Let’s Get Published by Val Penny

Cover Lets Get Published

As many of you know, I have finished a first draft of a novel that I have simply left languishing since. Recently I was part of the cover reveal for Let’s Get Published by Val Penny and so it gives me enormous pleasure to be reviewing a book that might just get me back into writing as well as blogging!

My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. I am delighted to share my review of Let’s Get Published today.

I also have a super guest post from Val celebrating her thriller Hunter’s Chase in a post you can read here.

Let’s Get Published is available for purchase here. Let’s find out more:

Let’s Get Published

Cover Lets Get Published

At last, a book that is easy to read and tells it how it is!

The book was written to assist authors to maximise their success when submitting work to agents or publishers, to help authors consider their priorities and preferences for getting work into print. To advise authors on how to identify the agents and/or publishers they want to approach.

It should also assist with editing their manuscript fully prior to submission. The book offers advice about how to prepare a submission package to give an author the best chance of success.

The road to becoming a successful author is not easy, but it is rewarding. Let this book take you on the journey.

My Review of Let’s Get Published

A practical guide to getting published.

Val Penny’s Let’s Get Published is a really helpful little book that asks essential questions of an aspiring writer and then steers them to the right answers for them. She considers all aspects of writing from identifying readership and defining genre to publicity and drafting, writing a synopsis and submitting. Val Penny does not shy away from difficulties authors may face, such as being too painfully shy to promote their own books by standing in front of a large audience and delivering a speech or reading, and by raising awareness of the reader as a writer she is assisting the road to publication. There’s a piece of advice about writing a synopsis that was a complete lightbulb moment for me, but I’m not going to share it – you’ll have to read Let’s Get Published to find out what it was!

What I enjoyed most about Let’s Get Published was the way Val Penny gives gravitas and status to all forms of writing and all approaches to getting published. Times have changed and self-publication or hybrid approaches are no longer the Cinderella ways to get your book to a reader. Similarly, her use of quotations by and references to, other authors gives excellent kudos to her advice, making for an entertaining as well as informative read.

Let’s Get Published is a little cracker of a book. Eminently readable and packed with hints and tips, Val Penny has a straight-forward, no-nonsense style that creates confidence in her reader. Coupled with the excellent advice given I would heartily recommend Let’s Get Published to any aspiring author because the book is relevant to writers of any genre. I’m just plucking up the courage to send Val’s suggested questions to a beta reader. See you in print!

About Val Penny

author pic 2

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.


Her crime novels, Hunter’s ChaseHunter’s RevengeHunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fifth novel in the series, Hunter’s Secret, is published by darkstroke. Her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published is available now.

Val Penny has a smashing blog of her own here. You can find more information by following Val on Twitter @valeriepenny and finding her on Facebook.

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From Venice With Love by Rosanna Ley

From Venice with Love

I just adore Rosanna Ley’s writing so I’m thrilled to be part of this blog blast for her latest book, From Venice with Love.

If you’re a regular blog visitor, you’ll know Rosanna Ley features here almost as much as much as I do!

I wrote about having afternoon tea with Rosanna Ley at the Covent Garden Hotel  when Her Mother’s Secret was released in this blog post.

My review of Her Mother’s Secret is here.

I wrote about a fabulous Quercus fiction event here when I came away with an early copy of the The Lemon Tree Hotel. My review of The Lemon Tree Hotel is here.

Rosanna Ley’s Last Dance in Havana was one of my books of the year in 2016 and you can find out all about that here and read my review here.

It was also my huge pleasure to host Rosanna on Linda’s Book Bag when The Little Theatre By The Sea was released and she wrote a glorious guest piece about her travel and research in this post.

So you can see why I was so pleased to be invited to be part of today’s event for From Venice with Love!

From Venice with Love is out today in paperback and is available for purchase through the links here.

From Venice with Love

From Venice with Love

The bestselling author of The Lemon Tree Hotel returns with an enchanting new holiday read about family bonds and following your heart, wherever it might take you…

With her marriage in danger of falling apart, Joanna returns home to the beautiful but dilapidated Mulberry Farm Cottage in rural Dorset, where her sister Harriet is struggling to keep the Farm afloat and cope with their eccentric mother.

When Joanna discovers a bundle of love letters in the attic, written by a watercolourist named Emmy, she is intrigued and sets out to discover Emmy’s true story. Emmy’s letters take Joanna to the picturesque alleyways and bridges of Lisbon, Prague, and the most romantic place of all: Venice – where a whole new magical world seems to unfold in front of her.

Meanwhile, back at Mulberry Farm Cottage, a mysterious prowler adds to Harriet’s problems and interrupts her search for a perfect partner. Will she ever find true love? Where will Emmy’s mesmerising pathway lead? And more importantly, will Joanna and Harriet be able to rescue the cottage and finally be able to re-discover their sisterly bond?

My Review of From Venice with Love

Sisters Joanna and Harriet have some self discovery to make.

It’s an absolute joy to return to a Rosanna Ley novel. I enjoyed From Venice with Love because it took me out of the cares of today’s world into another time and place so completely.

As I have come to expect from Rosanna Ley’s writing, there is a smashing sense of place through her vivid and evocative descriptions so that I could recognise the places in Lisbon, Prague and Venice that I have been to. This added an extra layer of enjoyment as it transported me out of lockdown and enabled me to travel safely, evoking memories I had forgotten. That said, a reader doesn’t have to have any knowledge of the settings in From Venice with Love to be able to visualise them completely because of the quality of the writing.

I loved the plot. There’s a wistfulness and poignancy underpinning the storyline that I found very affecting. Rosanna Ley has blended familiar elements like divorce and financial worries with a more mystical aspect which suggests the power of imagination. The swirling effects of the past ripple into the present, making for a magical and enchanting read that is completely believable.

I found the characters very realistic. I was in love with Owen from the very beginning. Joanna and Harriet could represent sisters in any family and the blend of love and distance between the two of them made me wish I could step into the pages of the book and advise them personally. Harriet is less instantly likeable and that makes her personal development through the story all the more engaging and fulfilling. I  found Emmy, who belongs firmly in the past, a wonderful catalyst for present events. Indeed, reading From Venice with Love made me think more about those in my own past who have shaped who I am today.

The themes of From Venice with Love feel gloriously mature and sensitively presented so that I think there is something for any reader. Rosanna Ley illustrates how marriage, relationships and love are not straightforward and do not always match the public presentation we provide to others, or are given in return. Sibling rivalry, memory, identity, self-acceptance and belonging echo through the pages and for me, that journey of self discovery that Joanna, Harriet and Nicholas all need is beautifully defined, making for an enormously rewarding read.

I really enjoyed from Venice with Love. Rosanne Ley entertained and engaged me completely, distracting me from the cares of today’s world and affording an escapist respite with characters I cared about. What could be better than that?

About Rosanna Ley


Rosanna Ley is the bestselling author of novels including Return to Mandalay and The Villa, which sold over 310,000 copies. In February 2015 Return to Mandalay was shortlisted for the RNA Award for the Epic Romantic Novel. She has written numerous articles and short stories for magazines, and her novels have been published in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Lithuania, Turkey and the Czech Republic. The Villa is also published by Quercus in the US.

Rosanna has also worked as a creative writing tutor for over 20 years. She has led courses for colleges and universities in England, and runs her own writing retreats in the UK and abroad in Italy and Spain. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in Creative Writing for Personal Development in order to support this. She also runs a manuscript appraisal service to appraise and mentor the work of new writers.  She is married with children and lives in Dorset.

You’ll find out more about Rosanna Ley on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter @rosannaley. You can also visit her website.

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From Venice with love Blog Tour

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews

Sunny days

My enormous thanks to Millie Seaward at Little Brown for sending me a surprise copy of Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews. I cannot believe it has taken me so long to get round to reading one of Carole’s books, but I’m so glad I’ve now got going.

Published by Sphere on 25th June 2020, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes is available for purchase through these links.

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes

Sunny days

Jodie Jackson is all at sea, in every sense.

On a ferry bound for the Isle of Wight, she’s leaving her London life, her career, and her husband behind. She’d like a chance to turn back the clocks, but she’ll settle for some peace and quiet on her brother Bill’s beautifully renovated houseboat, Sunny Days.

But from the moment Jodie steps aboard her new home, it’s clear she’ll struggle to keep herself to herself. If it isn’t Marilyn, who cleans for Bill and is under strict instructions to look after Jodie, then it’s Ned, the noisy sculptor on the next-door houseboat. Ned’s wood carving is hard on the ears, but it’s made up for by the fact that he’s rather easy on the eyes.

Bustled out of the boat by Marilyn and encouraged to explore with Ned, Jodie soon delights in her newfound freedom. But out of mind isn’t out of sight, and when her old life comes knocking Jodie is forced to face reality. Will she answer the call or choose a life filled with Sunny Days and Sea Breezes?

My Review of Sunny Days and Sea Breezes

Jodie is running away from her problems.

A confession. Although I’ve heard excellent things about Carole Matthews’ writing I have always slightly shied away from her books thinking they might be a bit too lightweight and formulaic for my taste. I have to be completely honest and say I couldn’t have been more wrong. I absolutely adored Sunny Days and Sea Breezes and it is one of my favourite books this year because it is such a lovely book.

Carole Matthews has a wonderfully accessible style, coupled with a fast pace of storytelling that makes Sunny Days and Sea Breezes eminently readable because of her effortless ability to bring complete joy to her reader. Jodie’s problems are by no means trivial and the depth of emotion she is experiencing will resonate with even the hardest hearted reader. Sunny Days and Sea Breezes made me laugh, shed a cheer and actually cheer aloud and raise a triumphant fist into the air. I genuinely could not set this book aside. I ensnared me completely and transported me to the Isle of Wight and Bill’s boat so that I felt a loss when I had finished reading. I’ve always fancied a trip to the Isle of Wight and Carole Matthews has given me a lovely glimpse of what a visit might be like. I also think it’s a sign of a captivating book when I keep wondering what the characters are doing now I’m no longer reading about them.

And what characters they are. Even the most minor character was a real, rounded, individual. I loved the occasional direct approach to the reader by Jodie so that she quickly became a friend I cared about rather than a character in a book. Her first person story is very affecting and I desperately wanted her to have literal and metaphorical colour back in her life. Speaking of colour, in Marilyn Carole Matthews has created a totally relatable, vibrant individual whose vivid depiction leaps from the page. I adored Marilyn’s attitude, her dress sense and her quirky malapropisms because her very presence in Sunny Days and Sea Breezes lifts the heart and soul of the reader. She’s utterly glorious and I rather think I want to be her.

There is, as might be expected, a love story underpinning the narrative which I found maturely written and utterly believable. But Sunny Days and Sea Breezes has so much more to offer too. There are themes of love in many forms, loss and betrayal, friendship and identity that give a human, and indeed humane, depth to the story that I found captivating. Carole Matthews somehow made me feel she had written Sunny Days and Sea Breezes just for me personally.

I honestly cannot stress enough how wrong I was to think Carole Matthews’ writing would not be for me. I truly loved every minute of reading Sunny Days and Sea Breezes because both my heart and mind were fully invested in the story to the extent that I think I may have found a new to me favourite writer. Don’t miss this glorious book. It’s just wonderful.

About Carole Matthews

Carol MAtthews

Carole Matthews is the Sunday Times bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the top ten bestsellers The Cake Shop in the Garden, A Cottage by the Sea, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights, Million Love Songs and Happiness for Beginners. In 2015, Carole was awarded the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award. Her novels dazzle and delight readers all over the world and she is published in more than thirty countries.

For more information, visit  Carole’s excellent website, follow Carole on Twitter @carolematthews and Instagram or find her on Facebook.

Cover Reveal: The Eliza Doll by Tracey Scott-Townsend

The Eliza Doll Twitter

Just at the point when I realise I simply cannot add another thing to my blogging commitments along comes a cover reveal for an author I know and really like personally and whose writing I adore, Tracey Scott-Townsend. Add in the fact the reveal is being co-ordinated by friend Kelly at Love Books Group and I can’t resist. Consequently, here I am sharing the cover and details of Tracey’s brand new book, The Eliza Doll.

Tracey was last here on Linda’s Book Bag as we stayed in to chat about The Vagabond Mother in a post you’ll find here. Tracy also stayed in with me to tell me about another of her books, Another Rebecca, in a post you can read here. I have also had the pleasure of reviewing some of Tracey’s poetry in her anthology So Fast and you can read that review here.

Let’s see what Tracey has in store for us this time.

The Eliza Doll

Eliza Doll cover

Ellie lives in a campervan with her dog, Jack, selling her handmade dolls at craft fairs. There is one doll that she can’t bear to finish until she comes to terms with the truth of what has happened.

The Eliza Doll is an uncompromising family drama about upheaval, off-grid living and living on the dole in 1980s England.

Set in East Yorkshire and Iceland from the eighties to the present.

The Eliza Doll is available for purchase here.

Knowing what I do about Tracey’s writing I’m sure The Eliza Doll will be a fabulous read.

About Tracey-Scott-Townsend


Tracey Scott-Townsend is the author of six novels — the most recent The Vagabond Mother (January 2020) and Sea Babies (May 2019) — all published by Wild Pressed Books and Inspired Quill Publishing. Reviews often describe her novels as poetic or painterly.

She is also a poet and a visual artist. She has a Fine Art MA and a BA (Hons) Visual Studies. She has exhibited paintings throughout the UK (as Tracey Scott). She has a long career as a workshop facilitator with community groups and in schools.

Tracey is co-director of an up-and-coming small independent publisher, Wild Pressed Books, which has a growing roster of authors and poets.

Mother of four grown-up children, Tracey spends as much time as possible travelling the UK and Europe in a camper van with her husband and two dogs, writing and editing while on the road.

You can find out more about Tracey by visiting her website, finding her on Facebook and following her on Twitter @authortrace.

Staying in with Ian Wilfred on One Summer in Spain Publication Day

One Summer in Spain

There’s a special reason that I’m thrilled to welcome Ian Wilfred to Linda’s Book Bag today. Not only is it publication day for Ian’s latest book, One Summer in Spain, but Ian is one of the most generous and supportive authors around, always sharing for others and helping them promote their books. If anyone deserves support in return it’s Ian and I’m delighted he’s here today to stay in with me.

Staying in with Ian Wilfred

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag at last Ian. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, (as if I didn’t know) which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

One Summer in Spain

Hi Linda. Thank you for inviting me to stay in with you. I’m bringing my new summer book One Summer in Spain because it’s out today!

Congratulations Ian and happy publication day. What can we expect from an evening in with One Summer in Spain?

You’ll get plenty of travel. The beginning of the book is set in the UK and tells the story of 25 year old Gemma who has just dropped out of university for the second time. She really doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. Gemma had had a job which she was successful with but her problem is, she gets bored.

I think many of us can relate to that Ian!

The book starts when Gemma helps an elderly lady, Dulcie, who has had a fall. One thing leads to another and she ends up being Dulcie and her best friend Rupert’s housekeeper. They end up going to Spain for a six month holiday which is a lot of fun.

I think we’d all like a trip to Spain right now Ian.

Several friends and family keep popping over for holidays which leads to dramas and a few problems for Gemma, especially with Dario. Dario rather likes Gemma, but he comes with a little bit of a secret.

Ooh. Intriguing.

The big question is, does everyone end up having a good summer, and what happens when the holiday has to an end?

Now of course, I’ll have to read One Summer in Spain to find out!  What else have you brought along this evening Ian and why have you brought it?


As you see, I brought Lottie our West Highland Terrier with me today.

I was hoping you’d bring Lottie. I see so much of her on social media and she’s an absolute superstar.

I’m shocked how well behaved she is now. When we move to Norfolk nearly seven years ago getting a dog was top of my list. I was never allowed one as a child. We are very blessed that we are only a five minute walk from a beach so as you can imagine Lottie, who should be white, most of the time is a very sandy yellow.

I bet she loves the beach. She’s quite a character!

There’s a  funny story about her. When we went to get her the first day she was only 12 weeks old, so we took a blanket and a soft toy that we could rub the smell of her mum and the other puppies on so that she wouldn’t miss them.  That was all OK but now, 6 years later, the soft toy gets carried around for about half an hour after she has eaten. Every time, we are terrified the toy will go missing.

You’re sure she doesn’t think she’s human and not a dog!


Also I’ve brought a photo of Parga in Greece as it’s mine and my husband’s favourite place in the world. We have been so many times over the last twenty plus years. It is very special and not many people know it.

I’m glad you said that as I have to confess I’d never heard of it. It looks glorious.

My perfect summer in Greece

It was the inspiration for my two Greek summer reads set on the fictional island of Holkamos. I’ve had readers ask me if Holkamos is Parga so I’ve had to own up and say yes.

Now you’ve made me want to go to Greece as well as Spain Ian. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about One Summer in Spain.

Thank you so much for letting me stay in with you Linda. I feel bad I’ve not brought a cake or some biscuits but then you have been licked to death by Lottie and after all, there’s a lot less calories!

Too true! And extra calories are really what I don’t need! Let me give blog readers all the One Summer in Spain details:

One Summer in Spain

One Summer in Spain

Twenty-five year old Gemma is still unsure where her life is leading. Her parents are exasperated at the way in which she flits from one thing to another. A chance encounter helping Dulcie, an elderly lady who has had a fall in the street, leads to Gemma becoming housekeeper to Dulcie and her friend, Rupert.

Following a lottery win, Dulcie and Rupert rent a Spanish villa for six months and Gemma goes with them for a working holiday. It’s all one long adventure for the three of them, filled with fun days out, nights in the best restaurants and plenty of laughter.

Dario, the local taxi driver becomes fond of Gemma. Likewise, she thinks a lot of him too, but he harbours a secret.

Jamie, Dulcie’s grandson, pops over to Spain to check on his grandmother, but she’s not his only reason for visiting.

Craig, an old friend of Gemma’s, is also an acquaintance of Dulcie and Rupert. When he visits from England, Gemma’s life becomes a little uncomfortable.

How can One Summer in Spain change everyone’s life? Will it be for the good, and how do their lives pan out after the six month holiday is over?

One Summer in Spain is available for purchase here.

About Ian Wilfred

Ian Wilfred

Ian Wilfred’s debut novel Putting Right The Past is set on the island of Tenerife and was published in 2013. Since then he has gone on to publish other books set in his beloved Norfolk, the Greek islands and Martha’s Vineyard.

In 2020 Ian has chosen a new location for his next feel good read; he’s heading off to sunny Spain.

Ian lives on the Norfolk coast with his husband and west highland terrier. He is a member of the Romantic Novelist Association.

You can follow Ian on Twitter at @Ianwilfred39 for more information.

Breakfast at Bronzefield by Sophie Campbell

breakfast at Bronzefield

For several years I used to be a volunteer lay visitor for Cambridgeshire police, visiting police station cells unannounced and checking to ensure detainees were being held in accordance with P.A.C.E. So, when Sophie Campbell told me about her book, Breakfast at Bronzefield, I was fascinated. I’m delighted to have an extract from Breakfast at Bronzefield to share with you today as well as my review.

Published today, 22nd June 2020, Breakfast at Bronzefield is available in all good bookshops including in Waterstones, Foyles and WHSmith and online including here.

Breakfast at Bronzefield

breakfast at Bronzefield

‘Fascinating and provocative’. LoveReading UK

‘Powerfully written… you give me hope.’ Dame Sally Coates

‘Eye-opening, thoughtful and determined. A thoroughly engaging piece of work that will challenge what you think you know about prisons and prisoners.’ Dr. Lamiece Hassan

HMP Bronzefield, the UK’s largest women’s prison: notorious for bent screws and drugs:

But what’s the truth behind the headlines?

Forced into signing an NDA when she arrived there on remand, former public schoolgirl Sophie risked extra time on her sentence by documenting her experiences of life inside.

Backed up by recent research and statistics, Breakfast at Bronzefield offers a powerful glimpse into a world few see: riots; unethical medical prescribing; and prison barons – key figures behind prostitution and drug-smuggling.

In a world where anything goes and being rehabilitated simply means saying ‘sorry’ right up until you’re released, how will Sophie cope on the outside, where she is expected to play by different rules? Will she succeed in creating the life she wants? Or, like most prisoners, will she end up back where she started?

An Extract From Breakfast At Bronzefield

{BEGINNING OF} CHAPTER 1. Non-Disclosure

I don’t think I was the first person to arrive at HMP Bronzefield who had to ask more than once where on earth they were. The female officer sitting in front of me, who’d been halfway through taking my fingerprints and creating my ID card, simply repeated the same name that the magistrate had said when I was told I’d be held on remand until my trial in the Crown Court: HMP Bronzefield.

Perhaps if I’d still lived in London or been clued up about the latest goings‑ons in the Criminal Justice System I’d have known immediately what sort of place I’d been thrown into: the largest women’s prison in the UK, which since its opening in 2004 had become infamous for women, and even babies, dying there. Bronzefield also suffered from the usual prison scandals, such as drug misuse, prostitution and out‑of‑control lifers, and housed transwomen who, before their transition, had been sentenced for rape. I was blithely ignorant of all this. The only prison I knew anything about was HMP Holloway, and that was only because I’d been told, at the girls’ school I’d attended, about the number of suffragettes who had been sent there in their struggle for female equality. Later I was surprised to learn that Holloway had closed in July 2016, a good few months prior to my arrival at Bronzefield.

The officer paused from her duties to hand over a document for me to sign. On closer inspection, it appeared to be a non‑disclosure agreement, forbidding me from contacting the media about anything that happened in Bronzefield, at the risk of having extra days added on to my sentence. I wondered how the ‘extra days’ penalty worked if someone was being held on remand. I could say that since it’s privately run, Bronzefield doesn’t do public scrutiny, but that code applies to all prisons more or less, as I’d later learn for myself. The female officer stared at me impatiently, making it clear that unless I signed, my processing couldn’t continue. I have no idea what would have happened had I refused to sign. No doubt I’d have been taken to Seg (the Segregation Unit) until I changed my mind. Eager to get on with things, I signed my name unwillingly, even though I knew it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference. No one has ever been able to stop me from doing something if I put my mind to it. Besides, at the time I had greater things to worry about than what I assumed originally was massive paranoia on the part of the prison.

Finding out I’d be held on remand for two counts of GBH – GBH without intent and GBH with intent – and multiple charges of assault against police had come as a blow seeing I was not, as the prosecutor had said, ‘homeless’, nor did I have a history of violence. When the prosecutor had stated this aloud in open court, I thought it made me sound like a female version of Al Capone minus the pinstripes and fedora hat. I should have said something. My duty solicitor should have spoken up, but he hadn’t. When we’d been given a brief window to speak in private prior to the court hearing, he had made it clear that now was not the time to correct any inaccurate statements that the prosecution intended to rely on; statements that they had drafted on a Monday morning, seeing as I had spent the whole weekend in a police cell.

I suppose the reason why my solicitor wasn’t bothered about correcting inaccuracies was because he knew my case was bound for the Crown Court anyway due to the nature of the charges. However, just because my case had to be held in Crown Court, it wouldn’t necessarily have meant bail would have been out of the question, had he made an effort to prove I wasn’t itinerant. But the address printed on my driver’s licence was based in the north of England. Perhaps that meant the same to the police and the judiciary as being without a home. It also didn’t help that when I was arrested down in London, I had two brightly coloured suitcases with me. One transport officer responsible for loading women’s belongings onto the prison van joked that it looked like I was off to Ibiza, and he hadn’t been far off. In any case, it seemed to me that the courts rarely asked for a prosecutor to prove that a defendant was homeless, probably because the impression most of us have of people who end up in court is that they struggle with various forms of homelessness, from sleeping rough to sofa surfing.

Surprisingly, in 2014, a study was carried out that examined the accommodation status of roughly 2,169 newly arrived prisoners in England and Wales: 16 per cent of them owned or part‑owned their property; 59 per cent of them were renters, 12 per cent lived rent‑free; 7 per cent were either homeless or living in temporary accommodation; while the remaining 6 per cent refused to disclose.

I again tried, questioning the prison officer as to where exactly I was.

‘Ashford,’ she finally answered. I tried hard to picture the place on a map, but my mind was blank. I knew I was somewhere in between a Tesco, situated near a busy roundabout, and Heathrow Airport. When I’d been brought here from the court in the ‘Sweatbox’, the nickname given to the white Serco prison vans, I’d muttered ‘For Christ’s sake’ under my breath when my eyes had fallen upon a brightly coloured plane bound for some place in Europe. I should have been on a plane like that two days before – the day I’d been arrested. I still had my plane ticket hidden inside my suitcase. At the time I’d considered myself lucky that the police hadn’t found it, back when I’d assumed I’d make bail and have the chance to leave the UK for good.

My Review of Breakfast at Bronzefield

An account of a woman’s time on remand and as a prisoner.

I confess I didn’t think I’d have time to read Breakfast at Bronzefield but I thought I’d just dip in and before I knew it I was hooked and had read the whole book. Partly that is because Sophie Campbell has such an engaging style of writing and it is as if the reader is sitting with her listening to her accounts rather than reading about them. It’s the mixture of sometimes bleak honesty, engaging anecdote, witty and sharp observation and erudite composition that makes Breakfast at Bronzefield so engaging. She’s unafraid to tell things as they are and to voice an opinion even when it might not sit easily with the views of others – it’s one of the character traits that gets her moved around so much in prison.

Different to other memoir style writing I have read where the author presents a simple linear structure, Breakfast at Bronzefield is looser. There’s definitely a beginning, middle and end, as Sophie is processed through the prison system, but there’s a more thematic approach too that I found fascinating. I was appalled by some of the things I read because thankfully I have no experience of life on remand or in prison. Sophie Campbell is unafraid to present topics like drug and sexual abuse, friendship and socio-economic contributions to the lives of those she encounters. I thought the mixture of personal anecdote mixed with meticulous research and properly attributed facts was riveting.

Although I was thoroughly convinced by the writing which is backed by almost scientific end notes and a bibliography, most of all I was touched by the presentation of humanity. Sophie Campbell may be writing about her own experiences as a female prisoner, but at the same time she manages to be the voice of all women in that situation. Certainly some adhere to the stereotypical low intelligence or perpetual offender picture that society often has, but she debunks the blanket approach so many of these women endure as if they are almost sub-human. Her comment that those with mental health issues behind their offending are more likely to end up in prison than getting mental health help stopped me in my tracks.

Breakfast at Bronzefield is impossible to classify. Part memoir, part social and political treatise, part history and part confession to some extent, it shines a terrifyingly piercing spotlight on life in a woman’s prison. I found it captivating, engrossing and not a little disturbing. However, more than an interesting and engaging read, I think Breakfast at Bronzefield is an important book that affords humanity to those all too frequently dehumanised and forgotten. I really recommend it.

About Sophie Campbell

sophie campbell book

Sophie Campbell is the winner of the Arts Council England Time to Write grant, the Koestler Flash Fiction and Short Story award and an Associate Member of the Society of Authors. This is her first book.

For more information you can follow Sophie on Twitter @SophieCBooks. You’ll also find her on Instagram.

Tree Magic by Harriet Springbett

Tree Magic

I’ve been intrigued by Harriet Springbett’s Tree Magic for a while but with a TBR of well over 900 physical books and more than that again lurking on my Kindle I didn’t think I’d get round to reading it. However, I’m very pleased that Tree Magic has arrived at the top of my TBR and I can share my review today, not least because I don’t feature enough young adult fiction here on the blog.

Published by Impress, Tree Magic is available for purchase here.

Tree Magic

Tree Magic

Escape from difficult family dynamics is teenager Rainbow’s desire. When she discovers a strange gift for communicating with trees, she thinks she’s found her salvation. Even better, a mysterious but gentle man living in her Dorset village helps develop her powers.

But when tragedy strikes, Rainbow’s life is torn apart, creating parallel worlds in the process. In one life, the vulnerable Rainbow strives to salvage her family. In the other, her alter-ego, Mary, flees her past. Over the next few years the two versions of Rainbow follow very different lives. The source of their grief, however, is the same – a confession buried deep within their memories.

Could France offer more than a mere escape? As the two worlds draw closer and memories resurface, Rainbow and Mary’s futures must be determined. Can they receive the healing they need? Or will the renewed pain be too much to bear? Only by risking their lives will they know.

My Review of Tree Magic

Rainbow finds she has a talent involving trees.

Tree Magic may be written for a target audience some forty years younger than me but it didn’t prevent me from finding it an engaging and entertaining book. In fact, it widened my horizons as I was prompted by the story to do some research of my own into the Amrita background behind the narrative. I thought the narrative style was so good because the prose is quite simple but conveys complex considerations so that both literal and metaphorical elements are accessible. The smatterings of French language also add to the authenticity.

Tree Magic explores adolescent themes with understanding and sensitivity. Rainbow’s need for identity, her desire to find out about her father, her relationships with her mother and Bob, and with her contemporaries, all combine to create elements that young adult readers in particular will be able to relate to, making this a personal read. By the end, readers come to realise how choices and decisions can lead us on different paths, giving us different lives.

There’s an interesting structure to Tree Magic as Rainbow and Mary’s narratives interweave and again this serves to illustrate the choices we have in life. I much preferred Rainbow to Mary and yet Mary gained my sympathy and empathy far more because her vulnerability is more raw despite, or rather because of, her harder personality. I was intrigued as to how the narrative would unfold as the two girls’ stories drew together.

As someone with no spirituality whatever, I found these aspects presented in Tree Magic fascinating. I very much enjoyed the allegory shown through Rainbow’s ability to effect change in trees that we all have an impact on nature and the environment. This is a very powerful aspect of Tree Magic.

Tree Magic is an unusual and thought provoking book for young adults that is also entertaining and engaging for older readers too, because Harriet Springbett has a deft touch in showing the inner turmoil we can all face but she also leaves the reader feeling uplifted and satisfied.

About Harriett Springbett


Harriet Springbett’s childhood on a small farm in West Dorset gave her an early exposure to nature, which continues to inspire her writing.

She qualified as an engineer but, during a Raleigh International expedition in Chile, she realised she preferred words to numbers. She abandoned her profession, moved to France, studied French and then worked as a project manager, feature writer, translator and TEFL teacher. She now lives in Poitou-Charentes with her French partner and their teenage children.

Since her first literary success, aged 10, her short stories and poetry have been published in literary journals and placed in writing competitions, including a shortlisting in the 2017 Bath Short Story Award.

Harriet leads writing workshops, has judged the Segora international short story competition and blogs here.

You can follow Harriett on Twitter @HarriSpringbett. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

The Part-Time Job by P.D. James

The Part Time Job

I have a confession. Although I was glued to the P.D. James Inspector Dalgliesh television series years ago, I have never read a P.D. James book. Consequently, when Sophie Portas got in touch from Faber to say they will commemorate P. D. James’s centenary year with a year-long celebration of her work, sharing archive content with the hashtag #PDJames100 and will publish, for the first time in book form, her short story The Part-Time Job, I knew I had to read it. My enormous thanks to Sophie for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

The Part-Time Job will be released on 14th July and is available for pre-order here.

The Part-TimeJob

The Part Time Job

My only regret is that I shan’t be alive to savour my retrospective triumph. But that is of small account. I savour it every day of my life. I shall have done the one thing I resolved to do when I was twelve years old – and the world will know it.

Follow the ‘Queen of Crime’ as she takes us into the mind of a man who has waited decades to enact his patient, ingenious revenge on a school bully.

My Review of The Part-Time Job

Revenge is a dish best served cold!

What a cracking little book. The Part-Time Job contains a short story from P.D. James but also an essay Murder Most Foul that I wasn’t expecting.

Murder Most Foul is a super insight into the mind of one of our most popular and influential crime writers. P.D. James gives her views on crime writing and how she has developed her craft in a manner I found fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed this bonus content I wasn’t expecting because it took me closer to the author and her writing rationale. I can imagine any aspiring crime writer – particularly anyone writing psychological crime – would be incredibly interested in this piece.

However, it is The Part-Time Job that is the absolute gem in this book. It is the epitome of a perfect crime story in spite of being only 20 pages long. Indeed, I can imagine it being a television programme every bit as much as any longer text because so much is packed into it with fabulous economy of language and taut plotting. The narrator waits years to exact revenge on his school bully, and carries out planning that revenge with surgical precision so that the reader is left reeling. I thought the encircling structure of the first and last lines was just sublime, but you’ll have to read the story to find out why.

I loved the fact that the narrator isn’t named because not only does this add a chilling undercurrent of the anonymous dangerous stranger we all fear, but it affords the opportunity for any reader to project themselves into his shoes more effectively. Any one of us may have been bullied and may have wanted to exact revenge. Here, vicariously, is our opportunity to do so. There’s an intimacy too because the first person voice addresses the reader on several occasions directly, making them feel as if they are special, hearing the facts and thought processes first hand. It felt wrong to rejoice in the activities of the narrator because they are morally wrong in so many ways, but I wanted him to succeed. I think this is because there is considerable dry and wry humour in his words too. I loved the fact he wanted to kill his bully, but was terrified the war might kill him first!

The Part-Time Job is an absolute cracker. It’s exemplary for aspiring writers to see how a narrative is plotted and executed so flawlessly, but for readers it is a superb diversion that can be read on a commute, in a lunch break or as a tasty amuse bouche before reading other of P.D. James’ work. It’s the first of her writing I’ve read but it has persuaded me I have missed out on a mega-star of crime writing for far too long. I loved it.

About P.D. James

P d James

P.D. James – awarded an OBE in 1983 and made a life peer in 1991 – was the bestselling, internationally acclaimed author of eighteen crime novels, including the Adam Dalgliesh and Cordelia Gray series, as well as The Children of Men and two posthumously published collections of short stories. She won numerous awards for crime writing internationally, including the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and a CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing.

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

the other passenger

I was thrilled to receive a copy of Louise Candlish’s latest book, The Other Passenger, from lovely Jess Barratt at Simon and Schuster in return for an honest review because I absolutely loved Louise’s Our House. You can read my review of Our House here. I’m ashamed to say that Those People is still sitting on my TBR but I do take it down frequently and read the dedication in the front from Louise that I received at the book’s launch.

The Other Passenger will be published by Simon and Schuster on 25th June 2020 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Other Passenger

the other passenger

It all happens so quickly. One day you’re living the dream, commuting to work by riverbus with your charismatic neighbour Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn’t turned up for the boat and his wife Melia has reported him missing.

When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends – ask Melia, she’ll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives?

No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren’t you?

My Review of The Other Passenger

Jamie and Clare have the perfect life.

What a creepy, distasteful, and utterly compelling world Louise Candlish has created in The Other Passenger. I loved every word. I felt totally tense throughout because Jamie’s first person voice speaks straight to the reader, drawing them in and making them complicit in the action so that I felt excited, unnerved and almost guilty. By the end of the book I felt I had experienced every moment with Jamie et al.

Indeed, the characters in The Other Passenger are awful, brilliant and fascinating. I loathed each in turn, I felt empathy for each in turn, and Louise Candlish so manipulated my responses I didn’t know who was innocent, guilty or deserving of compassion or disgust. This is absolutely brilliant writing. The people in The Other Passenger are clearly depicted so that they leap from the page vividly and I forgot I was reading a story, but felt I was listening to Jamie in person. Melia and Kit in particular made my flesh crawl but I needed to know every intimate detail about them with the same level of fascination as Jamie has.

The plot, as I would expect from Louise Candlish, is carefully wrought and plotted, so that by half way through the novel when I have usually worked out what is going on, I had no clue as to what the outcome might be. The drip feeding of information, the unreliable nature of the characters and the rapid events meant I was ensnared and unable to put the book down. I had to know what happened next.

I thought the menacing nature of the setting supported the plot perfectly too. The murky, swirling history of the Thames turns a seemingly innocuous action of taking the riverbus to work into a threatening, skin crawling experience. I truly felt tense and this effect is enhanced by reference to real events from the past so that the reader loses sight of the fact they are reading a story rather than a real life account.

The Other Passenger is a brilliant exploration of being careful what you wish for with themes of emotional and sexual betrayal, truth and lies, affluence and poverty, ambition and acceptance making for a thought provoking as well as entertaining read. Louse Candlish made me consider how far we judge others by their jobs, homes and possessions and she shows us just how wrong we can be on so many levels. This is a sophisticated, multi-layered book that mesmerised and repelled me in equal measure because it made me consider the blackness of my own soul compared with others. The Other Passenger is so good!

If The Other Passenger doesn’t become one of THE books of the summer there’s no justice. It’s a cracker and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

About Louise Candlish

Louise Candlish

Louise Candlish is the bestselling author of twelve novels, including The Sudden Departure Of The Frasers (2015) and The Swimming Pool (2016). Her thriller Our House was published in the UK in April 2018 by Simon & Schuster, followed by Those People in 2019.

Though her stories are about people facing dark dilemmas, Louise tries to get through the day without too much drama of her own. She lives in South London with her husband and daughter and is very attached to her dog Maggie and cat Tilly.

You can follow Louise on Twitter at @louise_candlish or find out more on her website or on Facebook.

Cover Reveal: Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe by Annette Hannah

Wedding Bells

You have no idea how delighted I am to bring you the cover reveal for Annette Hannah’s debut romantic novel Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe. You see, not only is Annette a very dear friend, but I have been sitting on the news about her book for so long I thought I might burst if I wasn’t soon able to tell someone! Annette writes from the heart and I am absolutely thrilled that she is going to be a published author. I cannot wait to celebrate with her in person by having afternoon tea together again as it’s far too long since we got together.

Let me tell you all about Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe:

Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe

Wedding Bells

Here comes the bride…

Lucy Woods has always dreamed of running her very own wedding venue. After moving her eight-year-old son to the countryside she’s surprised to find the perfect location and her best friend, Abbie, eager to help make that dream a reality! Too bad Abbie’s older brother Dominic isn’t keen on Lucy or their big idea!

As a divorce lawyer Dominic doesn’t believe in love at first sight or wedding vows, he’s seen them broken more times than he can count. But when Lucy arrives back in town, his hardened heart begins to crack.

Making her dream come true is a huge undertaking, but Lucy knows that The Signal Box Café is her chance to finally make something of her life. If only the irritating (and oh-so-gorgeous) Dom didn’t make her imagine wearing a white dress and walking down the aisle…

Can Lucy and Dominic find a way to each other this summer or will the wedding bells chime for another couple?

Published by Orion imprint Dash on 6th July 2020, Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe is available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Doesn’t Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe sound utterly wonderful? I can’t wait to read it and I’ll be staying in with Annette here on the blog on publication day 6th July to hear more! Don’t forget to get your pre-order in! Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About Annette Hannah

Annette Hannah Author Pic

Annette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now lives near a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cocker spaniel. She writes romantic comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown. As an avid reader she became a book blogger and eventually realised her dream to become an author in 2020.

She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places, the odd glass of Pinot Blush and spending time with her friends and family.

You can find out more by visiting Annette’s blog or website and following her on Twitter @AnnetteHannah.