From Far Around They Saw Us Burn by Alice Jolly

It’s an absolute pleasure to begin the blog tour for From Far Around They Saw Us Burn by Alice Jolly. My enormous thanks to Alice for sending me a copy of the book and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for subsequently inviting me to join the tour today by sharing my review, which I’m delighted to do.

Previously I have reviewed Alice’s A Saint in Swindon here, Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile here, and Dead Babies and Seaside Towns here where I also interviewed Alice about this last book.

From Far Around They Saw Us Burn was published by Unbound on 30th March 2023 and is available for purchase here.

From Far Around They Saw Us Burn

Words begin to lose their meanings, flaking off into air like moths. Friendships cultivated over a lifetime fall apart in testing circumstances. What does the stranger with yellow eyes really want?

From Far Around They Saw Us Burn is the eagerly awaited first short story collection from Alice Jolly, one of the most exciting and accomplished voices in British fiction today.

The extraordinary range of work gathered here is united by a fascination with how everyday interactions can transform our lives in unpredictable ways. These are stories of lonely people, outcasts and misfits, and the ghosts that inhabit our intimate spaces. The result is a compelling, arresting and, at times, devastating collection – not least in the title story, which was inspired by the tragic true events of the 1943 Cavan orphanage fire.

Written with an exemplary eye for detail and an intimate understanding of the complexities of human nature, Jolly’s collection builds up towards the ultimate question: what is revealed of us when we peel away the surfaces, and is it enough?

My Review of From Far Around They Saw Us Burn

A collection of fifteen short stories. 

Having read and loved longer books by Alice Jolly I’m not sure why I thought I’d be hardened to the absolute beauty of her writing by now, but yet again the exquisite quality of her prose hit me like a physical blow. It’s as if Alice Jolly has the ability to seep beneath the skin and flesh of her readers into their very souls. I absolutely adored From Far Around They Saw Us Burn.

The descriptive aspects are pared down to the essence of what is needed to create vivid and affecting settings and appearances. The depiction of the area around Spalding and Boston in The Last House on the Marsh, for example, is pitch perfect. I know, because it’s where I live! Through the use of the senses, From Far Around They Saw Us Burn is a complete masterclass of writing as well as an immersive, moving and enthralling read. Many sentences are truncated and speech marks are absent so that the layers of meaning aren’t immediately obvious, making for a truly engaging read as what isn’t said becomes as important as what is clearly presented. This means that the reader can bring their own experiences to From Far Around They Saw Us Burn and that it will be a different book for each individual. 

Obviously it’s tricky to say too much about plot with short stories for fear of giving too much away, but each of these is crafted with authorial skill and precision. However, more important than the events themselves are the themes and the humanity found within the narratives. These stories vibrate with longing and loneliness and the basic need for human connection.

Alice Jolly explores relationships at every level. There’s marriage and family, parenthood and friendship and emotions of every kind from despair to hatred, swirled through with dystopian futurism and prosaic ordinariness in a fascinating blend of style that I found mesmerising. From Far Around They Saw Us Burn is utterly compelling because, more often than not, it gives a voice to the outsider, the dispossessed and the vulnerable.

I adored this collection. It is as if all life is present in From Far Around They Saw Us Burn. I found parts of it almost unknowable and unbearable whilst other elements spoke to me as if they had been extracted from my own mind and turned into fiction. Alice Jolly is a magnificent writer. She deserves greater exposure and absolute critical acclaim. You’ll find it hard to find another author who produces such finely wrought prose and From Far Around They Saw Us Burn is both blisteringly beautiful and brutal. Try her writing for yourself and don’t let From Far Around They Saw Us Burn be a quiet book that too many miss.

About Alice Jolly

Alice Jolly is a novelist and playwright. She won the 2014 V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize with one of her short stories, ‘Ray the Rottweiler’, and her memoir Dead Babies and Seaside Towns won the 2016 PEN Ackerley Prize. She has published two novels with Simon & Schuster – What the Eye Doesn’t See and If Only You Knew – and four of her plays have been produced by the professional company of the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. Her novel Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile, published by Unbound in 2018, was longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize and shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize. Her latest novel, Between the Regions of Kindness, was published by Unbound in 2019. In 2021, Jolly was awarded an O. Henry Prize for her short story From Far Around They Saw Us Burn. She lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Find out more about Alice on her website or by following her on Twitter @JollyAlice. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Cover Reveal: A Beautiful Rival by Gill Paul

It’s always a pleasure being part of a book’s new life and I’m thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for Gill Paul’s latest novel, A Beautiful Rival.

I adore Gill’s writing and she has featured on Linda’s Book Bag several times. Most recently I reviewed The Manhattan Girls here.

I reviewed Gill’s The Collector’s Daughter for My Weekly’s online magazine in a post you’ll find here.

Previously Gill featured on Linda’s Book Bag when I reviewed The Lost Daughter here, and Gill wrote a superb guest post here. I reviewed The Second Marriage here too.

So you can see why I’m so excited about A Beautiful Rival. Let’s find out more:

A Beautiful Rival

The world is at war, but on the gilded streets of Fifth Avenue, New York, a battle of a different kind is brewing…

New York, 1915.
Elizabeth Arden has been New York’s golden girl since her beauty salon opened its famous red door five years prior. Against all odds, she’s built an empire.

Enter Helena Rubinstein: ruthless, revolutionary – and the rival Elizabeth didn’t bargain for.

With both women determined to succeed – no matter the personal cost – a battle of beauty is born. And as the stakes increase, so do the methods: poaching employees, planting spies, copying products, hiring ex-husbands.

But as each woman climbs higher, so too does what she stands to lose.

Because the greater the height, the harder the fall…

In this stunning new novel, internationally bestselling author Gill Paul reveals the unknown history of cosmetic titans Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein and their infamous rivalry that spanned not only decades, but also broken marriages, personal tragedies, and a world that was changing dramatically for women – perfect for fans of Fiona Davis, Dinah Jefferies and Karen Swan.


Doesn’t that sound fabulous?

Published by Harper Collins on August 31st in the UK, Australia and NZ, and September 5th in the US, A Beautiful Rival is available for pre-order as follows in these links: US, UK, Australia and NZ.

About Gill Paul

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in the twentieth century and often writing about the lives of real women. Her novels have topped bestseller lists in the US and Canada as well as the UK and have been translated into twenty languages. The Secret Wife has sold over half a million copies and is a book-club favourite worldwide.

You can follow Gill on Twitter @GillPaulAUTHOR, visit her website and find her on Instagram and Facebook for more information.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

This month’s U3A book group choice was Into the Water by Paula Hawkins and I’m very pleased to share my review today as I simply didn’t get time last week when we had our meeting.

Into the Water was published by Penguin way back in 2017 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Into the Water

The addictive new psychological thriller from the author of The Girl on the Train, the runaway Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller and global phenomenon.

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, satisfying read that hinges on the stories we tell about our pasts and their power to destroy the lives we live now.

My Review of Into the Water

Nel has drowned. 

Into the Water is an absolute maelstrom of a book. Reading it is akin to being in an eddying whirlpool where you hardly know which way is up. There’s a primeval sense of threat, of evil and deception running through the pages so that every character feels like an unreliable narrator and truth is difficult to grasp. Having seen the character list at the start of the book I was filled with dismay because I feared I’d be unable to keep tabs on who was whom. This didn’t happen. They all felt distinct and equally unlikeable, untrustworthy and fascinating. 

The plot is as sinuous and fast flowing as any river and I think what works so effectively in Into the Water is the sense of human powerlessness in the face of water’s power and our obsession with its ability to harm and heal. Paula Hawkins weaves together the iterative image of water; fluid truth, release and death incredibly skilfully. If the reader substitutes the word ‘truth’ for ‘water’, the complex cleverness of the book becomes even more apparent.

Although the fast paced plot revolves around the motif of water and events at the Drowning Pool over several centuries, spiced by an undercurrent of the supernatural through Nickie, it is human relationships, particularly that between Jules and Nel, that make Into the Water such a gripping read. Our assumptions about the lives of others, our mis-interpretation of their words and actions, our overlaying of societal norms and expectations are just some of the themes Paula Hawkins explores. There are dark and disturbing aspects that add to the sense of menace highly effectively. I thought the way Nel is at the heart of the action even though she is dead was deftly handled too. 

I found Into the Water an unpleasantly mesmerising and gripping read. I think it will probably divide readers but as I’m about the only person who has neither read Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train nor seen the film, I came to Into the Water with no expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before writing fiction. Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. Her first thriller, The Girl on the Train, has been a global phenomenon, selling 23 million copies worldwide. Published in over forty languages, it has been a No.1 bestseller around the world and was a No.1 box office hit film starring Emily Blunt.

Into the Water, her second stand-alone thriller, was also a global No.1 bestseller, spending twenty weeks in the Sunday Times hardback fiction Top 10 bestseller list, and six weeks at No.1.

For further information, visit Paula’s website or find her on Instagram.

A Publication Day Extract from Run to the Blue by P N Johnson

It’s a little over a year since I stayed in with P N Johnson to hear all about his thriller Killer in the Crowd in a post you’ll find here. Today, as his latest thriller, Run to the Blue is released, Phil has kindly allowed me to share an extract with Linda’s Book Bag readers.

Run to the Blue is published by Burning Chair today, 14th April 2023 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Run to the Blue

Run to the Blue is a fast moving thriller set in London, Suffolk and the beautiful Greek Islands. There are secrets and lies, killers and spies!

….Breaking News!… TV reporter Tess Anderson is on the run – her husband’s affair with a Government Ministerhas been exposed and a London crime boss has ordered her death. She was last seen in the Greek islands with a mysterious American yachtsman….more follows….

An Extract from Run to the Blue

I was dreaming of him and those precious hours we’d spent together in Two Rock Bay. How we swam from the boat in the early summer sun, the glistening water forming droplets on wet, naked skin. The astounding revelation of who he really was…

Then I opened my eyes and came back to reality. As I crawled into consciousness, I could make out the now familiar sound of Greek being spoken outside the room. In amongst the rapid-fire words, I picked out my own name: Tess Anderson. The constant blip from the monitor by the bed became uncomfortably loud as I fought the pain and eased myself up on the pillows. Snatches of what had happened were seeping back. I looked out of the window, the only relief from the stark white walls of the hospital room, to see the beckoning blue sky and sense the rising heat of the Corfu sun.

Slowly, I eased myself up a little further. Every part of me seemed to hurt. I caught a glimpse of a stranger in the mirror above the sink: was that really me? There was dried blood on my cropped, newly blonde hair. When I raked my fingers through it, I saw my nails were broken, my wrists were bruised. I looked down at my legs, scarred by raised, red cuts. I clasped my hands together, wishing I was holding his.

I needed answers. I manoeuvred myself out of bed as carefully as I could and sat down on the side of it, trying to make sense of those last few days… Who were my betrayers and who were my friends? What had really happened last night? Had he died too? Whatever the answers, I knew it wasn’t over yet. I was still in danger.

There was a knock on the door. A doctor walked in, accompanied by a policewoman. Grave-faced, they stared at me as I waited, in silence, for them to tell me the news I was desperate to hear.


No! You can’t just leave us dangling like that Phil. I now need to know exactly what happens…

About PN Johnson

As a TV Newsreader, Reporter and Producer for both BBC East and ITV Anglia, Phil Johnson covered everything from tracking down criminals in Spain and going on high-octane police chases, to interviewing pop stars, politicians and celebrities.

Phil was also the face and voice of Crimestoppers in the eastern region for many years and created the successful TV series: “999 Frontline”.

Now living near Norwich, England, Phil loves music, travelling, walking, and sailing, and bringing exciting new characters with amazing stories to the page.

For further information, follow Phil on Twitter @PhilJohnson01. You can also find Phil on Facebook and Instagram.

No Place to Hide by JS Monroe

My enormous thanks to Sophie Ransom for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for No Place To Hide by JS Monroe and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Published by Head of Zeus today, 13th April 2023, No Place to Hide is available for purchase in all the usual places including here.

No Place to Hide

You might be paranoid, but that doesn’t mean they’re not watching you.

Adam lives a picture-perfect life: happy marriage, two young children, and a flourishing career as a doctor. But Adam also lives with a secret. Hospital CCTV, strangers’ mobile phones, city traffic cameras – he is convinced that they are all watching him, recording his every move. All because of something terrible that happened at a drunken party when he was a medical student.

Only two other people knew what happened that night. Two people he’s long left behind. Until one of them, Clio – Adam’s great unrequited love – turns up on his doorstep, and reignites a sinister pact twenty-four years in the making…

No Place to Hide is a spellbinding tale of psychological suspense, weaving together the dark web, murder, and blackmail…

My Review of No Place to Hide

Adam’s life is in free fall. 

I absolutely loved No Place to Hide because it’s effective, alarming and gripping as a result of the fast paced chapters, the mix of first and third person with Adam at the centre, and the brilliant motif of Marlowe’s Dr Faustus woven so intelligently throughout. I thought naming Adam after the first man was a stroke of genius too because it adds to the sensation of temptation, threat and danger.

There’s a creepy, almost distasteful atmosphere that permeates the narrative set in 1998 so effectively that the reader feels almost as tainted by it as those who come into contact with Louis seem contaminated. I thought this effect was quite brilliant. Once the two time scales intertwine then the same effect occurs in Adam’s present too, making for an affecting and disturbing story. 

The characters are so well drawn. Adam shows how one wrong decision or careless moment can shape a whole life – or indeed a whole death and illustrates how easily we can be manipulated. Clio is enigmatic with a potent mix of sexual power and vulnerability so that the reader is as unsure of her integrity as Adam is, and Louis is both Faustian and Shakespearean in his malevolence, his manipulation of others and his hubris. These people become a heady cocktail of danger and threat.

I loved the exploration of the Big Brother concept. I don’t want to spoil the story for others, but J.S. Monroe will have you looking carefully at the world around you and wondering just who is watching you. Indeed, I think a decade ago I would have found this element almost science fiction, but now the reality and potential of this deftly plotted and exciting novel is all too possible, making it scary and believable. 

Other themes within the story are perfectly balanced. There’s the mundane nature of Adam’s life as he and Tania navigate marriage with two small and demanding children, pitched against darker themes of mental health, the media, trust and morality. Class, profession and education all play their part too so that No Place to Hide appeals broadly and relevantly. 

I thought No Place to Hide was superb. It held me captivated throughout and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s an excellent read.

About JS Monroe

JS Monroe, is the author of five psychological thrillers, including the international bestseller, Find Me. Under his own name, he has written five spy novels, one of which, Dead Spy Running, was optioned by Warner Bros. He is currently the Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford.

After more than 25 years in journalism, including two stints as Weekend editor of the Telegraph, and working as a foreign correspondent in New Delhi, Jon became full-time author in 2015.

Jon lives in Wiltshire with his wife, Hilary Stock, a fine art photographer, and is on the committee of Marlborough LitFest.

For more information, visit J.S. Monroe’s website, follow him on Twitter @JSThrillers or find him on Instagram and Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Love Algorithm by Claudia Carroll

What a pleasure to be reviewing The Love Algorithm by Claudia Carroll for My Weekly online today. I’ve long been meaning to read Claudia Carroll’s writing and this gave me the perfect opportunity.

If you pick up a copy of this week’s My Weekly magazine you’ll also find a short story, The Unexpected Date, written by Claudia.

Published by Bonnier imprint Zaffre in paperback on 30th March 2023, The Love Algorithm is available for purchase here.

The Love Algorithm

True love is only just a swipe away? Right?

Iris lives by numbers. The only thing missing from her perfectly calibrated life is a partner – and not for lack of trying. After decades of disappointment, Iris practically has a PhD in online dating. But something still eludes her: that unquantifiable spark.

Kim is too busy being the life of the party to look for love. Her terrible dates make great stories for her friends and co-workers, as long as she’s not caught by her tyrannical boss, Iris.

Connie, Kim’s recently widowed mum, is single for the first time since the 1970s. The dating game has changed a lot since her day . . .

Sick of being let down, Iris takes matters into her own hands – using her analytical skills to create the first real formula for love. With Kim and Connie on board, they launch Analyzed, a dating app like no other.

As Analyzed takes the world by storm, are the three women in over their heads? Is love really just a numbers game?

My Review of The Love Algorithm

My full review of The Love Algorithm can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, I can say that The Love Algorithm is entertaining, witty and has lashings of sassy humour in a narrative I really enjoyed.

Do visit My Weekly to read more of my review here.

About Claudia Carroll

Claudia was born in Dublin, where she still lives and writes full-time. The only job she reckons, where you can stay in your manky track suit all day, look out the window and still get paid. However, even on the bad days when she honestly feels like flinging the computer up against a wall, she still considers this by a mile The Best Job Ever.

Claudia is the proud author of bestselling novels, including Meet Me in Manhattan, Love Me or Leave Me, Me and You, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow and Personally, I Blame My Fairy Godmother.

For further information, follow Claudia on Twitter @carrollclaudia, Facebook, and Instagram.

Maybe Next Time by Cesca Major

Cesca Major’s The Silent Hours was one of the first books I ever reviewed on Linda’s Book Bag (here) and I’ve loved her writing ever since – in all her pen names. It’s far too long since I featured Cesca on the blog so I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the blog tour for her latest book Maybe Next Time. My huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Maybe Next Time was published by Harper Collins on 30th March 2023 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Maybe Next Time

Even the greatest love stories end. But what if this one didn’t have to?

Emma is having the worst day of her life. Frustrating. Chaotic. And the only person who could make it better is gone by the
end of the day.

Yet even worse than all of that: Emma keeps waking up to the same day, over and over again.

But what if this is a sign things could be different? Can Emma change the heartbreaking end to this love story?

My Review of Maybe Next Time

It’s Monday for Emma – again!

Maybe Next Time is an astonishing novel. At the start I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, as it took me a while to realise how brilliantly it had been constructed. Once I’d settled into the rhythm of the narrative and had been dealt the first huge emotional blow I understood what a special book this is. 

I absolutely loathed Emma for the early part of the story. I wanted to climb into the pages of Maybe Next Time and shake her until her teeth rattled. Why? Because Cesca Major made her completely convincing, totally relatable and far too close to home for comfort! Emma has a husband and children and yet allows work and commitments to seep so far into her psyche that she loses sight of what is important in life. Hers is a lifestyle many, many readers will understand and relate to so uncomfortably and it’s this aspect of the story that makes it almost unbearably emotional. With one skilful moment in the narrative Cesca Major turned me from loathing Emma to wanting the very best for her. Indeed, I loved the characterisation because I found my assumptions about both Emma and Dan were challenged and changed as their personalities and lives were gradually revealed. There’s a kaleidoscopic shifting sand of understanding that somehow makes the reader as much a character as any of the others in the book because they change too as they read. This really is an affecting narrative.

The plot is so cleverly structured, with certain repetitions that emulate to perfection what Emma is experiencing. With Maybe Next Time billed as a kind of Groundhog Day, I thought it was so much more. Whilst Emma relives the same day continuously, the exploration of marriage, family, grief, friendship, work life balance and the need to listen to others with true focus, all combine to make this a textured, heart-wrenching story that gets under the skin of the reader and leaves them reeling. There’s also a fascinating insight into the world of publishing and I loved the nod Cesca Major’s other pen names!

Whether or not Maybe Next Time appeals to another reader as much as it did to me (because I absolutely loved it), there is no doubting that it will change their lives. This is a book that certainly moves and entertains, but equally it illustrates the fragility of life and how important it is to engage fully with those we love and to be the best version of ourselves we possibly can. Cesca Major has created a world that is scarily possible for any one of us to experience at any time. She has also illustrated what it means to have deep and abiding love for someone else.

Maybe Next Time breaks your heart but mends it too and it’s a shining example of a story written by someone who understands humanity and displays compassion and love with absolute perfection. I adored it.

About Cesca Major

Cesca Major is a novelist and screenwriter. She runs writing retreats and coaching throughout the year, is a mentor for Black Girl Writers and has taught creative writing for Jericho Writers and Henley School of Art. She blogs and vlogs about the writing process on her social channels.
Cesca has written under pseudonyms in other genres and has been nominated for both the RNA’s Romantic Comedy Award and the
CWA Gold Dagger Award.
She lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and twin girls.

Billed by The Times as ‘… a talent to watch’ you can find out more about Cesca by visiting her website, finding her on Facebook or following her on Instagram and Twitter @CescaMajor.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Three EK Books for Children

It’s a couple of years since I reviewed three children’s book from EK in a post you’ll find here. Today I’m taking a look at three more – Anchored by Debra Tidball and illustrated by Arielle Li, Mama’s Chickens by Michelle Worthington and illustrated by Nicky Johnston and Easy Peasy by Ky Garvey and illustrated by Amy Calautti.

My enormous thanks to Kirsten Knight for sending them from the EK Children’s Books range. I’m delighted to review them all and with Easter coming up, these books would make smashing gifts as an alternative to chocolate.

All the books are available for purchase directly from EK Books.

General Views

What I find so attractive about EK Children’s books is that they are the perfect size for sharing with individual or groups of children and the hard back versions are always presented with strong, robust and durable covers that will withstand much use. The end papers are always as beautiful, vibrant or relevant as the rest of the illustrations.

Heading to the EK website will give teachers and group leaders teaching notes and the opportunity to find readalongs and other related material, making the books very good value for money.

An aspect that I find remarkably touching as well as giving me confidence in the books is that many of the themes explored are those directly experienced by the authors themselves.


In this sensitive tale, Tug and Ship are connected by bonds of love despite being oceans apart. In a world where so many parents are separated from their children for periods of time due to work and/or living arrangements, sometimes the sense of attachment can feel a little vulnerable. Anchored is a reassuring book, reminding children that their attachment with their parents/caregivers can sustain time apart: they are firmly anchored in each other’s hearts.

Anchored will be published on 27th April and is available here.

My Review of Anchored

Tug misses Ship.

Oh for goodness sake! I really should be reduced to tears by a book aimed at 4-8 year olds but Anchored brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye because it is a beautiful and sensitive exploration of what it is like to be lonely and to miss someone.

The story is simple as Ship sails off leaving Tug working, but the message is universal and strong. As long as we take a piece of someone in our hearts they are always with us. I think Anchored would be perfect for children new to school and feeling a little out of place or lost. Teachers could share the story and give those children huge comfort as well as making them realise they are not alone in their feelings. It also shows that even though someone is much bigger, like Ship, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are braver or stronger.

The language in the story is pitched to perfection. There are so many learning opportunities here. The narrative models the structure of direct speech for example, and the efficacy of ellipsis in writing, with similes and adjectives used with a lightness of touch. There are opportunities for project work too as children might research and discover the kinds of places ship visits.

It’s also vital to acknowledge the way the illustrations enhance the narrative as they really do add depth and emotion.

I thought Anchored was totally brilliant and cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Debra Tidball

Debra Tidball is an award-winning author of picture books, short stories, poems and plays for children. With social work and children’s literature qualification, Debra is a children’s book enthusiast with a particular passion for picture books and the profound way they can touch children’s lives.

For further information, visit Debra’s website and find her on Instagram and Facebook or follow Debra on Twitter @debratidball.

About Arielle Li

Arielle Li is a Taiwanese-Australian illustrator based in Australia with a compelling new style. She has been passionate about creating art from a young age, and has been pursuing illustration as a career since 2019.

For further information, follow Arielle on Twitter @arielle_art, visit her website or find Arielle on Instagram.

Mama’s Chickens

Award-winning author Michelle Worthington uses backyard chickens to give us a child’s-eye view of early-onset dementia. As Mama loves and cares for her chickens, her kids learn lessons about disability and acceptance. Children will relate to the endearing chickens, while the author uses her own experience to depict early-onset dementia in a realistic but age-appropriate way. Dementia doesn’t only affect the elderly; this story shines a supportive, much-needed light on a reality many families face.

Mama’s Chickens will be published on 11th April and is available here.

My Review of Mama’s Chickens

Mama has chickens to care for.

What a lovely story. Mama’s Chickens can be enjoyed as a simple narrative but equally it can be used to exemplify what happens when someone we love, and who loves us, begins to lose their memory or suffer dementia. Indeed, both the writing and the illustrations have a literal and metaphorical meaning so that book is a sensitive exploration of a difficult theme. It would be a wonderful aid in school or, perhaps even more, in the home where such a topic can be difficult to broach with and be understand by young children. There’s a real poignancy here as the illustrations show that Mama is still young so that adults and children alike come to realise that dementia and memory loss are not confined to the elderly.

Aside from this very important theme, Mama’s Chickens can be used to explore other aspects of family life. There’s the acquisition of pets and looking after them, doing things together like crafts that might form the catalyst for young readers to try out new hobbies and a lovely message that despite how anyone might sometimes behave, it doesn’t mean that love isn’t still present.

I think Mama’s Chickens is a vital addition to books for children in a world where there are increasing young carers and emotional intelligence is needed all the more. It’s a super book.

About Michelle Worthington

Michelle Worthington is an international award-winning author, screenwriter and businesswoman. Shortlisted twice for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s picture book of the year, two-time winner of the International Book Award and finalist in the USA Best Book Awards, Michelle also received a Gellett Burgess Award and a Silver Moonbeam Award for her contribution to celebrating diversity in literature. Michelle is dedicated to encouraging a strong love of reading and writing in young children and enjoys working with charities that support the vision of empowering youth through education.

In 2021, Michelle was diagnosed with Progressive Nonfluent Aphasia (PNFA) which is a form of dementia. It is a clinical syndrome associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration and affects her short-term memory and her ability to speak, read and write. Michelle’s personal experience has given her a passion for educating the public that dementia doesn’t just affect older people.

For further information, visit Micelle’s website or find her on Facebook and Instagram and follow her on Twitter @michelle_author.

About Nicky Johnston

Nicky Johnston is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator. She has several bestselling titles published in Australia and overseas, including At the End of Holyrood Lane, The Fix-It Man, Grandma Forgets, The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp, Saying Goodbye to Barkley, This is My Dad, Upside-Down Friday and Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination, all published by EK Books.

Nicky’s illustration style is often described as whimsical, playful, narrative, emotive and colourful. She loves to work in watercolour, ink, pencils and pastel.

As a primary teacher and acclaimed presenter, Nicky’s love of books sees her thoroughly enjoy taking illustrator workshops and visiting schools regularly. She is passionate about inspiring young children with a love for reading, writing and drawing, encouraging them to use their imagination and develop their own ideas. Nicky lives by the beach with her husband and four sons.

For further information, visit Nicky’s website, follow her on Twitter @_nickyjohnston, or find Nicky on Facebook and Instagram.

Easy Peasy

Easy Peasy follows Ruby, who has just received sparkly roller skates as a present from her dad. Ruby is convinced it will be easy to learn how to roller skate and dismisses her dad when he offers to help her. But after a few tumbles, Ruby realizes it isn’t as easy as she thinks and that she might need his help after all! Embracing themes of independence, perseverance, and family relationships, Easy Peasy is a fun, engaging story for children learning how to do something for the first time.

Easy Peasy was published on 14th March and is available here.

My Review of Easy Peasy

Ruby has new roller skates.

Easy Peasy is a fun, vibrant story of resilience and perseverance that children will love, enhanced by the cartoon style illustrations that are colourful and humorous, matching the narrative perfectly.

I loved the relationship between Ruby and her dad and appreciated the fact there is no mum in this story as not all households have two conventional parents meaning that the book represents a wide range of society.

The themes are smashing for children to learn. Firstly, Ruby finds that making assumptions – in this case that roller skating is ‘easy peasy’ – isn’t always the best course of action. She also discovers that initial failure, being prepared to listen and be guided and having another go can lead to dramatic success. This is a valuable motif for many aspects of life. Easy Peasy could also be a brilliant way to prompt children to share a skill they have in school oracy work.

The repetition with subtle changes throughout is great for supporting reluctant or emerging independent readers because they will have a sense of achievement in being able to read the story. The balance of text to image also helps this independence, although the story could equally well be shared with larger groups so that they can predict some of the vocabulary and increase their own store of words. Similarly, the illustrations are slightly more mature so that children who struggle with independent reading will not feel belittled. Ruby isn’t an infant, making her highly relatable.

I’d also say that whilst Easy Peasy is a children’s book, there is an important message for adults too. Here we see an adult supporting his daughter as well as allowing her some independence, but above all, he’s doing something with his child rather than simply scrolling through his social media on a phone! What could be better than that?

I think Easy Peasy is a fun, and accessible read that children will really enjoy.

About Ky Garvey

Ky Garvey is a mother to two boys who are both diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and ADHD. Through her experiences with her boys, she has been inspired to write fun and engaging stories that turn challenges into triumphs. Ky aims to share supportive, inclusive and empowering stories for children.

Ky also writes and hosts the podcast Totally Lit! a monthly podcast celebrating reading, writing and creating literature. The podcast features amazing writers, illustrators and all types of creators of books and stories.

For further information follow Ky on Twitter @ky_garvey, and find her on Facebook and Instagram.

About Amy Calautti

Amy Calautti loved to draw from a young age and often made up games based around drawing to entertain her younger brother and cousins. She now lives with her small tribe of humans who inspire her every day.

Amy’s other books include Turning Cartwheels, Hector and his Highland Dancers, and Mr Ming & the Mooncake Dragon.

For further information visit Amy’s website, follow her on Twitter @amy_calautti, and find Amy on Instagram and Facebook.

Staying in with Lucinda Hart on The Beautiful Blue Publication Day

My enormous thanks to Sarah Hembrow at Vulpine Press for arranging for me to stay in with Lucinda Hart on The Beautiful Blue publication day. I’m delighted to welcome Lucinda to Linda’s Book Bag.

Let’s find out what Lucinda told me:

Staying in with Lucinda Hart

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

I’m delighted you’ve invited me. Thank you.

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?

I would like to share my latest novel The Beautiful Blue. It’s a very personal book for me, and a lot of it is based on my own experiences in dealing with my father’s cancer.

Gosh. That must be very poignant for you Lucinda. What made you choose to write such a book?

I hope The Beautiful Blue will raise awareness for the people who lose their voices from laryngeal cancer and have to learn to breathe and speak again.

It sounds as if your father had an awful time, so what can we expect from an evening in with The Beautiful Blue?

I think it will be an emotional evening for anyone touched by cancer. But this is also a family drama set in Cornwall so expect nostalgia, romance, tragedy and triumphs. In other words, all the things that make up modern life, and which are going on in the background – even when something like cancer appears to blot out all else.

I think that’s the thing with cancer Lucinda. Ordinary life has a habit of carrying on even at the moment we feel it can’t possibly do so. I think The Beautiful Blue sounds highly relatable.

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

If I could I would bring my late father Chris Hart (known as Paddy). He was the bravest man I have ever met. Cancer came back for him again and again and he never gave in. But as I can’t bring him, I’d like to share this picture of him. It was taken only a couple of months before his death.

I’m so sorry he can’t be here in person Lucinda.

I will also bring my two girls, Rafi and Aelfrida. They are my most loyal supporters and, more than anything, I want to make them proud of me.

I imagine they are already immensely proud – and what beautiful names they have.

The book is also about swimming because when you learn to swim you have to learn to breathe in a special way, just as you do with a tracheostomy, so I’ll bring my swimsuit and goggles just in case you have a secret pool hidden in the basement.

I’m afraid I don’t. But there’s a birdbath and a pond if you don’t mind sharing with the frogs and newts.

It’s been lovely finding out about The Beautiful Blue Lucinda and hearing a little about Paddy. Happy publication day and thank you again for being on the blog. Now, if you’d like to change into your swimsuit, I’ll give readers a few more details about The Beautiful Blue.

The Beautiful Blue

HOW many words does it take to end a life?

On a rainswept hallowe’en night two decades ago, it was only five: “She’s there with him now.” These few syllables sealed the fate of Amy Langford, in one cruel moment turning a student navigating love and life into a corpse on a treacherous Cornish road. But who is to blame?

Her cheating boyfriend Olly? Her best friend Chloe? Or Kathryn, the girl he destroyed?

The answer is in the wind until they all return, years later, pulled inextricably back to Cornwall in search of answers. Some remain their old selves, despite the horrors of that night, but one wears a cloak, a new persona crafted like a butterfly from the chrysalis of their past.

Their old teacher, Guy Lovell, and his wife Heather may hold the answer. But just as their lives all begin to converge and they find their voices, Guy loses his, forever. Will the truth make the survivors swim, or drown?

They can only find the answers in The Beautiful Blue.

The Beautiful Blue is published by Vulpine Press today 30th March 2023, and is available for purchase in all the usual places including Fantastic Fiction, Waterstones and Amazon.

About Lucinda Hart

Lucinda Hart grew up in Cornwall and has been writing fiction since the age of three. She has a BA in Fine Art and Creative Writing and a MA in Creative Writing, both from Bath Spa University. The themes in Lucinda’s books are often of great relevance to her. Lucinda’s interest in medicine and surgery means there is often a medical aspect to the stories, something not often talked about (laryngeal cancer, stoma bags, disfiguring skin problems, and plain old age and loss of mobility are some subjects  she has chosen). Lucinda hopes her books might help raise awareness for some of these conditions.

Place is also important; she uses her favourite locations in novels and hopes they will interest the reader as much as they have inspired her. She lives in Cornwall with her two daughters. She is the author of The Broken Air, released 2022.

For further information, follow Lucinda on Twitter @Lucinda_Author, or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Announces 20th Anniversary Full Programme #TheakstonsCrime

Last year I attended the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival for the very first time and thoroughly enjoyed it, meeting blogging friends and authors and attending some fabulous panels.

With this year’s Chair Vaseem Khan

With Louise Beech, Susie Lynes and John Marr

With Lauren North

With Will Dean

With Victoria Selman

Now the programme for 2023 has been announced and I’d like to share it with you:

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Announces 20th Anniversary Full Programme


 20-23 July 2023 | Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate

Harrogate, Tuesday 28 March 2023. Harrogate International Festivals has today announced the programme for this year’s 20th anniversary Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the world’s largest celebration of crime fiction and thriller writing, which runs from 20 – 23 July 2023 at Harrogate’s Old Swan Hotel.

The 2023 Festival Chair, award winning crime and thriller author Vaseem Khan, has curated a ground-breaking programme. Alongside the special guests headlining the Festival, including literary legends Lee Child, Andrew Child, Lisa Jewell, Ruth Ware, Ann Cleeves, Jeffery Deaver, Lucy Worsley, S. A. Cosby, Val McDermid, and Chris Hammer, the full programme includes some of the biggest names in crime fiction.

Exploring everything from the perfect murderous opening, police procedurals and dark obsessions to legal thrillers and the golden age of crime, this year’s 20th anniversary programme will see a variety of acclaimed crime and thriller authors discussing the genre and influences on their writing, including Janice Hallett, Shari Lapena, Louise Candlish, Abir Mukherjee, Steve Cavanagh, Elly Griffiths, Ragnar Jónasson, Clare Mackintosh, Mick Herron, Will Dean, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Chris Brookmyre, and many more!

The Festival will start with Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award ceremony, where the winner of crime writing’s most prestigious accolade will be revealed alongside the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award.

This year’s Festival also includes two ‘who dunnit?’ themed author dinners, giving a unique opportunity for crime fans to get to know authors in a fun and informal environment. Richard Armitage, Stuart Neville, David Hewson, Emma Christie, Steph Broadribb, Alex Dahl, Greg Mosse, Leigh Russell, S.E. Lynes and many others will partake in a murder mystery with a twist!

The all-star line-up of events includes the return of Val McDermid’s New Blood panel, celebrating four brilliant debut crime writers, and the popular Late-Night Quiz, hosted by McDermid and Mark Billingham, armed with trivia, titles and tricks to test the knowledge of crime fiction fanatics.

Vaseem Khan, award winning author and 2023 Festival Chair, said: “It’s a privilege to chair this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. My late father and I watched Poirot together and we’d never imagined that decades later I would chair a Festival so closely connected to Agatha Christie. It feels special to be the first British Asian crime writer to chair the Festival, and even more special for the monumental 20th anniversary. The Festival team have pulled together an Avengers Assemble line-up of crime writers to celebrate the monumental anniversary. You’d be (criminally) insane to miss it.”

 Sharon Canavar, Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, added“This year marks 20 years since the Festival launched in Harrogate, and what wonderful two decades we’ve had celebrating the world of crime fiction. In that time, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival has welcomed some of the biggest names in crime fiction and this year is no exception. In collaboration with our 2023 Festival Chair, Vaseem Khan, we are delighted to announce this year’s full programme for what will be the best Festival yet!”

Simon Theakston, Executive Director of Theakston, commented“This year’s Festival will be another monumental event for the world of crime fiction. It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Festival over the past 20 years and following the full programme announcement, I am thoroughly looking forward to celebrating once again at the world’s best crime writing Festival over a pint of Old Peculier!”

The full programme for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2023:

Thursday 20th July

09:00 – Creative Thursday: Crime Fiction Writing Workshop

A staple of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival line-up, Creative Thursday offers a unique opportunity for aspiring crime writer to learn from the best in the business. Chaired by crime reviewer Natasha Cooper (NJ Cooper) and Mark Billingham, on the panel are authors Mark Edwards, Rachel Abbott, Claire McGowan, Graham Bartlett, and Dr Chris Merritt will share tips of the trade for budding writers as Workshop Leaders, accompanied by publishing experts Ruth TrossEllis MooreMaddalena Cavaciuti, Juliet Mushens and Finn Cotton.

20:00 – Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award

Crime writing’s most wanted accolade returns to highlight the very crime novels published by British and Irish authors over the last year. The longlist will be on announced Thursday 27 April, followed by the shortlist on Thursday 15 June and the winner announced at the awards ceremony on Thursday 20 July hosted by Mark Lawson.

 Friday 21st July

9:00 – Special Guest: Val McDermid

Festival co-founder and doyenne of the crime world Val McDermid will reflect on her illustrious career and 20 years of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival with Mark Billingham.

10:30 – PANEL: Starting With A Scream

Crime novels often begin with a chilling killing. C.J. Tudor, Liz Nugent, Simon Toyne, Will Carver and Fiona Cummins dissect exactly what goes into the perfect murderous opening.

12:00 – PANEL: Law & Disorder

Police procedurals are the cornerstone of the crime fiction canon. But what happens when cops are forced to cross the line? Cara Hunter, Nadine Matheson, Neil Lancaster, Jane Casey and Graham Bartlett, will tell us whether the end justifies the means.

14:00 – PANEL: Literary Crime

Great crime fiction is as good as any highbrow literary offering. Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Abir Mukherjee, Will Dean and Jacob Ross have received acclaim for books that combine prose and plot into a glorious whole that has even diehard littérateurs purring. Expertly chaired by S.J. Parris.

 15:30 – PANEL: Obsession Makes The World Go Round

Simmering secrets and murderous impulses make for dark deeds. Hear Alex North, Sarah Hilary, Dorothy Koomson, Mark Edwards discuss how deadly obsession shapes so many of the deliciously dark stories we’ve come to love, chaired by Erin Kelly.

 17:00 – IN CONVERSATION: Lisa Jewell & Ruth Ware

Crafting gripping thrillers filled with creepy chills and unforeseen twists takes an expert hand. Lisa Jewell introduces her new nail-biting suspense None of This is True with Ruth Ware, author of the unputdownable The It Girl, as the pair reveal what it takes to master the form.

18:15 – Author Dinner

A unique opportunity for crime fans to get to know authors in a relaxed, but fun, dinner environment. Join A.A. Chaudhuri, Alex Dahl, Amen Alonge, Craig Robertson, D.L. Marshall, Tracey Whitwell, Greg Mosse, Jo Callaghan, Leigh Russell, Jenny Blackhurst, Nicola Williams, Rachel Abbott, Simon Mason, William Shaw and S.E. Lynes for dinner as together you try to figure out ‘who dunnit?’ in this murder mystery with a twist.

18:30 – PANEL: Words! Camera! Action!

From Netflix to Hollywood, crime dramas now rule the roost. Chris Brookmyre will chair the panel of authors, including A.A. DhandImran MahmoodLouise Doughty, and Mick Herron, as they tell us about their journey from page to screen, and the ins and outs of how literary creations are brought to life.

 20:30 – SPECIAL GUEST: Ann Cleeves

Bestselling creator of the Vera Stanhope, Jimmy Perez and Matthew Venn book series Ann Cleeves will be interviewed by Festival Chair Vaseem Khan.

22:00 – Fun Loving Crime Writers

Prepare for some killer tunes as the world’s greatest crime writing superband Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville, Luca Veste and Doug Johnstone keep Harrogate rocking until the early hours.

Saturday 22nd July

9:00 – IN CONVERSATION: S.A. Crosby & Chris Hammer

Mastermind of the “Southern noir” genre S. A. Cosby and Australian crime novelist and creator Chris Hammer will talk about their works and how the varied landscapes of their respective homes influence their works.

10:30 – PANEL: Modern Gumshoes P.I. For Hire

Chaired by Doug Johnstone, Femi Kayode, Holly Watt, Robert Crais, and Tim Weaver will discuss how crime fiction has evolved from the laconic cool of a Philip Marlowe to African lady detectives, with private investigators being historic fan favourite.

12:00 – PANEL: New Blood with Val McDermid

Always a sell-out, the New Blood panel provides a showcase for some of the year’s most outstanding debut novelists. Val McDermid will once again be personally selecting four brilliant first novels to discuss with their authors. This panel is always a highlight of the Festival and gives today’s readers a unique opportunity to discover the stars of tomorrow.

14:00 – PANEL: Presumed Guilty

If recent celebrity trials have shown us anything it’s that our fascination for a good legal brawl has never been greater. Judicial hijinx, miscarriages of justice and courtroom battles are at the heart of the legal thriller. Authors Helen Fields, Kia Abdullah, Sarah Vaughn, and Steve Cavanagh are joining Rob Rinder to explore the world of the legal thriller.

15:30 – PANEL: Murder Most Joyful

From parish murders to kitchen killers, the sheer breadth of ‘cosy’ crime is astonishing. Antti Tuomainen, Elly Griffiths, Mark Billingham and Rev. Richard Coles will examine the success of the genre and its modern resurgence, chaired by S.J. Bennett. Nobody puts cosy in the corner.

17:00 – SPECIAL GUEST: Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver, author of the bestselling Lincoln Rhyme series, will make his return to the Festival in 2023 to talk about Hunting Time, the latest thriller featuring “reward-seeker” Colton Shaw, with Mark Lawson.

18:15 – Author Dinner

Crack the case with Richard Armitage, Alex MarwoodChristie J. Newport, D.V. Bishop, David Hewson, Emma Christie, Holly Seddon, James Oswald, Jude O’Reilly, Katy Watson, Lisa Gray, Olivia Kiernan, Sam Blake, Steph Broadbribb, Sue WatsonSusi Holliday, Tina Baker, and Stuart Neville in the second Author Dinner.

20:30 – SPECIAL GUEST: Lee Child & Andrew Child

Lee Child and Andrew Child will share their experiences of collaborating on the iconic Jack Reacher and what the process has taught them, with TV presenter Steph McGovern.

22:00 – Late Quiz Night

Val McDermid and Mark Billingham return as the ultimate Quizmasters for the crime fiction Late Night Quiz. 

Sunday 23rd July 

9:00 – PANEL: The Never Ending Golden Age

Agatha Christie continues to inspire crime writers the world over. Inventive puzzles, strong characters, and a Golden Age sensibility. Stig Abel will chair the discussion about why fascination with the Golden Age endures between Janice Hallett, Ragnar Jónasson, Clare Mackintosh, and Vaseem Khan.

10:30 – PANEL: When Sally Killed Harry

Domestic noir is now one of the biggest selling genres in publishing. C.L. Taylor, Claire Douglas, Louise Candlish, Shari Lapena and T.M. Logan, experts in writing about the darker side of love and friendship, will discuss dodgy husbands, scheming wives, murderous siblings.

12:00 – SPECIAL GUEST: Lucy Worsley

Historian and TV presenter Lucy Worsley will be revealing more about the life of the Queen of Crime and former resident of the Old Swan Hotel, Agatha Christie, in conversation with Natasha Knight.


That’s one heck of a line up don’t you think?

About Harrogate International Festivals

Harrogate International Festivals’ is a charitable organisation with a mission to present a diverse year-long programme of live events that bring immersive and moving cultural experiences to as many people as possible. Delivering artistic work of national importance, the Festival curates and produces over 300 unique and surprising performances each year, celebrating world-renowned artists and championing new and up-coming talent across music, literature, science, philosophy and psychology. The HIF+ ongoing education outreach programme engages schools, young people and the local community with workshops, talks, projects and inspiring activities, ensuring everyone can experience the Festival’s world class programme and the transformative power of the arts. Established in 1966, Harrogate International Festivals are an artistic force to be reckoned with and a key cultural provider for the North of England.

Find out more by visiting the website, or following them on Facebook, Twitter @HarrogateFest and Instagram.

About The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is Europe’s largest event dedicated to the celebration of crime fiction. Taking place annually over four days each July (20-23 July 2023) at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, the Festival programmes over 100 best-selling UK and international crime authors and over 30 events. It is delivered by the north of England’s leading arts festival organisation, Harrogate International Festivals.

The event features the prestigious Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.

Follow all the action through #theakstonscrime

About T & R Theakston Ltd

Title sponsor of the Festival since 2005, Theakston Old Peculier ale is produced by T & R Theakston Ltd. It is one of the country’s most famous and highly regarded traditional ale brewers.

Theakston was established in Masham, North Yorkshire in 1827 by Robert Theakston. After a brief period in the 1980s when the company was acquired by Scottish & Newcastle plc, the company has been back under family ownership since Autumn 2003. It now operates as an independent brewer producing five permanent brands in the Theakston range including the iconic Old Peculier – its best-known beer with a rich, dark flavour, celebrated by ale enthusiasts all over Britain and around the world. There’s more on the website.