Staying in with Julienne Brouwers

Now, there might be a slight feeling of deja vu with this post as I stayed in briefly with Julienne a short while ago. Sadly we had to remove that post as there was an issue with the cover of the Double Deceit. Since then, the fabulous team at Head of Zeus have collaborated with Julienne to create a cracking new cover and what a cracking cover it is. I still haven’t had time to read Double Deceit, but I’m delighted to welcome (back) Julienne to Linda’s Book Bag today. Let’s find out more:

Staying in with Julienne Brouwers

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

Hello Linda. Thank you very much for having me. I did not know your website before. I am from the Netherlands, but I am truly impressed!

That’s very kind. Thank you!

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

Double Deceit, which is my first thriller in English. I have written two thrillers in Dutch, my mother tongue and I am very excited I can broaden my horizon now. The story in itself is easily relatable to and I very much hope that readers in the UK will enjoy the book as well.

My goodness. That’s impressive. Writing in another language can’t be easy. I tried to learn Dutch once and gave up!

So, what can we expect from an evening in with Double Deceit?

Expect an evening of curling up on the couch, unexpected plot twists and revelations, and being drawn into a book you won’t want to put down anymore – well that’s what the first readers said about it. It supposedly has a fast and easy flow to it, that I hope will go down well.

That sounds like my kind of book. Tell me more.

The thriller is set in Amsterdam and provides a glimpse of everyday life in the Dutch capital. The lead character is a strong and relatable woman, struggling after the sudden death of her husband as she’s left behind to take care of her toddler. Her determination to carry on though, in the face of everything – and to go far beyond what many would dare to, for the sake of finding answers and justice for her husband’s death – is intended to be inspiring. It’s a thriller at heart, with many twists and turns, but there’s an element of romance as well, and a deeper message touching on the transient nature of life.

I think Double Deceit sounds brilliant. And I like the thought of going back to Amsterdam. I haven’t been there since my tenth wedding anniversary!

What else have you brought along and why?

I have brought with me a pack of stroopwafels, a typical Dutch rich, caramel cookie that people from abroad usually love. Perhaps it would be nice to combine this with a cup of tea of a fine English blend? Tea is one of the favourite drinks of my main character Jennifer as well, however for a large part of the book she’s struggling to stay away from wine, which she has resorted to, in an attempt to drown out her grief over the loss of her husband and the secrets she discovered about him after he suddenly passed away.

Tea and a plate of stroopwafels sounds absolutely perfect to me!

When I started writing this book in Dutch, almost ten years ago, I lived in Amsterdam and found this vibrant city a truly inspiring environment – the canals, the little bridges, all the bikes cycling around like crazy.

I think it would be perfect to visit Amsterdam through Double Deceit Julienne. I still can’t believe you’ve written in a language that isn’t your first one.

I have always had a soft spot for the English language – I lived in the UK for a few years as a child and later in the US for a year – so I felt incredibly blessed when I met editor and translator Sarah Fencott to help me with writing the English version, Double Deceit, further shaping the story along the way as well.

It sounds to me as if Double Deceit would be a fantastic read Julienne. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat all about it. Now, you pour the tea and plate up the stroopwafels whilst I’ll tell readers more about Double Deceit.

Double Deceit

What if you were framed for a murder you didn’t commit? A gripping, addictive thriller for fans of Angela Clarke, Mel Sherratt and Rachel Lynch.

Jennifer Smits is a young mother, married to a hotshot lawyer and living in Amsterdam. Her world explodes when her husband is found dead at a holiday park during a weekend getaway. Convinced that the police have failed in their investigation, she embarks on a desperate quest for the truth – but the deeper she digs, the more she gets enmeshed in a tangled web of lies, spun by a ruthless law firm.

As Jennifer’s search for answers intensifies, her grip on reality weakens. Barely able to manage her patients at the health clinic, or take care of her young son, Jennifer is at risk of losing it all – even her closest friends begin to desert her. And then a chance encounter with a charming stranger sparks a new chain of events that plunges her deeper into a world of threats and corruption. Soon, she begins to fear for her life – but who can she trust, and how far will she go in pursuit of the truth?

This is a gripping, addictive thriller that will make you question everything, including the flaws of forensics. Could we all be framed for a murder we didn’t commit?

Double Deceit is available for purchase here.

About Julienne Brouwers

Julienne Brouwers worked as a pharmaceutical scientist and medical physicist before becoming a writer. She lives in the Netherlands, with her husband and three children, where she has published two successful thrillers, and lived in the UK and US for a total of four years.

You can follow Julienne on Twitter @JulienneAuthor, Instagram and Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Discussing War in the Valleys with Francesca Capaldi on Publication Day

It’s an absolute pleasure to help begin the blog tour for War in the Valleys by Francesca Capaldi today. My enormous thanks to Sarah Hardy at Books on the Bright Side publicity for inviting me to participate in the celebrations. I’m delighted to welcome Francesca to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me today.

Staying in with Francesca Capaldi

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

Hi there Linda. Thanks for inviting me over on this chilly evening. I’m glad to see you’ve got a good fire burning.

We need a warm fire in November! Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening.

I’ve brought along my latest book, War in the Valleys, the second in my Valleys series, published today, November 25th.

Happy publication day Francesca. How exciting! So, what can we expect from an evening in with War in the Valleys?

A bit of a rollercoaster ride with emotional lows and heartfelt highs along with some argy-bargy between the characters. Also a bit of shouting, on the reader’s side, at the more despicable personalities, or at least, some fervent tuts and head shakes!

Oo. I love a book  that makes me get involved with the characters. What inspired you to create War in the Valleys?

The idea grew from the first book, Heartbreak in the Valleys, which itself was inspired by a Welsh great grandfather’s World War 1 record. It’s set in a mining village in the Rhymney Valley, based on the one in which my mother and grandmother were born – Abertysswg. In fact, my great gran, Mary Jones, has a cameo role in the novels, as she would have been there, as a young mother of four, in 1916. I’m not sure what Gran would have made of appearing in a novel, but it would certainly have been useful having her around now. The research has given me a good insight into what it was like for my ancestors, but nothing beats first-hand experience.

What a lovely way to remember your great gran. I bet she’d be thrilled to be included. 

What else have you brought this evening and why?

For a start, some Welsh cakes and tea for us to enjoy. Gran liked her cups of tea, as do my characters. The teapot should be brown and covered with one of Gran’s favoured knitted cosies, but sadly I have neither. Instead, I’ve brought my mum’s 1960’s Elijah Cotton Staffordshire ware (and my snazzy teapot!), along with a 1930s cake stand of my dad’s.

That’s wonderful. But keep your voice down. My husband is Welsh and if he finds we have Welsh cakes we won’t get a look in! Do Welsh cakes feature in War in the Valleys?

Poor Violet, in War in the Valleys, would have been glad of a whole, undamaged tea set, and to be able to purchase the ingredients for Welsh cakes (or bakestones, as she calls them). My mum used to make Welsh cakes when I was a child, and I’ve carried on the tradition.

I’ve brought Cerys Matthew’s CD, Tir, so we can play Sosban Fach, which my mother used to sing to me as a child. I’m sure a lot of the songs on the album would have been heard at concerts by my characters.

That’s a song I’ve heard many times Francesca. Lovely isn’t it? But what’s that you’re holding?

I’ve also brought a photograph to prop up on the mantelpiece, taken by my father in 1973, of Abertysswg, looking more like it would have done in 1916 than it does today. You can see the Workmen’s Institute and the public house, the McLaren Arms (the McKenzie Arms in the novel), along with the Ainon Baptist Chapel, now all sadly demolished.

I think photographs can inspire both memories and writing Francesca. Abertysswg is not a million miles from where my husband was brought up so when we’ve eaten most of the Welsh cakes I’ll call him in and he can take a look too. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about War in the Valleys. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Thank you for having me round for an evening in, Linda. It’s been good to chat.

It has. Now, you pour some tea and I’ll give readers a few more details about War in the Valleys:

War in the Valleys

WW1 marches on, but Violet faces her own battle at home…

July 1916. Young mother, Violet Jones, lives a tough life in the Rhymney Valley, caring for 4-year-old Clarice and baby Benjy on her own while soldier husband Charlie fights on the Front Line. But when tragedy strikes, Violet’s life becomes even harder.

While they may be far from the battlefields, the effects of WW1 take their toll on the small mining community of Dorcalon, with food becoming scarce and more and more of their young men losing their lives.

With very little money coming in, and two babies to care for, Violet takes in a relative to help make ends meet. But far from easing her burden, it might turn out to be the worst decision she’s made.

As the Great War takes its toll on the nation, Violet faces her own battle. All alone in the world, can she protect her children, and herself? And will she ever find joy out of the depths of despair?

A captivating, emotional saga set in WW1 – will tug on your heart-strings and bring a tear to your eye. If you like Nadine Dorries, Rosie Goodwin or Sheila Newbury you will adore this beautiful Welsh saga.

War in the Valleys is published by Hera today, 25th November 2020, and is available for purchase through the links here.

About Francesca Capaldi

Several years ago, Francesca Capaldi pursued a childhood dream and joined a creative writing class. Lots of published short stories, a serial, and four pocket novels later, she’s now explored her mother’s ancestral history for a series of novels set in a Welsh colliery village. A history graduate and former teacher, she hails from the Sussex coast but now lives in Kent with her family and a cat called Lando Calrissian.
For further information about Francesca, visit her blog, find her on Facebook or follow her in Twitter @FCapaldiBurgess. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

337 by M Jonathan Lee

Having read, thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed here M. Jonathan Lee’s Broken Branches some three years ago, I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to read and review his latest book 337 as part of the launch celebrations. My enormous thanks to Holly at Hideaway Fall for sending me a copy of 337 and for arranging for me to ‘stay in’ with Jonathan today.

Staying in with M. Jonathan Lee

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

Hi Linda, it’s great to be here! Thank you for having me. Glad you’ve got the heating on, it’s so cold outside!

Let me know if you need the heating tweaking up a bit as we chat. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought my newest and most exciting novel with me – 337. It comes out later this year on the 30th November and I thought I’d give you all a little preview of what’s been going on in the Hideaway Fall cabin this year.

Not long to go now then. Happy publication day for 30th November! What can we expect from an evening in with 337?

I wrote this book as a challenge to myself, to see if I could write a novel where the entire story hinges on the last word, which changes your view about many of the characters you’ve travelled through the story with. I’ve always been fascinated by the human condition and what leads people to do the things they do, and this story explores how the consequences of just one event can ripple through the years, changing everything. Expect all your perceptions to be challenged, nothing is as it seems.

You manage that brilliantly. I thought 337 was fabulous and am delighted to share my review below.

My own Nanna, Frances Joan died whilst I was writing the story and I remember feeling very panicked in her last few days that knowledge would disappear with her. This gave me the idea for a character disappearing without a trace, in just the same way as the knowledge.

Oh, I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope 337 can be a constant reminder of Frances Joan. Ironically, it’s the anniversary of my Dad’s funeral today so this conversation feels especially poignant.

What else have you brought along and why?

Well, I have brought a few picnic supplies with me, if you wouldn’t mind joining me for a cup of tea and a sandwich?

Always ready for a cuppa and a sandwich in this house!

You’re lucky that the basket is actually full of food today – we’ve been using it to haul 337 books around, my kids were very disappointed at the lack of sausage rolls!

 

I bet that took some lugging about. Why did you use a picnic basket?

A fraught family picnic in the park is what starts the whole novel in motion and is the last time young Samuel sees his mother so it seemed only right. Here’s a sneak peek at how the picnic goes down for the Darte family…

Everything is spread out on the blanket in front of us: an array of sandwiches, sausage rolls, tomatoes, lettuce, vol-au-vents, crisps, celery, cheese, crackers. We wait patiently as she removes the cling film from each item. Gramps lights his pipe and we all wait a little longer until he has finished smoking. I watch the smoke disappear into the blue sky and wish for a moment it was me. Eventually, Gramps collects his plate and begins to fill it with food. Again, we all wait, watching in silence until he has finished. Then he places his plate down on the grass next to him and bows his head solemnly. He closes his eyes and reopens them, and that is an indication that we can now join in.

Oh yes! I loved the opening of 337 as you headed towards the picnic memory Jonathan. In fact, I loved the entire book and once I’ve given blog readers some further information I’ll be sharing my review. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about 337.  

337

337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note.

While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby.

Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth.

Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.

337 will be published by Hideaway Fall on 30th November and is available for pre-order here. Please note the double-ended upside-down opening for this book is available in books ordered in hard copy from UK booksellers only.

My Review of 337

Samuel’s grand mother is dying.

I had no idea what to expect from 337, but I hadn’t anticipated quite such a wonderful, poetic and beautifully written narrative. I was drawn in from the very first moment as M. Jonathan Lee took me into the story as if I were there visualising it with him in an almost dreamlike state. It’s that blurring of memory, truth and reality that ripples through the book so effectively that had me completely entranced. I found the physical structure of the writing superb too. M. Jonathan Lee knows exactly when one word is sufficient to convey incredible meaning. Repetition, description, plotting, direct speech – every aspect of a writer’s craft combines in 337 to be so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s a brilliant book.

The characterisation is wonderful. Told from Sam’s perspective, the reduced palette of characters in 337 means that there is an intensity to the narrative and all through the book I wasn’t entirely sure how reliable a narrator Sam was. His direct appeal to the reader means that they are taken directly into his confidence and yet his flexible approach to working from home introduces a slight sense of disquiet. I found this hugely effective. Particularly realistic for me was Sam’s time at his grand mother’s bedside. So many of the thoughts Sam experienced as he waited for her to die resonated with me from when I sat with my own father waiting for his final breath. I found this very, very moving.

It’s difficult to say too much about the plot, although in one sense very little happens, as this is a story of people and the reverberations of past actions rather than present ones, but I found it riveting. When M. Jonathan Lee inverts reader perceptions and expectations, I found my response quite visceral. Those whom I perhaps should have forgiven in the story I felt got what they deserved anyway. I was glad some things occurred as they did. I know this is vague but you’ll have to read the book to see what I mean.

The themes of 337 are magnificent. M. Jonathan Lee knows exactly how to shine a laser light into the human soul and lay it bare for all to see. Truth is at the heart of the narrative, but it’s a truth distorted by time, by memory and perception, so that it leaves the reader wondering how much of their own memory is blurred and created rather than actual. Themes of love, betrayal, manipulation, guilt, family, addiction and self awareness add layers of interest and emotion so that reading 337 is quite a highly charged experience. I couldn’t tear myself away.

Indeed, 337 is an intense, beautifully written exploration of humanity that I adored. I fear it may be a quiet book that many potential readers miss but I cannot recommend it highly enough.

About M. Jonathan Lee

M. Jonathan Lee (also known as Jonathan Lee) is an award-winning novelist who has had two novels in the top 10 Amazon charts. He was born in Yorkshire, northern England where he still lives today.

His first novel, the critically-acclaimed The Radio was shortlisted for The Novel Prize 2012 and is the first in the loosely titled The ‘The’ trilogy.

M. Jonathan Lee works closely with Rethink and Mind Charities to raise awareness of mental health issues, and is a regular commentator on the BBC.

His latest novel, 337, is due out on 30th November 2020 and is published by Hideaway Fall.

You can follow M. Jonathan Lee on Twitter @MJonathanLee, visit his website and find him on Facebook.

Introducing A Box of Stories @aboxofstories

It’s less than a week since Ahmed got in touch from A Box of Stories to see if I might be interested in featuring this super book box initiative on Linda’s Book Bag. Now, although I’m not really accepting new blog material I thought it sounded intriguing so I asked him to explain more.

This is what he told me:

At A Box of Stories, our surprise book boxes introduce readers to amazing new authors and stories. Over 70 million books are destroyed each year, resulting in many never making it into the hands of people that might otherwise love them. By scanning thousands of titles and using real reader recommendations, each box saves four books and allows our community to discover titles beyond the obvious bestsellers.

Well I could hardly resist finding out more so I agreed to take one of A Box of Stories boxes to see what I thought. I have to say, I’m very impressed.

There are there several book boxes to choose from and you can click on each one to discover more:

Surprise box of 4 fiction books

Surprise box of 4 mixed books

Crime, Mystery and Thriller box of 4 surprise books

Young Adult box of 4 surprise books

Latest Releases: Fiction box of 4 books

Light Reads box of 4 surprise books

Historical Fiction box of 4 surprise books

Books are chosen for the boxes using algorithms that are simply beyond me, but that allow meaningful book boxes to be created.

You can choose a one off box or, with a discount, you can take out a subscription. There’s also a special first time subscription purchase discount of 30% for Linda’s Book Bag readers so read on for more information.

My Surprise Box of 4 Fiction Books

I ordered my box of mixed fiction on Thursday evening after 8PM, had an order confirmation and tracking number first thing on Friday and the box arrived within the 48 hour Royal Mail Tracked window on Monday lunchtime.

The box that arrived was excellent in robustness, so that even though it had suffered slightly at the hands of postie the books inside were in pristine condition. I think that’s a really important aspect of this book box, as A Box of Stories ships not only to the UK, but to Ireland, Austria, Belgium, France Germany, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland.

What could be better in these uncertain Covid times than being able to send a wonderful surprise of books to family and friends you might not be able to see? Prices start from £14.99 and there is even a gift card you could send so that recipients can choose their own box.

With a percentage of profits going to charity too, this sounds like a fantastic idea.

It was lovely to discover recyclable brown paper keeping the books snug as well as a cheerful postcard that makes an excellent bookmark.

My box included two hard backed and two paperback books, all in absolutely perfect condition, all for £14.99 delivered.

I looked up the current prices on a well known online store for the editions I had received and discovered The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan is selling for £17.99, and £7.15 in paperback. Plume by Will Wiles is currently £13.46 in hardback and £7.18 in paperback, the edition of Bev Thomas’ A Good Enough Mother is £12.15 although a different edition is £7.29 and finally, a paperback of Camilla Grebe’s The Ice Beneath Her is £5.71. Even at the lowest prices these four books would have cost me £27.33 and the editions I actually received come to £49.31. Either way, this represents superb value for four books in my A Box of Stories box, especially as there is free shipping in the UK.

I really am incredibly impressed by A Box of Stories. I like the concept of ‘saving’ books that have been ‘quiet books’ that readers would love, but that might not have had huge marketing budgets behind them so that they have been missed. I like the idea of getting a bargain – who doesn’t? And I love the idea that charities working for literacy will benefit from sales too.

If others are interested, A Box of Stories offers bloggers an affiliate programme. Any blog readers who fancy one of the book boxes can have 30% off their first subscription using the code LindasBookBag. although as I’ve only just taken part, it might take a couple of days for the code above to become active. I don’t think you can go wrong really! Visit the A Box of Stories website, follow them on Twitter @aboxofstories or find them on Facebook for more information.

Love in Lockdown by Chloe James

When Ellie Pilcher at Harper Collins provided a copy of Love In Lockdown by Chloe James in return for an honest review, I wasn’t sure whether a lockdown story would be for me. However, I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Avon today, 23rd November 2020, in ebook Love in Lockdown is available for purchase through the links here.

Love in Lockdown

Do you believe in love before first sight?

Lockdown is putting Sophia’s life on pause – just as she planned to put herself out there and meet someone. When the first clap for the keyworkers rings out around her courtyard, she’s moved to tears for all kinds of reasons.

Jack is used to living life to the fullest. He’s going stir-crazy after just days isolating. Until the night he hears a woman crying from the balcony under his. He strikes up a conversation with the stranger and puts a smile on her face.

Soon their balcony meetings are the highlight of Jack and Sophia’s days. But even as they grow closer together, they’re always kept apart.

Can they fall in love during a lockdown?

My Review of Love in Lockdown

Relationships need working on in lockdown!

Initially I wasn’t at all sure I was going to enjoy Love in Lockdown. I found a little too much direct speech for my reader taste and Chloe James’ writing was a bit too close to the real experience of lockdown. However, suddenly I clicked into the rhythm of the narrative and found I actually rather enjoyed the story. Of course there was a lot of direct speech. Chloe James was illustrating the reality of human contact in lockdown. We all had to rely on phones and online chat. Her portrayal of the pandemic situation was so well written that it placed me back into the early weeks of the first full national lockdown incredibly effectively. This is very clever writing. I could identify with, and remember, so many of the references that I felt I was part of the narrative too. I think this is a real strength. Those living alone, in anonymous flats or who are feeling disconnected from society because of Covid 19 might well find considerable solace in Love in Lockdown as it has the potential to make them feel part of the world, albeit vicariously.

Essentially Love in Lockdown is an unusual love story for unusual times. I very much appreciated that Jack and Sophie’s relationship is not based on appearance, but that they gradually get to know one another through interaction and not immediate physical attraction. There’s a charm to this that is quite heart warming and by the end of the Love in Lockdown I wanted them to have a happy ever after ending – although you’ll have to read it for yourself to see if that happens! I enjoyed the secondary characters too, especially because they represent the full range of society from children to the elderly because it made the story feel more inclusive.

However, what I most enjoyed about Love in Lockdown was the overarching message that, although we may have a ‘new normal’, life does go on; birth, marriage, death, love, friendship and community are all still there for us. We may need to reach out for them differently, but with sensitivity towards others and a small amount of effort, life is till there. If there are those, like me initially, who felt reading a book set during the pandemic might be a bit too much, I’d say give Love in Lockdown a try. You might find that you really enjoy it. I did.

About Chloe James

Staying in with Kelly Creighton on Problems with Girls Publication Day

It’s a real thrill to be staying in with Kelly Creighton on publication day to discuss her brand new novel Problems with Girls. I’m delighted she’s here so let’s see what Kelly has to tell us:

Staying in with Kelly Creighton

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Kelly. I’m delighted to welcome you here. 

Thank you for having me over on your fabulous blog, Linda.

Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. I rather think I know, but tell me Kelly, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Problems with Girls is the book I have brought. It is book 2 in the DI Harriet Sloane series rounding the series out as distinctly feminist and is out today!

Happy publication day Kelly. What can we expect from an evening in with Problems with Girls?

The Sloane series is set in East Belfast and has that typical dark NI humour, but I also hope it says something about our society at the minute, which crime fiction usually does. It deals with cyberbullying, mental health and how young women are an invisible part of our society in Northern Ireland.

It sounds as if the DI Harriet Slaone series is incredibly pertinent to today’s society. So, what else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I have brought a bottle of Merlot. I wish I could drink red wine but unfortunately it gives me migraines. I have to stick to white wine.

Oh. I’m with you on that. I can’t drink wine. 

Harriet enjoys a glass of Merlot though, sometimes too many. It would be the perfect accompaniment to the book and I know of a writer who did read an ARC copy and had a glass or two as he did. To mark the launch of the book today (20 November) I am having an online event on Zoom this evening called Crime and Cocktails. It is a b.y.o.b. event to celebrate great new books that have come out lately, or will be shortly, by myself, James Murphy, Simon Maltman, Sharon Dempsey and Cara Finegan.

What a brilliant way to celebrate Problems with Girls publication day in these strange times. Have a wonderful time Kelly. I understand readers can still sign up for this event. Thanks so much for staying in and telling us a bit about the book. You pour yourself a glass of white wine and I’ll give everyone all the details they need for Problems with Girls.

Thanks Linda!

Problems with Girls

Where are the young women here? Can you even see them?

After taking some leave, DI Harriet Sloane comes back to work at Strandtown PSNI station, East Belfast, to be faced with a murder case. A young political activist has been stabbed to death in the office of a progressive political party where she works as an intern. The killer seems to have a problem with girls, and is about to strike again.

Set in 2018, a month after the Belfast Rape Trial and the #ibelieveher rallies that took place throughout Ireland, this novel asks questions about cyberbullying, mental health and consent.

Problems with Girls is a fast-paced detective novel that will keep you gripped till the very last word.
Problems with Girls is perfect for fans of Denise Mina.

Published by Friday Press today, 20th November 2020, Problems with Girls is available for purchase directly from the publisher.

About Kelly Creighton

Kelly Creighton is a creative writing teacher and the author of the DI Sloane novels, as well as the psychological thriller The Bones of It which was the San Diego Book Review 2015 Novel of the Year and longlisted for the Kate O’Brien Award.She also writes short stories, having edited short story journal The Incubator for years. Kelly Creighton published her first short story collection Bank Holiday Hurricane to critical acclaim and it was longlisted for the 2018 Edge Hill Prize and shortlisted for a Saboteur Award. She lives in Co Down, Northern Ireland.

For more information about Kelly, visit her website, or follow her on Twitter @KellyCreighto16.

Why Mummy’s Sloshed by Gill Simms

Having read and loved the previous three books in the Why Mummy… series by Gill Simms, I simply had to read Why Mummy’s Sloshed and I’m delighted to share my review today.

You’ll find my review of Why Mummy Drinks here, of Why Mummy Swears here and of Why Mummy Doesn’t Give a **** here.

Published by Harper Collins on 15th October 2020, Why Mummy’s Sloshed is available for purchase through the links here.

Why Mummy’s Sloshed

I just wanted them to stop wittering at me, eat vegetables without complaining, let me go to the loo in peace and learn to make a decent gin and tonic.
It genuinely never occurred to me when they were little that this would ever end – an eternity of Teletubbies and Duplo and In The Night Bastarding Garden and screaming, never an end in sight.  But now there is.  And despite the busybody old women who used to pop up whenever I was having a bad day and tell me I would miss these days when they were over, I don’t miss those days at all.  
I have literally never stood wistfully in the supermarket and thought ‘Oh, how I wish someone was trailing behind me constantly whining ‘Mummy, can I have, Mummy can I have?’ while another precious moppet tries to climb out the trolley so they land on their head and we end up in A&E.
Again.

Mummy has been a wife and mother for so long that she’s a little bit lost. And despite her best efforts, her precious moppets still don’t know the location of the laundry basket, the difference between being bored and being hungry, or that saying ‘I can’t find it Mummy’ is not the same as actually looking for it.

Amidst the chaos of A-Levels and driving tests, she’s doing her best to keep her family afloat, even if everybody is set on drifting off in different directions, and that one of those directions is to make yet another bloody snack. She’s feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated, and the only thing that Mummy knows for sure is that the bigger the kids, the bigger the drink.

My Review of Why Mummy’s Sloshed

Ellen’s life is as chaotic, expletive and drink-filled as usual!

Having read and reviewed all three of the previous books in the Why Mummy series, it’s tricky to say something new about Why Mummy’s Sloshed that I haven’t said before.

All the elements I’ve come to expect from Gill Simms’ writing are present in Why Mummy’s Sloshed. There’s a witty, conversational style that makes the reader feel they are one of Ellen’s friends listening to her rather than reading about her. There are many laugh out loud moments (often through Edward’s antics for me). There’s an awful lot of swearing that actually made me feel quite jealous. I’d love to have an Ellen type sweary rant at times! I also very much appreciate the chronological structure of Why Mummy’s Sloshed. That doesn’t mean that elements from Ellen’s past are neglected because they are made clear through memories and conversations, but it is so good to read a book that starts in January and ends in December with dated chronological entries rather than having yet another time slip or dual narrative. I very much enjoyed the completeness of the narrative that concludes this series in a very satisfying manner.

I think what works so well throughout the entire Why Mummy… series is the characterisation. In Why Mummy’s Sloshed, Gill Simms reveals human frailty and strength. Her depiction of Jane in particular feels so realistic and I love the streak of feminism Jane has inherited from Ellen. Having loathed Simon in the previous book I was pleased to see him return slightly differently in Why Mummy’s Sloshed.

As with Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****, in Why Mummy’s Sloshed there’s a more measured and less frenetic approach that mirrors Ellen’s own increasing maturity, but this time I found a great wisdom underpinning the humour. In fact, Ellen’s assistance of her best friend Hannah, is a brilliant example of how we can all reach out to those under pressure. I think that underneath the humour, Why Mummy’s Sloshed is a surprisingly sensitive insight into the lives of many women and a brilliant example of how appearances may be deceptive.

I thoroughly enjoyed Why Mummy’s Sloshed. It’s funny, human and hugely entertaining. I think those finding Ellen for the first time might just find a little bit of themselves in her life that helps them with their own little darlings!

About Gill Simms

Gill simms

Gill Sims is the author and illustrator of the hugely successful parenting blog and Facebook site ‘Peter and Jane’. She lives in Scotland with her husband, two children and a recalcitrant rescue Border Terrier, who rules the house. Gill’s interests include drinking wine, wasting time on social media, trying and failing to recapture her lost youth and looking for the dog when he decides to go on one of his regular jaunts.

You’ll find Gill on Twitter @whymummydrinks, and can visit Gill’s Peter and Jane Facebook page or read her blog.

A Wing and a Prayer by M W Arnold

Lovely M W Arnold has always been a fabulous supporter of Linda’s Book Bag, and it is beyond time he had a return visit to the blog. Last time, I was delighted to host an extract from Mick’s The Season of Love which you can see here. Today, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Mick to stay in with me to chat about his latest book as part of Rachel’s Random Resources blog blitz.

Staying in with M W Arnold

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag Mick. Thank you so much for staying in with me.

Hi Linda. It’s wonderful to be here with you today. Thank you very much for inviting me.

I have a pretty good idea, but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share today.

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I’ve brought my very first saga. It’s called A Wing and a Prayer and is the first story in the Broken Wings series.

How exciting to have a new series. What made you decide to write a saga this time?

This is a genre I kind of fell into. I had previously had a Women’s Fiction novel published before having a hard couple of years health wise. It was during this that a good friend and fellow author – I still find it hard to think of myself as such, but I’m working on that – Elaine Everest, suggest that I try my hand at something new, something I hadn’t previously started.

I’m sorry to hear you’ve been unwell Mick, but Elaine’s a real support to other authors isn’t she? So what happened next?

This got me thinking and following the old adage, write what you know, I decided to look back into World War Two.

Serendipity must take some blame for my choosing this genre, as I found myself watching a program about the Spitfire Women of WW2. Before I really knew it, I had some characters sketched out, even the beginning of a plot! I’ve always been more of a pantster than a planster. I have never written a first draft so quickly in my life! It seemed as if the characters wanted to get out of my head and onto the page as quickly as possible.

That must have been incredibly exciting.

Before I knew it – not quite, but it seems it when looking back on it – there was an offer of a contract and I’d broken the hoodoo of the second contract.

Congratulations Mick. That’s just wonderful. Tell us a bit more about A Wing and a Prayer.

This novel is set in the world of the Air Transport Auxiliary service, specifically around the pilots and staff of the all-women base at RAF Hamble, just outside Southampton. As well as following the three main women as they discover how to live and work together, they find themselves mixed up in a dangerous mystery as they try to find who was responsible for the murder of their landlady’s sister. Thus is born the Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club.

That’s a smashing hook into A Wing and a Prayer.

Quite unintentionally, I’ve stumbled on a genre of writing that I adore! There is a lot of research for these type of novels, hopefully I haven’t made too many errors, but that is actually a joy. I’ve found out so much more and have such a profound admiration for the ladies, and gentlemen, who flew these aircraft from factories and maintenance units, so our pilots could defend us. Without them, the Battle of Britain would have proved so much harder to endure and win.

I think A Wing and a Prayer is a perfect book for a dark winter’s evening Mick and I’ll be sharing my review after we’ve finished speaking. So, what else have you brought to share with us?

I’ve brought along some dishes from the 1940’s, so I hope you’re a little adventurous so far as your appetite is concerned?

Hmm. That depends on what you’ve brought…

The Rock Buns are delicious, though I would advise you to stay in the present and use lashing of lovely smooth butter!

I’ll certainly give those a try Mick. Not least because any baking I do, regardless of the recipe and intention, usually ends up as a rock bun!

Spam Hash?

Er…

I did ask if you were adventurous! I’m a good cook, so long as there’s a recipe to follow, and with this dish there is plenty of potato so, again, plenty of butter.

Ok then. I’ll give it a go!

For afters, I hope you like apples? You can’t really go wrong with apple crumble, can you. Again, I would say cheat and add some cream over the top.

Now you’re talking. I’m definitely an apple crumble fan.

Do you like Guinness? The American character in the novel falls in love with ‘the black stuff’, so I thought it’d be quite apt if we chase down our food with some of this nectar.

It’s a bit strong for me on its own but I like it in a shandy. I’m quite surprised you didn’t bring some fish and chips too – I think Doris would have liked them!

I do like to listen to music whilst I write. For some reason, I find it very difficult to write in silence. Do you have this problem? Anyway, I especially love to write to Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. However, for this one, I found myself first listening to an anthology of Glenn Miller and then Tommy Dorsey and Ella Fitzgerald (what a voice!). If I needed a little light-hearted music, I’ve a cd of Danny Kaye. Okay, he was a little later than WW2, but he made so many great records!

I’m not so keen on the Beach Boys Mick, but I’d love to listen to Glenn Miller and Ella Fitzgerald with you whilst we eat.

Well, perhaps I’d better say goodbye – hopefully only until next time – and let you go and work on the stomach ache I’ve probably given you.

It’s been a pleasure Mick and I’m delighted to share my review of  A Wing and a Prayer when I’ve given blog readers a few more details.

My thanks for having me Linda, it’s been wonderful and I look forward to seeing you again soon. Take good care xx

You too!

A Wing and a Prayer

When Betty Palmer’s sister dies under suspicious circumstances whilst landing her Tiger Moth, Betty and three other women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary in WWII England unite to discover who killed her and why.

Estranged from her family, Penny Blake wants simply to belong. American Doris Winter, running from a personal tragedy, yearns for a new start. Naturally shy Mary Whitworth-Baines struggles to fit in. Together though, they are a force to be reckoned with as they face the mystery that confronts them.

Against the backdrop of war, when ties of friendship are exceptionally strong, they strive to unravel the puzzle’s complex threads, risking their lives as they seek justice for Betty’s sister.

A Wing and a Prayer is published by The Wild Rose Press and is available for purchase on Amazon UKAmazon US, Amazon Aus, iBooks and Nook.

My Review of A Wing and a Prayer

Eleanor’s death might have been more than an accident.

A Wing and a Prayer is a smashing read. I don’t often read sagas and feel foolish for not finding time for them more frequently if M W Arnold’s A Wing and a Prayer is anything to go by. This story has everything. There’s friendship, history, intrigue and romance in an entertaining blend that I thoroughly enjoyed.

A Wing and a Prayer opens in dramatic style that captivates the reader instantly and M W Arnold’s lightness of touch as he introduces the women in this story, unites then with a common aim, and makes the reader care about them, is so well done. Whilst mystery very much drives the narrative, with a traditional Agatha Christie or Golden Age style, the assiduousness of research shines through so that the reader feels a confidence in the factual detail underpinning the story which adds to the enjoyment in the book. Everything from the food, through shady black market dealings, to clothing and aeronautical operations, adds depth and colour that I thought was wonderful. M W Arnold’s descriptions really bring the story alive without ever slowing the pace or feeling extraneous, so that there’s a visual quality to the read too.

I thought the balance of emotions worked very effectively, especially with humour, particularly through Bobby the dog, to counterbalance the darker moments. I found myself caught up in the narrative, willing on the women who are warm and vivid. Each one has a slightly flawed personality, often resulting from events in their past lives and I think it would be wonderful to see them in future stories too. I really appreciated the manner with which they all made the most of the life they had been allocated at the time and I had a particular soft spot for Doris whom I’d like to meet in real life.

Although it might sound a peculiar comment, I thought A Wing and a Prayer was the perfect example of a time when grit and determination, friendship and loyalty, would help steer us through the most difficult times. Reading M W Arnold has somehow restored my faith in my fellow humans and shown me that we can succeed if we work together and this is a much needed message in today’s world. A Wing and a Prayer is super stuff. It’s entertaining, warm and engaging. I loved it.

About M W Arnold

Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elisabeth II in the Royal Air Force before putting down roots and realizing how much he missed the travel. This he’s replaced somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and supporting fellow saga and romance authors in promoting their novels.

He’s the proud keeper of two Romanian cats, is mad on the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and loving his Manchester-United-supporting wife.

Finally, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. A Wing and a Prayer is his second published novel, and he is very proud to be welcomed into The Rose Garden.

You can follow Mick on Twitter @Mick859 and find him on Facebook. Mick is also on Instagram.

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Discussing Open House: A Life in Thirty-Two Moves with Jane Christmas

My enormous thanks to Rhoda Hardie for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Open House: A Life in Thirty-Two Moves by Jane Christmas and for sending me a copy of the book which I am very much looking forward to reading. Rhoda managed to arrange for Jane and I to stay in together today!

Staying in with Jane Christmas

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

I’m delighted to stay in with you, Linda. Thanks for inviting me.

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

Well, it seems appropriate, since we’ve all been confined to barracks so to speak, to talk about my new book Open House: A Life in Thirty-Two Moves, which was released Nov. 12 in the UK.

Oh! A belated happy publication day Jane. What can we expect from an evening in with Open House: A Life in Thirty-Two Moves?

Open House is a memoir, and it’s about houses, specifically the houses I’ve lived in throughout my life. I adore houses: I love buying them, fixing them up, selling them, and upping sticks again. I’m quite the Rightmove addict, and I believe I am not alone in my fascination with houses. Property programs on TV are also another source of intrigue for me: Sometimes it’s not about the house per se but about seeing the transformation in the owners, or the prospective home buyers. Everyone has an idea of what they think they want in a home, but oftentimes that idea does not end up being what ultimately pulls at their heart strings.

Oh I couldn’t agree more. I love house programmes, even if I have only moved once in 35 years!

Open House opens up with me trying to figure out how to tell my husband, Colin, a man who hates moving and who does not share my passion for homes, that we have to move. We had bought a lovely home in the seaside town of Brixham—it was a former fisherman’s cottage with four large bedrooms, two bathrooms, lots of white-washed beams and sisal carpeting. It was gorgeous. I left so lucky to live there. But after a few years the few factors I had overlooked about the house—its proximity to the centre of town, the long flight of stairs leading up to the garden, and the vicious seagulls—got to me. We had to move. On the plus side we had lovely neighbours, the house itself was amazing, and we were close to the harbour and the south Devon coastline, so moving away from that was quite a wrench.

That makes me smile Jane. I told my husband we were moving with no discussion at all!

We ended up buying a rundown house in Bristol that neither of us particularly loved but that we could afford. It was during the renovation of that house that I began to count up the number of times I had moved and renovated, and I was shocked by all those 32 moves. So as I set about scraping wood chip wallpaper from the walls I started to reminisce about each house, asking myself what I remembered of it, and why I had moved from it. When I was young, the reasons we moved often was down to my mother: she loved houses and loved renovating. Bear in mind that this was the early 1960s when no one was renovating homes!  I hated our frequent house moves and vowed to never buy old houses and renovate them. But when I grew up that is exactly what I’ve done. I’m afraid the apple does not fall far from the tree!

Evidently not!

So Open House is a sort of meditation on the houses I’ve called home, and on the factors that causes us to move from one place to another. Along the way, especially with 32 moves, you’re bound to lose something, and for me that loss was some friendships and stability. The book is both funny and serious: one reviewer called it an insightful, rollicking read full of plaster dust and screaming seagulls. But I also think it allows readers to plumb their own memories of where they’ve lived, why they moved, how life might have been different had they stayed put.

Open House sounds brilliant Jane. I love the concept of memories and what is gained and lost. When we moved to our present house I had just had my tonsils out as an adult. I came round on the ward to find my husband sitting next to the bed. Instead of asking me how I was feeling he said, ‘Sign this. We’re moving on Friday’ and then got another husband visiting his wife to witness the signatures for us!

Our Bristol house took time to settle into, we were very much grumpy owners, but as things took shape and the wood-burner got lit we warmed to the house, and we’re proud of what we did on it.

I’d have loved a sneaky look round Jane! Too bad lockdown is in place! What else have you brought along and why?

As a fan of property shows I have invited along Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer. I think they’re hilarious, and there was a time when I contacted their program and asked for their help. They got back to me just as we bought our Bristol home, but I often wish I had had their insight and assistance.

Is this the time to confess I’m a little bit in love with Phil Spencer…?

In addition to Kirstie and Phil, I’m inviting my mother, who’s been dead for about seven years but whose voice (not always welcome) is ever-present whenever I face renovating or décor decisions. In those moments when I’m stumped, I’ll ask the ether “Mom, what would you do?”

Ha! That’s mothers for you Jane. Mine’s still with us and very free with her advice too. I wish I had £1 for every time I’ve heard the words ‘Why don’t you…’.

I’d have a few bottle of champagne and some nibbles, perhaps have a little jazz music playing in the background while we all sit around a chat about homes and what we love about them.

That sounds like a perfect evening to me Jane. Thanks so much for chatting with me all about Open House: A Life in Thirty-Two Moves. Later, I’ll tell you that the people who lived in our house prior to us left such a trail of unpaid bills that within a couple of days of moving in we’d had a court summons for non-payment of rates and Moben kitchens rang to say they were going to remove our kitchen because it hadn’t been paid for! It’s a long story… You pour us a glass of champagne and I’ll just give blog readers all the important information about Open House: A Life in Thirty-Two Moves and then I’ll tell you more. 

Open House: A Life in Thirty-Two Moves

Moving house has never flustered author Jane Christmas. She loves houses: viewing them, negotiating their price, dreaming up interior plans, hiring tradespeople to do the work and overseeing renovations. She loves houses so much that she’s moved thirty-two times.

There are good reasons for her latest house move, but after viewing sixty homes, Jane and her husband succumb to the emotional fatigue of an overheated English housing market and buy a wreck in the town of Bristol that is overpriced, will require more money to renovate than they have and that neither of them particularly like.

As Jane’s nightmare renovation begins, her mind returns to the Canadian homes where she grew up with parents who moved and renovated constantly around the Toronto area. Suddenly, the protective seal is blown off Jane’s memory of a strict and peripatetic childhood and its ancillary damage—lost friends, divorces, suicide attempts—and the past threatens to shake the foundations of her marriage. This latest renovation dredges a deeper current of memory, causing Jane to question whether in renovating a house she is in fact attempting to renovate her past.

With humour and irreverence, Open House reveals that what we think we gain by constantly moving house actually obscures the precious and vital parts of our lives that we leave behind.

This is a memoir that will appeal to anyone whose pulse quickens at the mere mention of real estate.

Open House: A Life in Thirty-Two Moves is available for purchase in all the usual places, including here.

About Jane Christmas

Jane Christmas is the author of several bestselling books, including Incontinent on the Continent and And Then There Were Nuns. Born and raised
in Toronto, Jane moved to the UK in 2012. She has lived in Walthamstow, Brixham and Longwell Green, and now lives in Bristol with her husband.

You can find out more by visiting Janes website. You’ll also find Jane on Facebook and Instagram.

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My Perfect Christmas: A Guest Post by Fiona Ford, Author of A Christmas Wedding

It’s a year to the day that I stayed in with lovely Fiona Ford to chat all about Christmas at Liberty’s in a post you can read here. Prior to that post, when The Spark Girl was released, Fiona provided a wonderful piece on why she is attracted to the past as a writer. You’ll find that post here. It gives me enormous pleasure today to welcome Fiona back to tell us all about her perfect Christmas as we celebrate her latest book, A Christmas Wedding.

Published by Penguin imprint Arrow on 12th November 2020, A Christmas Wedding is available for purchase through the links here.

A Christmas Wedding

London, 1943: Dot Hanson has never forgotten the thrill of seeing the beautiful Christmas displays at Liberty’s department store as a young girl.

Never in her wildest dreams did she think she would one day work there, or that she would fall in love with the store’s manager, her childhood sweetheart Edwin Button.

But in spite of the life Dot has built for herself, and the tight-knit community around her, she lives in the shadow of a terrible secret. And as the bombs continue to fall across Britain there is more heartache still to come.

All Dot wants is a family of her own with the man she loves by her side.

Will her dreams come true in time for Christmas?

My Perfect Christmas

A Guest Post by Fiona Ford

Usually I say my perfect Christmas is a day off. And by that I mean a proper day off, where I see  and speak to nobody and have the entire day to myself doing exactly what I want.  Every year at about this time, I say to my husband, ‘I don’t want a present. All I want is a day where I sit on my backside, stuff myself silly with my favourite food and watch endless reruns of Only Fools and Horses.’ Naturally he never listens, and so on Christmas morning I usually open presents containing some lovely pyjamas which I fantasise about clambering into immediately but never do. And then I get on with the franticness of the day, juggling food, family and social obligation – all thoughts of Del Boy and Rodney firmly out the window.

It won’t surprise you to know that I’ve never had that fantasy Christmas, but this year, with things the way they are it looks like as if I might. And guess what, I really don’t want it. This year, I don’t want quiet and a rest. I want all the noisiness, mess, and exhaustion the day can bring. For a start, I’d have all of my wonderful friends around for dinner. We’d drink several glasses of fizz and put the world to rights (it’s possible given the events of 2020 that nothing else would get done, but this is fantasy).

Then there’s my family. I would love to have all of them at the dining table, even the ones I can’t stand (you know who you are). I’d like to argue with my mother about just how crispy the perfect Christmas spud should be and then play cribbage with my dad, who loves the game but never, ever finds anyone to play with him. I’d watch my nieces scream with excitement as they unwrap their gifts (they’re too old for Santa now and fully understand that Bank of Family pays for their haul) then, after lunch, I’d sit down with my now deceased grandfather and listen to him tell me stories of the war that would no doubt inspire yet another saga. After that, I’d share a glass of sherry with my grandmother that died a year before I was born and spend some time actually getting to know her. Before the day was out, I would also share a moment with my husband that wasn’t harried or frantic, but calm and loving as we give thanks for the gifts of family and friends around us. Because really, if there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us all, it’s that at Christmas time, and in fact at any time, it’s family, friends and love that really matter. And so this Christmas, as I finally get my festive fantasy wish and sit on my backside, watching those Only Fools and Horse’s reruns, I’ll no doubt be thinking that next Christmas, I will be very careful about what I wish for.

*

Wise words indeed Fiona. I think this Christmas more than ever we need to celebrate those we love and those we’ve lost.

About Fiona Ford

fiona1

As a child, Fiona’s mother used to joke that wherever there was a book, Fiona wouldn’t be far behind. With a passion for reading from practically the moment she was born, it was inevitable Fiona would become a writer. Sure enough after studying English Literature at university, Fiona became a local and national journalist before making her move to books where she began ghost writing fiction for celebrities (too famous to name, of course). One day, some bright spark suggested she write her own stories rather than those of celebs and suddenly an idea was born.

Now, Fiona’s passion for writing currently sees her penning the World War 2 Liberty Girls series for Arrow. She also writes contemporary women’s fiction for Aria under the name Abby Williams.

She lives in Berkshire with her husband, two cats and has an unhealthy attitude towards exercise and chocolate – believing one must surely cancel out the other.

Find out more about Fiona by following her on Twitter @fionajourno, finding her on Facebook or visiting her website.

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