novels. Her debut, The Lost Girls, won the Strand Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Her second novel, The Distant Dead, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel and named one of the ten best mystery/suspense books of 2020 by Booklist. A former antitrust and intellectual property litigator, she traded the legal world for the literary one and earned her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2011. She lives in Mill Valley, California, where she writes, bikes, hikes, and reads books by other people that she wishes she’d written.

For more information you can follow Heather on Twitter @HYoungwriter, visit her website or find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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Kindness (a user’s guide) by Ali Catterall and Kitty Collins

I was delighted when a copy of Kindness (a user’s guide) by Ali Catterall and Kitty Collins arrived from lovely Eleanor at Bonnier Books in time for the recent World Kindness Day. Although I hadn’t read it in time to review by then, I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Bonnier imprint Studio Press on 8th July 2021, Kindness (a user’s guide) is available for purchase in all good bookstores and online including here.

Kindness (a user’s guide)

The definitive guide to kindness – a book full of inspirational ideas, quotes and famous acts of kindness, at a time when we need it most.

“If you see someone without a smile today, give ’em yours.” Dolly Parton

This empowering guide to kindness will inspire you to make a real difference to your life and the lives of others. Inside you’ll find:

– over 50 stories about famous – and not so famous – acts of kindness, from Jacinda Ardern’s empathetic leadership during the Coronavirus pandemic to Marcus Rashford’s determination to support underprivileged children, and the real story of the WWI Christmas Truce.

– suggestions for acts of kindness you can carry out yourself, to improve the lives of those around you

– quotes about kindness to help encourage change, from people like Kamala Harris, Beyonce and RuPaul

This is the perfect gift for yourself or for a friend – because Kindness is Power.

My Review of Kindness (a user’s guide)

A book all about kindness.

I have to confess that before I opened Kindness (a user’s guide) I was expecting a rather twee, self-righteous volume, of social media style sound bites. I had not reckoned on finding such a thoughtful, eclectic and positive book.

Within the pages of this charming and compassionate volume is so much content and detail that it rewards re-reading time and again. Certainly there are quick reads in the form of kindness related quotations from everyone from Aesop to Lady Gaga, but there is so much more.

I first skimmed through reading the inspirational quotations from the well known characters, before returning to read the kindness tips which are practical (like keeping a spare umbrella in the office in case a colleague might need it) and easily achieved so that Kindness (a user’s guide) feels accessible to all. Next I returned to the beginning to read the lengthier pieces that are quite brilliant. Packed with facts and figures, anecdotes and humour (especially in frequent word play at the end of them) they afford the reader all kinds of new experiences. Who knew, for example, the link between Bruce Springsteen and Northumberland or Kate Nash and a broom – though you’ll have to read Kindness (a user’s guide) to discover the links for yourself. These longer sections include historical figures and event so that Kindness (a user’s guide) is educational as well as entertaining.

I thought it was completely fitting to include a list of websites at the end of the book too so that readers who have been inspired can find out more.

Kindness (a user’s guide is an absolute gem of a book that would make the perfect gift for absolutely anyone of any age. It’s uplifting, encouraging and provides a world of kind examples to brighten the darkest soul. I thought it was wonderful.

About Ali Catterall

Ali Catterall is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker and editor, who has written for the Guardian, Time Out and GQ, among others. In 2001, he co-authored the critically acclaimed Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since the Sixties and in 2018 edited Scala Cinema 1978-1993 by Jane Giles, winner of the 2019 Kraszna-Krausz Award. He is currently co-directing a BFI-produced feature documentary about the Scala, and working on a memoir about his childhood.

You can follow Ali on Instagram and Twitter @AliCatterall

About Kitty Collins

Kitty Collins (not her real name) works in publishing. In her spare time, Kitty loves to read, watch movies and reality TV and devour all things Popular Culture. Kitty is an avid Foodie, and has written two food and drink titles under pseudonyms. Kitty lives in Kent with a high maintenance cat and 300 pairs of shoes.

You can follow Kitty on Instagram and Twitter @ladyfaversham

The King Who Didn’t Like Snow and The Boy Who Breathed Underwater from Full Media

I’m an enormous fan of Full Media children’s books and simply couldn’t resist participating in the blog tour for two of their recent books: The King Who Didn’t Like Snow by Jocelyn Porter, illustrated by Michael S Kane and The Boy Who Breathed Underwater by Izzy Rees, illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills. My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part today. It’s my pleasure to help close the tour.

The Boy Who Breathed Underwater

When lying in his bed, a boy is visited by a genie. He is given a week to try out different superhero powers.

What adventures will he have, and which power will he choose to keep?

The Boy Who Breathed Underwater is available for purchase directly from Full Media or Izzy Rees and on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

My Review of The Boy Who Breathed Underwater

A little boy spends the week trying super powers.

The Boy Who Breathed Underwater is a charming children’s book and I loved it.  It’s vibrantly illustrated so that meanings are enhanced and there’s humour as well as a vital message within the story so that it is hugely entertaining.

The excellent rhyme scheme is a delight to read aloud as it fits the rhythms of speech really naturally so that The Boy Who Breathed Underwater is a lovely story to share with children. The rhyme also helps children with their own language development, also identifying different sounds and spellings with a slightly older readership. There’s a wonderful lesson that being content with ourselves is the best way to be happy too.

However, smashing educational opportunities aside, what works so well in The Boy Who Breathed Underwater is the exciting story. All the things we all, never mind children, might dream of doing such as being able to fly or being invisible are explored so well and I can imagine any child thoroughly relating to what happens.

I thought The Boy Who Breathed Underwater was just wonderful and finished reading it with a smile on my face.

About Izzy Rees


Izzy Rees was born in West London, but has spent the last thirty years living in Derby. Ten years ago, when her three girls were young, she began work on a series of rhyming picture books, created in snatched moments, and initially written on small scraps of paper or whatever was available. She always intended to revisit them, and Covid and lockdown presented the opportunity; unable to continue her work as a neurophysiotherapist, working with vulnerable patients, she decided it was now or never! She has written six books so far in the ‘The Boy Who’ series, The Boy Who Breathed Underwater being the first one. The others will be published in the near future.

You can find Izzy on Facebook. 

The King Who Didn’t Like Snow

King Mark is a higgledy-piggledy king and he gets into a pickle every day. “Do something, Bert!” he shouts, and Wizard Bert, and his sidekick, Broderick the bookworm, always save the day. When snow fell on Windy Hill Castle, everyone was delighted – except for King Mark! King Mark didn’t like snow and he started to sulk.

Will Bert and Broderick save the day again?

Will King Mark walk into trouble?

Do the children of Windy Hill Village have the answer…?

The King Who Didn’t Like Snow is available for purchase directly from Full Media or on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

My Review of The King Who Didn’t Like Snow

Bert and Broderick have a new mission!

Before beginning my review proper, I must mention the fact that 10% of the book’s profits go to charity.

The King Who Didn’t Like Snow is a perfect children’s book because it explores emotions from anger to happiness, with sulking and laughing woven in, so that children can begin to understand how others might feel and to realise that if they give something a chance, like King Mark does with snow, they might just find they enjoy it. It’s a really entertaining story too and gives wonderful status to children as King Mark learns from them. There’s magic and drama in the narrative children will adore.

The illustrations are so vibrant and stimulating that they add to the excitement of the story. I loved the fact that there are children of colour in the pictures so that The King Who Didn’t Like Snow feels inclusive.

The King Who Didn’t Like Snow is a longer children’s story than many and this adds to its longevity as it can be read many times without children becoming over familiar with it. It also means that slightly older children will enjoy it too and the range of vocabulary develops language skills. New words are introduced in a context that is completely accessible.

The King Who Didn’t Like Snow is a fabulous children’s book and I really recommend it.

About Jocelyn Porter

Jocelyn’s writing career began when she was asked to write a story for a preschool magazine. That story was the first of many. Jocelyn became the writer/editor of several preschool magazines and continued in that role for 15 years. Writing one new story every month, plus rhymes and activities was a tough gig, but very exhilarating.

Time is the big difference between writing for a magazine and writing a book.  You see your work on the supermarket shelves within a few weeks of completion. A book takes longer – a lot longer. Jocelyn has to be patient now – not something she’s good at.

Before becoming a writer, Jocelyn work in higher education as International Students Officer. It was a rewarding and interesting job even though she was on call 24/7.

Jocelyn also trained as a counsellor and volunteered at drop-in centers. She never knew who would arrive for counselling and had to be prepared for anything. This work gave her insight into some of the darker corners of life.

Motor sport was one of Jocelyn’s early loves, she had spine tingling thrill of taking part in a 24-hour national rally as navigator – those were the days when rallies were held on public roads!

Jocelyn work as an au pair in Paris in her teens. Having visited the city on a school trip, she fell in love with it, and always wanted to return.

You can find Jocelyn on Facebook.

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