Moments by Daphne Denley


I’m rather partial to poetry so when Daphne Denley got in touch to ask if I’d like a copy her autobiographical collection of verse Moments I had to say that I would!

Moments will be published by Crumps Barn Studio on 29th August 2019 and is available for pre-order here.



This collection of poems is an autobiography in verse. In turns heartfelt, familiar and beautifully observed, Daphne explores each of life’s Moments – and in the process shows us how, even in the worst of times, hope can return in the end.

My Review of Moments

A collection of personal poems on all aspects of life.

Although I think the structure of these personal and touching poems in Moments won’t appeal to all readers, I found it incredibly interesting. Daphne Denley’s syntax is frequently truncated, reflecting the speed with which life goes by, as if there wasn’t time to add in pronouns or articles that would make the words easier to read and more flowing. I thought this was a brilliant technique, as it not only conveyed the emotions within the poems, but I had to read more carefully to follow the author’s meaning and thereby gained a greater insight to Daphne Denley’s work and her life. I loved the fact she made me think and work quite hard because it gave greater gravitas to her words. I also appreciated the many questions in the poems as the writer struggles to come to terms with what is happening in her life and to her husband.

As so many aspects of life – from simply looking at clouds to more complex personal issues like health and bullying and greater global concerns, such as the power of the planet – are subjects of these poems, there is something in Moments for every reader. When I read Stress, for example, it felt as if Daphne Denley had dived into my head and conveyed exactly what was happening in my own life at that point. I have to confess to being rather undone by that particular piece.

At the risk of being accused of sexism, I do think these poems will resonate more with women than men. Equality? for example, where the voice feels as if she has created a rod for her own back by trying to prove she can be all things to all people is something several women of a certain age will relate to most strongly.

Moments is an interesting and frequently moving collection, but also one with a powerful message. Daphne Denley encourages her readers to be themselves and to make the most of every moment building positive memories for the future. What could be better than that?

About Daphne Denley

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Like many of us, Daphne Denley is a fully signed-up apprentice of mid-life mayhem. She is a mother trying to adjust to her daughter’s grown up tastes. And she is a loving wife who has had her life turned upside down by her husband’s devastating diagnosis.

You can follow Daphne on Twitter @DaphneDenley.

The Times and The Sunday Times 70th Anniversary Cheltenham Literature Festival


Thanks to Midas PR, I’m very excited to bring Linda’s Book Bag readers details of The Times and The Sunday Times 70th Anniversary Cheltenham Literature Festival which takes place from 4th to 13th October 2019.

About The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival


The world’s first literature festival celebrates its 70th birthday in 2019. It still leads the way in celebrating the written and spoken word, presenting the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers, while inspiring over 9,000 school children with a love of books through its Literature for Schools programme. All set in a beautiful Regency town with free pop-up events galore and festivities continuing late into the night.

Cheltenham Literature Festival is a charity delivering a pioneering year-round educational programme including its flagship Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils outreach project which is being rolled out nationally this year enabling teachers and their pupils to rediscover the joy of reading. The award-winning Beyond Words is a creative writing project working with vulnerable young people unable to access mainstream education in Gloucestershire. Cheltenham Festivals supports Amnesty International in the development of Words That Burn, a national human rights poetry project, and develops new talent with programmes such as Write Now, a unique mentoring, workshop and networking project that nurtures young people’s creative writing abilities.

Details of the full programme can be found here.

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is delighted to announce the unmissable line up for 2019, marking the 70th anniversary of the world’s oldest literature festival, which is leading the way in engendering a love of reading in young people.

The Festival will bring more than 900 of the best writers, thinkers and performers of our time to the vibrant Regency town, setting the scene for once-in-a-lifetime conversations to take place over ten extraordinary days of unique experiences, critical debate and literary revelry.

From 4 – 13 October, the Festival Village will host an unparalleled literary line-up including this year’s recipient of The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, Colm Tóibín, the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, the highly anticipated Booker shortlist, as well as the most exciting emerging talent on the scene.  Dynamic debut novelists include Candice Carty-Williams, Ronan Hession, Elizabeth Macneal, Jessica Andrews and Season Butler as well as the Festival’s showcases of the best new writing in Fiction at 7, Debuts and Cocktails and Proof Parties.

As part of the ‘Seven at Seventy’ anniversary celebrations the Festival welcomes Chris Tse, Kanako Nishi and a raft of international authors to the Cheltenham stage, as well as showcasing unearthed archive audio content, introducing a literary audio trail of Cheltenham, and street art courtesy of Cheltenham Paint Festival on the theme ‘Hurrah for Books’.

There will be up-to-the-minute political analysis fresh from the party conference season courtesy of David Cameron and David Lammy, with The Times debate – joined by Jess Phillips and Rory Stewart – questioning the future of our political parties, and The Sunday Times considering White House contenders with Adam Boulton and Sarah Baxter.

From current affairs to food, history to fashion, sport to art, science to travel, the Festival guarantees something for everyone with the fun extending long after dark with the eclectic Off The Page series of curated events, including a Game of Thrones quiz night, US story-telling sensation The Moth, jazz and poetry fusion group Tongue Fu, an evening celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell and a vibrant spoken word strand. And for one night only the irreverent Lit Crawl returns to take over the streets, pubs and bars of Cheltenham.

The perfect family day out, this year’s Festival includes a packed programme of world class authors and illustrators to inspire toddlers to teens, with The Woodland Trust Wild Wood filled with beloved characters, storytellers and activities, plus a Secret Seven Mystery Trail celebrating 70 years of the world’s favourite detective club. The Festival’syear-round education programmes, inspiring a love of reading and creative writing, also culminates in October with 9,000 school children on site taking part in Literature for Schools.

New partner Sky Arts will broadcast across the final week with live coverage, interviews and events from a bespoke Sky Arts Studio on site. The venue will be a free pop-in space where festival attendees can be part of the filming and take part in other creative activities. Elsewhere on site there will be free events for all ages around the Festival village, The Huddle, hosting an array of talks and brains teasers, including Daily Crossword, Cheltenham Writes and Very Short Introductions, and The Chatterbox, where guests can become secret agents by decoding mysterious messages around the Festival.

Booking for the Literature Festival opens to Cheltenham Festivals Members at 10am on Wednesday 28 August and general booking opens at 10am on Wednesday 4 September.

Featured speakers include:















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This year marks 70 years since Cheltenham Town Hall hosted the world’s first literature festival and started a global, cultural phenomenon. As part of ‘Seven at Seventy’ celebrations, the Festival welcomes Guest Curators Max PorterYomi Adegoke & Elizabeth UviebinenéDominic SandbrookTessa HadleyAnthony AnaxagorouLeslie Vinjamuri; and Robin Stevens. Lending their unique voices and wealth of expertise to the programme, events include Sandbrook’s selection of the seven most influential British novels of the last 70 years, Anaxagorou’s rising stars in poetry and spoken word, a series of mystery events by Stevens, and a curated acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today from Max Porter.

Seven high profile authors will be reflecting on their breakout book in a special series of Cheltenham trademark ‘Celebrate With…’ events: Howard Jacobson on The Finkler QuestionRobert Harris on Fatherland; Jessie Burton on The Miniaturist; Herman Koch on The DinnerTracy Chevalier on The Girl With a Pearl EarringAlexander McCall Smith on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; and Jung Chang on Wild Swans. There will also be seven showcases celebrating new writing talent, including Jessica Andrews and Ronan Hession, as well as looking ahead to the breakout names for 2020 such as Deepa Anappara and Evie Wyld.

Literature festivals around the world have joined the celebration bringing their leading authors to Cheltenham including Chris Tse, Wana UdobangKanako NishiEsme WangNicole FlatterySarah Henstra and Hernán Ronsino. The celebration of international literature continues with 70 global book festivals recommending one title they would like Cheltenham audiences to add to their bookshelves to form a ‘Reading the World’ reading list.

Building on last year’s inaugural ‘Podcast in Residence’ role, Literary Friction take on the 2019 residency and there will be seven unique podcasts featuring archive audio content from the past seventy years, as well as partnerships with seven further bookish podcasts. 



Fiction fans will be spoilt for choice with a stellar line-up of literary superstars including Colm Tóibín, Ian McEwan, David Nicholls, Jung Chang, Ali Smith, Elif Shafak, Jojo Moyes, and Bernardine Evaristo. The Cheltenham audience will enjoy a celebration of the biggest books of the year such as Candice Carty-Williams (Queenie), Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory), Bridget Collins (The Binding) and Damian Barr (You Will Be Safe Here) as well as new reads from Howard Jacobson, Victoria Hislop, Kevin Barry, Jessie Burton. George AlagiahTom Bradby and Peter Hanington will draw upon their frontline experience to share fiction as thrilling as their day jobs, Richard Roper and Beth O’Leary celebrate feel-good fiction, Deborah Moggach and Jenny Éclair examine the baggage of inheritance and family ties, Chris Power and Sarah Hall will reveal the art of the short story, plus last year’s Guest CuratorSebastian Faulks becomes our latest literary castaway as he returns with ‘Desert Island Reads’. There will also be the opportunity to hear from The Times and The Sunday Times Literary Editors, Robbie Millen and Andrew Holgate.

The Festival welcomes a host of killer women at the top of the crime and thriller genre including Patricia CornwellLouise DoughtyOyinkan BraithwaiteDenise Mina and Erin Kelly, with Jessica Fellowes and Kate Weinbergdiscussing the secrets to plot a thrilling mystery. For further suspense, Alex North and CJ Tudor explore the dark side of human nature; Herman Koch and Louise Candlish discuss the appeal of writing toxic characters; the husband and wife writing duos behind pseudonyms Nicci French and Ambrose Parry will be revealedand masters of the genre Mark Billingham, Christopher Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Stewart Neville and Luca Veste discuss the future of the crime writing.

There is also plenty for historical fiction fans, including Philippa Gregory on her period page-turner Tidelands, Tracy Chevalier on her beautifully orchestrated new book, A Single Thread, set between the two Great Warsas well as Robert Harris (The Second Sleep), Stacey Halls (The Familiars) and Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale).



From George Eliot to Orwell, Chaucer to the Moomins, we are celebrating some of our most-loved classics as well as revealing the answers to burning questions such as: who are literature’s worst parents, which dystopian thrillers are most relevant now, and can words still pack a punch in the age of Twitter with Simon Schama. BBC Radio 2’s Book Club with Mariella Frostrup and guests will be exploring how novels have always been a revolutionary agent of social change ahead of the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and Tessa Hadley, Colm Tóibín and Bernardine Evaristo are explaining the pleasures and motivations of re-reading.

Acclaimed actors Christopher Eccleston and Sheila Hancock will be joining Allie Esiri to celebrate Shakespeare’s dazzling body of work, actress Maureen Lipman remembers the inimitable Joyce Grenfell and her Hurrah for Booksperformance at the first ever Cheltenham Literature Festival in 1949, Kathy O’ShaughnessyJuliette Atkinson and Rebecca Mead mark George Eliot’s bicentenary by delving into her fascinating life and work, plus Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia Jansson will share readings from the intimate letters of the beloved Moomins creator. Lara Prescott is joined by Boris Pasternak’s great niece Anna Pasternak to discuss the startling true story behind one of literature’s most memorable love stories Doctor Zhivago, and the Festival celebrates the life and writing of the much-loved literary figure Patrick O’Brian with his step-son Nikolai Tolstoy.



The Festival is thrilled to welcome a multitude of music superstars including the masterful Andrew Lloyd Webber, Blondie legend Debbie Harry, Status Quo front-man and founder Francis Rossi and WHAM’s Andrew Ridgeley who will reflect on his life-long friendship with George Michael. Mark Radcliffe shares how music can transform our lives, Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis reveals the untold stories from the festival and there will be an evening of musical magic to celebrate Joni Mitchell.

Screen icon Helena Bonham Carter will discuss her exceptional and singular career, and there will be secrets from behind the scenes with Richard Curtis discussing his love of The BeatlesOscar-winning Dustin Lance Black on his deeply personal story of coming out to his Mormon mother, plus screenwriter Julian Fellowes and producer Gareth Neame on the much-loved Downton AbbeyDick Clement and Ian La Frenais, creators of beloved comediesPorridge and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet will look back on their long careers, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper will discuss the BAFTA winning success of This Country, David Suchet will reflect on a career spent behind the camera, and beloved documentary maker Louis Theroux will share his strangest times in television. Comic Relief co-founderLenny Henry will be leading the laughs, with more to come from the likes of David MitchellRichard AyoadeKaty Brand and Paul Merton.



In an exclusive Festival commission, Guest Curator Max Porter brings together Kerry Hudson, Niven Govinden, Momtaza Mehri and Rachael Allen with musicians Alula Down to create an acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today. Guest Curator, poet and Out-Spoken founder Anthony Anaxagorou presents his Dream Team of Mona Arshi, Jack Underwood, Caroline Bird, Wayne Holloway-Smith and Kei Miller. The Cheltenham audience will hear from further vibrant voices in the poetry and spoken work scene including Rob AutonMatt Abbott, Ben Norris, Rachel Nwokoro, Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola, alongside Chris Tse, Paul Muldoon, Brian Bilston, Pam AyresJulia CopusJoe Dunthorne, new Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, and Scottish Makar Jackie Kay will be selecting her top ten of the most exciting BAME writers working in the UK today. The literary revelry continues after dark with a Game of Thrones Quiz Night, music from the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, some wonderfully and wildly misinformed insight from character comedian Christopher Bliss, and more from the much-lauded Bang Said The GunTongue Fu and The Moth.



David Cameron will appear in the first event for his memoir For the Record, discussing his life, career and perspectives on the EU referendum and the future of Britain’s place in the light of Brexit. Joining Cameron on the exceptional Current Affairs line-up is David LammyJess Phillips, Caroline Criado-PerezJames O’Brien, Gina Martin, Laura Bates, Nimko Ali, The Times editor John Witherow, The Times and The Sunday Times journalistsDaniel Finkelstein, Rachel Sylvester, Matt Chorley, Sarah Baxter and Phillip Collins, with a glimpse behind the broadcast scenes from Emily MaitlisJohn HumphrysNick Robinson and Ed Stourton.

The Festival looks outwards to Erdogan’s Turkey with Hannah Lucinda Smith and novelist Elif Shafak, to Trump’s America and his approach to global affairs with Chatham House’s Leslie Vinjamuri, to China and opportunities for women with Carrie Grace, the challenges India faces with Robin Niblett and Champa Patel; and to Putin’s Russia with Mark Galeotti, Peter Pomeranstev, and BBC Newsnight International Editor Gabriel Gatehouse.

Mostly Lit podcast host Derek Owusu and Jeffrey Boakye consider the experience of black men in Britain today, and Guest Curators Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené explore how it feels to be a black woman in a predominantly white space. Anthony Anaxagorou is joined by Mariam Khan and Chimene Suleyman to discuss how art and activism can be best combined to create positive social change, Jérôme Tubiana, David Constantine and Hashi Mohamed explore astounding accounts of human endurance and faith against overwhelming odds and terrible injustice, and Aeham Ahmad will be playing the piano on stage as he shares memories of performing in the streets of war-torn Syria.


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Moving individual stories of the Windrush generation will be shared from Colin Grant and Amelia Gentleman, literary critic Bart Van Es and biographer and historian Jeremy Dronfield will chronicle how the trauma of the holocaust gave rise to astonishing stories of courage and survival, plus there will be further historical insight from Guest Curator Dominic Sandbrook, William DalrympleGiles Milton with Anthony Seldon and polling expert Deborah Mattinson asking who was the most disastrous prime minister in British history. Virginia Nicholsonconsiders the experience of women in the 60s, The Favourite author Ophelia Field and Anne Somerset explore Queen Anne’s life, and the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth II is given a fresh take by author, historian and television presenter Kate Williams, plus novelist Katie Hickman will reveal the extraordinary lives of the British women who made their way to India and changed history. For ancient history aficionados, Mary Beard and Llewellyn Morgan will join author and classicist Peter Stothard to celebrate the power of Roman poetry on lifestyle and philosophy, whilst Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Daisy Johnson and Natalie Haynes will explore how we relate to myths in the modern life.


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Cheltenham’s famous Art Deco restaurant The Daffodil will be transformed into a mecca of global foodie delights. Audiences will be transported around the world with mouth-watering Middle Eastern recipes from Yasmin Khan, sumptuous Moorish cooking courtesy of Ben TishDishoom chef Naved Nasir and co-founder Shamil Thakrarcooking up a feast of Indian delight, and native Russian flavours from Alissa Timoshkina. Festival favourite Tom Kerridge will be sharing his foodie tips for a happier lifestyle and Valentine Warner records his journey through grief told in recipes of love and memories. There will be flavour mash-ups from Bake Off’s Liam CharlesRukmini Iyer(The Quick Roasting Tin) will demonstrate the art of hassle-free cooking, Pam Corbin shares her pioneering jams, pickles and preserves and there will vegan delights from Rachel Ama (Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats) plus Henry Firthand Ian Theasby Johnson (BOSH). Plus, Jancis Robinson (The World Atlas of Wine) will be revealing the art of pairing a delicious three-course meal with matched wines.


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Queer Eye will meet Bake Off with Tan France and Nadiya Hussain discussing their upbringings and new memoirs and Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer will talk life, friendship and the joys of fishing. Comedian Jen Brister (The Other Mother), Christine Armstrong (The Mother of All Jobs) and Matt Coyne (Man Vs Toddler) will share hilarious anecdotes and chart the ups and downs of sharing life with tiny humans.

Emily Dean and confirmed cat lover David Baddiel will be discussing tales of grief and recovery, The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen will share tales from the farm, and Jordan Stephens, Clementine Inti Chavez Perez andCapser Walsh will discuss what it means to be a man in society today. Tom BradbyMarina Benjamin and sleep scientist Nicola Barclay will anatomise the cause, consequence and potential cures for insomnia, plus Guest Curators and authors Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené (Slay in Your Lane), vegan chef Rachel Ama, pilates and wellness coach Isa-Welly and Amy Thomson will help the audience strike the perfect balance in our busy lives, ranging from our approaches to digital health, to what we eat.

There will be gardening tips galore from Anne Chambers, Vanessa Berridge, Clare Foster, Rowan Blossom andCaroline Donald, and the doyenne of English interior design, Nina Campbell, will impart her wisdom. Lovers of classic fashion will be taken on a beautifully illustrated tour through the V+A’s blockbuster DIOR exhibition by curator Oriole Cullen and Condé Nast chairman Nicholas Coleridge will reflect upon his thirty-year career. There will be an exploration of feminist art and fashion from V&A curator Jenny Lister and drag queen Crystal Rasmussen and drag king Daisy Hale will explain how the art of pushing gender boundaries has taken hold of pop culture. The Times Fashion Editor Anna Murphy advises on how not to wear black and three of the country’s top names in beauty – facialist Alexandra Soveral, make-up artist Hannah Martin and hair stylist Kiki Koh – will be on hand.


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A host of sporting legends will grace the stages of Cheltenham this year kicking off with Welsh rugby titan Sam Warburton, and for cricket fans there will be England’s greatest batsman Alastair Cook, plus Prashant Kidambi and Philip Collins. The Festival will celebrate inspirational women who have pushed themselves to the limits of their endurance, including record-breaking ultra-running phenomenon Mimi Anderson, the first woman to complete the infamous Transcontinental Race, Emily Chappell and Lara Prior-Palmer, the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win The Mongol Derby.


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This year’s Art & Design series explores everything from the architecture to illustration, including a very special discussion about Lucian Freud with his daughter Esther Freud, revered British illustrator Charlie Mackesy on his favourite pieces, Turner Prize-nominated artist Tai Shani celebrates rebel female muses, and ‘Cold War Steve’ Chris Spencer explains why we need satirical art now more than ever. Grant Wilson and Naomi Wood will examine the Bauhaus movement’s cast of characters in its centenary year, Andrew Hill and Emilie Taylor take a look at Ruskin’s contemporary legacy, and Jason Webster and Claudia Hopkins show how Spanish art is inescapably intertwined with the country’s turbulent history. Kate Bryan shares the dazzling and explosive stories behind some of art’s most influential romantic relationships, Ossian Ward illuminates the Old Masters as well as the dramatic vibrancy of contemporary art, Marit Paasche and Clare Hunter recognise the political and protest power of sewing, Jackie Bennett studies the intimate relationship between artist and garden, plus Angela Summerfield and Christiana Payne look at the role of trees in inspiring some of our greatest artworks.


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The Cheltenham audience will find enlightenment and fascination in all schools of philosophical thought, with Richard Dawkins expanding further on atheism in Outgrowing GodPeter Stanford exploring the reasons behind why so many of us still believe in angels, and historian Tom Holland describes Christianity’s transformative legacy on Western thought. Author Karen Armstrong will argue the importance of rediscovering global scriptures, and A.C Grayling will take the audience through the epic journey’s and traditions of Western and Eastern philosophy – from Buddha, Confucius and Socrates to Mill, Nietzsche and Sartre.



In this year’s Science line-up, Martin Rees offers a provocative and inspiring look at the future of humanity, andArthur I. Miller contemplates on what it means to have original thought, creativity and consciousness in the age of machines. Rick Edwards and Michael Brooks will explore the science of death and mass destruction through some of our best-loved Hollywood blockbusters, and Angela Gallop, one of the world’s most eminent forensic scientists, will discuss her ability to reconstruct violent events and how she solved so many intractable cases. David Nottshares his extraordinary experience as a trauma surgeon in the world’s most dangerous war zones, Christie Watsonreflects on twenty years in nursing, and Nicci Gerrard alongside Wendy Mitchell ask important questions about how we love, care for and value those who suffering from dementia.


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An inspirational list of speakers will share their unique journeys including Sue Perkins on the Mekong, Adam Weymouth on his solo canoe odyssey along the Yukon River, Raynor Winn will revisit her 630-mile walk on the South West Coastal path, comedian Dom Joly will trace his hike across Lebanon, and Monisha Rajesh will recount her 45,000-mile adventure on the world’s most remarkable railways. Great historical adventures will be retraced by travel writer Alastair Humphreys who reflects on Laurie Lee’s iconic journey from the Cotswolds through Spain, and author and filmmaker Jacki Hill-Murphy recounts the achievements of early female explorers including Victorian nurse Kate Marsden’s epic trip across Siberia.

BAFTA winning naturalist, writer and television presenter Steve Backshall will share his exploration of undiscovered worlds and former British Army Officer and explorer Levison Wood will whisk the audience through the heart of Middle East. Writer Luke Turner  and journalist Emma Mitchell will demonstrate the healing power of nature, editorClare Gogerty and explorer Erling Kagge will show us how to travel in a way that enhances your connection to the world, adventurers Mark Boyle and Ben Fogle will explore the joys without modern technology, plus writers Philip Marsden and Dan Richards will discuss fulfilling life-long travel ambitions and why we remain drawn to the wild, and The Sunday Times travel team, including Susan D’Arcy, will be sharing their expert knowledge.



Activist, journalist and curator Scarlett Curtis will be joined by an exciting line-up of inspirational contributors from her new anthology It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies) to discuss what their mental health means to them; Chief Survival Instructor to the British Military, John Hudson, gives lessons for everyday life taken from the first-hand accounts of near disaster experiences; Matthew Syed shares his radical blueprint for creative problem-solving; Ella Risbridger and Bella Mackie share how alternative therapies of cooking and jogging helped them in their mental health recoveries; and YouTubers Hannah Witton, Khalaf and Instagram star Megan Jayne Crabbe encourage discussions about body image, imperfections and being confident in your own skin.



The packed Family programme has more selection on offer than ever including the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, with a world of mythical creatures and a special event with festival friends revealing what lies inside their notebook pages. The incredible programme also welcomes the legendary Malorie Blackman and her highly anticipated new Noughts & Crosses novel, presenter Dermot O’Leary and illustrator Nick East with the latest escapades of Toto the Ninja Cat, and some horrendously horrid fun with Francesca Simon. There will be crime capers with Guest Curator Robin Stevens, adventures galore with Helen Skelton, Abi Elphinstone and Candy Gourlay, plus much more from the likes of Danny Wallace, Dougie Poynter and Konnie Huq.

For littles ones there will be family fun with multi-award winning Oi Puppies! duo Kes Gray and Jim Field, and the Festival will be marking the birthdays of some famous characters including Kipper, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Elmer, as well as the 30th anniversary of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt with the great Michael Rosen. There will be family shows I Believe in Unicorns, The Rainbow Fish, The Greatest Comic-Making Show On Earth and Maisy Mouse, for spoken word and music lovers the Tongue Fu for Kids band will be performing, while Mark Llewelyn Evans introduces the thrilling story of opera.

Budding young creatives can take top tips from the best in the business with workshops on everything from fairy-tale animation to writing adventures and detective move making. Plus the Festival is hosting its first ever ‘Big Family Book Quiz’ to challenge book knowledge, creativity and nonsense know-how! And if that’s not enough for YA fansJuno Dawson, Holly Bourne, Matt Abbott, Jenny Downham and Dean Atta will be taking to the Cheltenham stage.


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This year’s extraordinary ‘Literature for Schools’ programme includes Cressida CowellFrancesca Simon, Chris Riddell, Hilary McKay, Kit De WaalKiran Millwood Hargrave and Anthony Anaxagorou amongst many others, including Guest Curator Robin Stevens leading a series of mystery events. Spoken word artist Sophia Thakur will be performing with students from the Festivals’ year-round outreach programmes – Beyond Words, Write Now and Amnesty’s Words that Burn – in the Young Writers’ Showcase, and authors taking part in Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils – the Festival’s flagship education project supporting teachers with a national network of free reading groups – will be igniting creativity with workshops from Vashti HardyJoe Todd-Stanton and Emma Carroll. Plus the first of the new books selected for the 2019/20 programme will be revealed during the Festival!


Title Partners: The Times and The Sunday Times

Principal Partners: Baillie Gifford; Cunard; Sky Arts; Thirty Percy, University of Gloucestershire; Waterstones. Woodland Trust.

About The Times
The Times, founded in 1785, is Britain’s most trusted newspaper and the UK’s number one quality daily newspaper. A premium brand recognised world over, The Times is the home of authoritative, credible, and award-winning journalism.

At the 2019 Press Awards The Times was named Daily Newspaper of the Year, The Times Magazine won Magazine of the Year, T2 was chosen as Supplement of the Year, Columnist of the Year for Deborah Ross, Foreign Reporter of the Year to Anthony Loyd, and chief reporter Sean O’Neill won both Scoop of the Year for his investigation into Oxfam and News Reporter of the Year.

About The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times, founded in 1822, is Britain’s best-selling quality newspaper. It celebrated its 10,000th edition in May 2016 and has won a clutch of awards for its Insight team investigations unit, its foreign reporting and its magazine features and interviews, in particular.

At the 2019 Press Awards The Sunday Times won Sunday Newspaper of the Year, the political editor Tim Shipman was named both the Political Reporter of the Year and Political Commentator of the Year, and Decca Aitkenhead was selected as Interviewer of the Year.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it?

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurin


When a copy of Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain dropped through my letterbox as surprise post I loved the look of it and meant to read it weeks ago – not least because our honeymoon was in Paris and we returned for our silver wedding too. Sadly life got in the way but I’m so pleased I finally got to it. My enormous thanks to the folk at EDPR for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Vintage 1954 is available for purchase in all the usual places as well as directly from the publisher, Gallic Books, here.

Vintage 1954


When Hubert Larnaudie invites some fellow residents of his Parisian apartment building to drink an exceptional bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, he has no idea of its special properties.

The following morning, Hubert finds himself waking up in 1950s Paris, as do antique restorer Magalie, mixologist Julien, and Airbnb tenant Bob from Milwaukee, who’s on his first trip to Europe. After their initial shock, the city of Edith Piaf and An American in Paris begins to work its charm on them. The four delight in getting to know the French capital during this iconic period, whilst also playing with the possibilities that time travel allows.

But, ultimately, they need to work out how to get back to 2017, and time is of the essence…

My Review of Vintage 1954

An unlikely group of people sample a 1954 vintage wine that leads to unusual consequences.

Vintage 1954 is a little cracker of a book. It’s curious mix of the slightly quirky avant garde, balanced alongside a traditional fairy tale style with humour and romance added to the mix, that makes it an utter delight. I found it warm, witty and very entertaining. I actually found it difficult to accept that this is a work in translation because of the smooth and flawless text.

I really enjoyed the slightly fantastical plot and the manner in which the past echoes in the present in Vintage 1954.  I thought the conceits of time travel, UFOs and science that underpin this book were handled with astute, yet slightly tongue in cheek, perception so that I found myself smiling much of the time as I read.

However, it was characterisation that so held me transfixed. Whilst the human figures are warm, well crafted and endearing – as too are the dogs – and I loved them all, it is Paris that totally captivates the reader. In Vintage 1954 Paris is not a setting; it is a living, breathing entity from 1954. Brought alive by historical, social and political references as well as the peppering of real people, it is the descriptions of the very essence of Paris that are such a joy. Reading this slim book placed me at the heart of that wonderful city with such vivid charm that I felt immersed in a bygone era. It is as if Antoine Laurain his distilled the whole of Paris into his writing.

I also found the themes beautifully woven throughout. This may be more of a novella than a full novel, but look carefully between the pages and you’ll find national identity, history, faith, love, truth, identity and real value. The manner in which all the perfectly wrought cast find their own truths is so uplifting. Gold and jewels may be elusive, but love and friendship are their own rewards.

I haven’t read Antoine Laurain before and had no idea what to expect, but the quality of the prose, the transporting descriptions, the captivating characters and the unadulterated pleasure I found in Vintage 1954 have made me realise I have missed out. That’s something I need to rectify as soon as I can. Vintage 1954 is a glorious book.

About Antoine Laurain


Antoine Laurain is a novelist, screenwriter, journalist, director and collector of antique keys. A truly born and bred Parisian, after studying film, he began his career directing short films and writing screenplays. His passion for art led him to take a job assisting an antiques dealer in Paris. The experience provided the inspiration for his first novel, The Portrait, winner of the Prix Drouot.

Published on the eve of the French presidential elections of 2012, Antoine’s fairytale-like novel The President’s Hat was acclaimed by critics, readers and booksellers, who awarded it the Prix Landerneau Découvertes. The English translation was a Waterstones Book Club and ABA Indies Introduce pick, and a Kindle Top 5 bestseller. This novel, full of Parisian charm, was the winner of the Prix Relay des Voyageurs, a prize which celebrates the enjoyment of reading. Since then, The President’s Hat has been adapted for television in France.

Antoine’s novels have been translated into 14 languages, including Arabic and Korean. Sales of his books across all formats in English have surpassed 155,000 copies. And The Red Notebook (2015) has become one of Gallic Books’ bestsellers both in the UK and the USA.
Also published: French Rhapsody (2016), The Portrait (2017), Smoking Kills (2018) and Vintage 1954 (2019).

Getting Creative with Alison Bruce


Many of you will recall that I recently wrote a blog post about the Deepings Community Library which is in the running for a financial community award through Persimmon Homes. You can find out all about that here and there’s still time to vote if you haven’t already!

As I explained in that post, the Deepings Library has become the centre of a vibrant bookish community, closely linked with Deepings Literary Festival. So much happens every week but I’m now getting excited about a very special writing workshop with successful crime writer Alison Bruce which is coming up on September 19th in the Deepings Library from 2-5PM.

Having interviewed crime writer Alison Bruce here and listened to the fascinating story of her road to publication here, I’m thrilled that I shall be attending this event with Alison.  She will be leading what is likely to be a fantastic writing workshop covering aspects of character and plot as well as sharing what she has learnt through her writing career.

Although Alison is a crime writer, and you can read my review of one of her books, Cambridge Black, here, I know from first hand experience that she has so much wonderful advice for both emergent and established authors, that writers in all genres will benefit from her expertise. Given that I have been allegedly writing my own novel for some time I’m hoping she will give me the impetus to get it finished!

If you’d like to come along, tickets are £10 including refreshments for the workshop on Thurday September 19th from 2-5 PM at the Deepings Community Library. Call 01778 346528 for more details or to book your place.

You can find all of Alison’s books here, but her latest novel is the psychological thriller, I Did It for Us, published by Little Brown Imprint Constable and available here.

I Did It For Us

i did it for us

From the first time I saw them together I knew it felt wrong. I didn’t like the way he touched her or the self-conscious way he played with Molly and Luke. Joanne saw none of it of course. So I did it to prove to her that she was wrong. I did it for us.

Emily’s instincts tell her that best friend Joanne’s new boyfriend is bad news. Emily fears for Joanne. Fears for Joanne’s children. But Joanne won’t listen because she’s in love. So Emily watches, and waits . . . and then she makes a choice.

But Emily has a past, and secrets too. And is she really as good a friend to Joanne as she claims?

About Alison Bruce

alison bruce

Alison Bruce is the author of eight crime novels and two non-fiction titles. Her first novel, Cambridge Blue (2008), was described by Publishers Weekly as an ‘assured debut’ and introduced both detective, DC Gary Goodhew, and her trademark Cambridge setting. She went on to complete the DC Goodhew series with a further six novels before writing the psychological thriller I Did It for Us.

Alison was born in Croydon and grew up in Wiltshire before moving to Cambridgeshire in 1998. Alison worked as an electroplater, taxi driving and band promoter and spent ten years working in the IT industry before leaving to concentrate on completing her first novel.

Alison is a proud supporter of local libraries and is the patron of Lakenheath Library in Suffolk. Alison teaches creative writing at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.

You can follow Alison on Twitter @Alison_Bruce and visit her website for more information.

Featuring The Girl I Used to Know By Faith Hogan


Having so enjoyed reading an e-copy of The Girl I Used to Know by Faith Hogan, my review of which you can read here, I’m delighted to support the paperback release in the final part of the blog tour. My enormous thanks to Victoria Joss for inviting me to take part. As I belong to a U3A reading group I’m delighted to have some book group questions to share with you today.

As well as featuring The Girl I Used to Know, I’ve been privileged to host Faith Hogan here on Linda’s Book Bag a couple of other times too. Faith told me all about her murderous tendencies in a guest post on Creating Character here, when My Husband’s Wives was published and she spilled some secrets here to celebrate Secrets We Keep too!

The Girl I Used to Know is available for purchase in all formats here.

The Girl I Used to Know


Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn’t be more different.

Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accoutrements of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.

By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.

It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.

The Girl I Used To Know

Book Club Questions

‘A Good Neighbour is a priceless treasure.’ – this is the opening quote in The Girl I Used To Know – The relationship between Tess and Amanda might have mended many years earlier – if it had, do you believe that their lives would have turned out very differently or any better than they did at the end of the story?

The Girl I Used To Know flips over between past and present – did you find yourself flicking back to earlier pages to catch up on where you left off? Did it help to paint a clearer picture of how Tess and Amanda had become the women they found themselves to be when the book opened and ultimately, when it ended?

Faith Hogan’s books have been described as Uplifting and Unashamedly Feel Good. The Girl I Used To Know is described as a story of second chances and the idea that it’s never too late to start again –  do you agree that it is never too late to start again? Are we confined by the parameters in which we’ve chosen to live our lives until this very moment – or can we hope for better things to come?

Faith Hogan’s books are described as grown up women’s fiction – can you see why this book isn’t classified as romantic, comedy or chick lit? Is there a difference between these sub genres? Do you agree with the way fiction is commonly classified by critics, book buyers, editors and bloggers? Can you think of other books you’ve read who might fall into a similar category?

Family – be they in the present or the past are a hugely important feature in this novel – do you agree or disagree? Amanda has been severed from hers through death, but Tess’s separation is more complicated. At what point, do you think Tess was firmly cut off from her family in Ballycove?

We are the product of our past, our parents and our experiences – would you agree that this is the case in The Girl I Used To Know or, do you believe that the characters can shape their future by taking brave steps in a new direction?

Tess and Amanda power walk around Swift Square each evening in opposite directions, for many the true turning point in the book is when one changes route and they begin to walk together – is there a turning point in the book that strikes you as more compelling than this point?

Things to Consider before your book club meet…

1 How did you experience The Girl I Used To Know? First impressions, was it a dive right in book or more of a leading, winding tale for you?

2 This has been described as a character driven book – would you agree? Did either of the main characters resonate with you more than the other?

3 Are the characters dynamic, have they taken action to impact on their own outcomes? Can you see if they have grown or changed by the end of the story?

4  Did you like the characters? Did they remind you of people you know, or perhaps could you see some qualities of your own tied up in their personalities?

5  How much does the setting add to the story – is it merely a backdrop or is the house and the city as much a part of the fabric of the book as any of the characters?

6 Can you pick out the themes that resonate most for you in the book?

7 Describe the plot, were you surprised at any point in the story? Were there parts of the story you might have changed or guided in a different direction?

8 Are there other books you’ve read which you could compare this with? How are they similar? How are they different?

9 In two sentences, how would you summarise The Girl I Used To Know to someone who has not yet read the book?

About Faith Hogan

Faith Hogan portrait for inside cover of her book

Faith Hogan was born in Ireland.  She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway.  She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.

She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.

You can follow Faith on Twitter @GerHogan and find her on Facebook. You’ll find her website here.

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Blog tour poster me

Chicago Treasure by by Larry Broutman, Rich Green, and John Rabias

Chicago Treasure Cover

Although I’m not taking on new blog material this year in order to reduce my towering TBR pile, when Stacey Smith got in touch to tell me about a new book that features children facing challenging circumstances, and that the proceeds of Chicago Treasure go towards non profit service agencies the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Disabled, and Access Living, I couldn’t refuse.

Chicago Treasure is available for purchase here and on Amazon. Linda’s Book Bag readers may use coupon code CTBLOG15 for a 15% discount on their entire order at Everything Goes Media.

Chicago Treasure

Chicago Treasure Cover

Chicago has many treasures. The Magnificent Mile and Wrigley Field, wonderful public art and parks, beautiful bridges and skylines. But the true heart and the real treasure of the city are its children.

This book is devoted to Chicago’s children. Come along as they travel to worlds within worlds, becoming storybook characters who follow the Yellow Brick Road, sip tea in Wonderland, tame a tiger, live in a shoe, climb a magic beanstalk to bring home a golden-egg-laying hen, turn a frog into a prince, meet fairies and dragons.

Continue as they step into painted canvases to inhabit scenes from other times and places. After climbing down from those framed worlds, they explore the city, high-fiving the victorious Chicago Bears, joining penguins at the theater, and leaping across State Street Bridge aboard African impalas.

The kids are the story.

The book is their adventure. Its door swings open. . .

My Review of Chicago Treasure

An eclectic mix of illustration, art, story and poetry featuring real children.

Chicago Treasure is such an uplifting book. It’s vibrant, colourful and the perfect mix of fantasy and reality so that children of all ages and abilities find themselves in exciting new and familiar narratives. I thoroughly appreciated the mix of gender and ethnicity and, whilst it is clear some children have visual or mobility problems because of the glasses they wear or wheel chair they may be in, there is no contrived focus on disability, but rather on having fun and participating fully in life.

With familiar stories like Humpty Dumpty or Sleeping Beauty, superheroes and Harry Potter, there is something within the pages of Chicago Treasure for any child, young or old, to enjoy. What appeals to me most is the way in which the superimposing of real children into the images affords them not only the excitement of seeing themselves in a book, but allows other children to use their imaginations and think ‘What if…?’ so that it encourages the development of creativity as well as being entertaining. The news stories could act as a stimulus for writing and I’m sure many will be inspired to read the works featured. Chicago Treasure has substantial reading matter to share with children within its pages but also leads young readers to books and films like Mary Poppins, Toy Story and Alice in Wonderland. There is also a super section featuring famous paintings that introduces a whole new arts genre to young people and could be used for projects and research as well as computer and editing skill stimulus. I think Chicago Treasure represents many hours of fun and pleasure.

As someone who has never been to Chicago, I also enjoyed finding out more about the city, its events and its people. Reading Chicago Treasure has made me want to visit!

I have never encountered a book quite like Chicago Treasure. It really is a treasure trove of interest for readers of all ages and abilities and not just those featured within its pages. I found it remarkable.

About the Authors

Larry Broutmanis the author of Chicago UnleashedChicago MonumentalChicago Eternal, and the forthcoming Africa Treasure and Chicago Courageous. He photographed all of the children for this book. He and his wife, Susan, live in Chicago. Author proceeds from Larry’s projects are donated to the Chicago Lighthouse (for those who are blind or visually impaired) and Access Living.

Illustrator Rich Green is a former Disney intern, a computer graphics professional, and the illustrator of several popular children’s books. Although he works mostly digitally, he also enjoys putting pencil to paper and brush to paint. His artworks can be found in regional galleries. Rich lives in Joliet, Illinois, with his faithful dog, Annie.

John Rabias, teacher and magician, works in digital illustration and post-production imaging and has taught computer graphics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for over twenty years. When not working on screen, John paints in oil. He lives in Chicago with his Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster.

The Moments by Natalie Winter

The Moments

I’ve been deliberately avoiding blog tours this year (you can see why here), but Alainna at Orion knows me only too well and when she told me I’d love The Moments by Natalie Winter and asked me if I’d like to participate in the blog tour I simply couldn’t decline. I’m so grateful to Alainna for inviting me to take part and sending me a copy of The Moments in return for an honest review.

The Moments will be published by Orion on 8th August 2019 and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Moments

The Moments

Life is made up of countless moments. Moments that make us who we are. But what if they don’t unfold the way they’re supposed to…?

What if you get on the wrong bus, or don’t speak to the right person at a party, or stay in a job that isn’t for you? Will you miss your one chance at happiness? Or will happiness find you eventually, when the moment is right?

Meet Matthew and Myrtle. They have never really felt like they fitted – in life or with anyone else. But they are meant to be together – if only they didn’t keep missing each other.

A heart-breaking and compelling story about family and friendship. A story about love and loss. A story about life.

My Review of The Moments

Misfits Matthew and Myrtle would probably be perfect for one another – if only they could meet.

Oh my goodness yes! The Moments is completely wonderful. I absolutely adored every moment of reading it and hated it when I had finished because I couldn’t bear to let go of two of the most delightful, quirky and wonderful people I’ve ever met in fiction. I was in love with both Matthew and Myrtle. They truly are the Everyman and Everywoman of the twenty first century; too frequently settling for second best and hankering after something, or someone, else in their lives just out of reach, as so many of us do. Life simply happens through the moments of the title and so much of the action made me think of times in my own life, or lives of those I know, that it seems Natalie Winter has looked into the soul of humanity and crafted it into a touching, frequently funny and completely enchanting story, about two warm, vivid and endearing people, that is just perfect.

By rights I shouldn’t like the structure of The Moments as it swings alternately between Myrtle and Matthew because I often find dual narratives irritating. Not in this case. Natalie Winter crafts them so beautifully it is as if they are a double helix of love and life. The way in which the author brings Matthew and Myrtle so tantalisingly close and yet not quite meeting is almost too much to bear. I think it’s the use of a continuous present tense with its suggestion of future potential that helps make the story so impactful and successful too.

Parts of The Moments bring intense joy to the reader, and parts bring deep sadness. When I finished the book I felt as if I’d lived every one of those moments with Myrtle and Matthew and I wouldn’t have missed a single one. It’s no exaggeration to say that reading The Moments made me glad to be me, to be alive, and to have led the life I have – good and bad bits included. In The Moments Natalie Winter shows us fundamental truths about humanity and life so that I feel my life has been enhanced by her words.

It’s just too difficult to express how much I enjoyed reading The Moments because it’s such an uplifting, heat-warming story. Choose your own superlative to apply to this glorious book – you’ll be right!

About Natalie Winter

Natalie Winter

Natalie Winter is from Hertfordshire and has worked as a content editor in various media industries for the last fourteen years. She has lived in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among other places, and now currently resides in Bristol with her scruffy rescue dog.

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