Weather: A Guest post by Isaac Thorne, Author of Hell Spring

It’s a true frustration that I haven’t been able to squeeze in a review of Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne as I think it sounds magnificent. However, I am thrilled to share a guest post from Isaac to celebrate the book’s recent publication.

Hell Spring was released on 16th September and is available for purchase through the links here.

Hell Spring

In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.

An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.

Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?

Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?

Weather

A Guest Post by Isaac Thorne

The weather as an antagonist is something that has always fascinated me. Stephen King’s short story The Reach and the miniseries Storm of the Century both explore that a little. As do action thrill rides like the movies Twister and Hard Rain.

When I started writing my new novel Hell Spring during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, I decided to use severe thunderstorms and flash flooding as a tool of the  primary antagonist. I also chose to use the weather as the secondary antagonist because extreme weather is terrifying. Extreme weather complicit in monsters’ evil deeds is even more so.

Something about the helplessness of being stranded by an event over which you have no control drives me nuts. Although I am not a control freak, I am naturally a problem solver. I go mad if a solution is beyond my means. Or if all I can do is try to be patient until the problem resolves itself.

One problem we seem to have the least amount of control over in this world is the weather. And that can make it scary. Who hasn’t sat in the dark, wind howling and rain pounding outside while the house creaks and groans around them? Who at those times hasn’t felt a twinge of terror? Impending doom? It’s  worse when you can’t see what’s happening. When looking out the window into the storm reveals only a black void full of the wretched screams of insane nature.

On May 1, 2010 ,my Middle Tennessee homeland was devastated by what was at first labeled a100-year flood. Later that day, folks called it a 500-year flood. Still later, it becamea1,000-year flood. An estimated 21 people died from flooding caused by a training storm system that dumped bucket after bucket of heavy rain into swollen waterways. Nashville landmarks like the Grand Ole Opry were put out of business for a time thanks to flood damage. Most famously ,a steel temporary school building was recorded floating down Interstate 24 at Bell Road. Recovery from this disaster took years for many folks.

These days, extreme weather events seem to be daily events. I nearly wrote “normal” in that space, but there’s absolutely nothing “normal” about this weather. In the United States, extreme drought now precedes flooding similar to what Nashville and the rest of Middle Tennessee experienced in 2010. In Pakistan, an August severe flood has cost more than 1,000 lives as of this writing. The evening news and social media are rife with these stories regularly.

But back in 2010, Middle Tennessee residents were forced to launch social media campaigns directed at national news media to get them to pay attention to what was happening. Before that, cable news and other outlets were focused almost exclusively on the BP Deep Horizons oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was like no other information existed.

That lonely helplessness, those feelings of isolation and hopelessness provoked by natural disasters were what I relied upon entrap the citizens of the fictional town of Lost Hollow in their local general store on March 21, 1955. They think the weather is their primary antagonist. Meanwhile, an alluring stranger feeds on human guilt and shame among them. Not only are the neighbors trapped and made helpless by the storm, but they’re also trapped and made helpless against this other entity by their own perceived shortcomings.

The weather event in the novel is fictional. However, some of it was inspired by flooding accounts reported in the pages of The Tennessean newspaper’s March 22,1955 edition as well as a 1961 report on floods and flood control by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). A heavy storm coalesced west of the state on March 20,1955. It ended sometime in the early morning hours of March 22. While over the Midstate, the storm dumped rain from three to eleven inches over a 650-mile length and170-mile width of Tennessee. Flooding records were broken in several areas and nearly broken in others. In southern Middle Tennessee, only 1902 and 1948 rivaled the severity of the flood in the spring of 1955.

My research of the 1955 storm dovetailed with my 2010 experience, and the story from there took on a life of its own. At its heart, I think Hell Spring is a story about people and their hells, the darkness in them that others rarely see. The weather and the external antagonist force them to confront it.

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What a rich and terrifying source of writing inspiration Isaac. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Congratulations too on Hell Spring. I think it sounds brilliant.

About Isaac Thorne

Isaac Thorne is a Tennessee man who has, over the course of his life, developed a modest ability to spin a good yarn. Really. He promises. The screenplay adaptation of his short story Diggum from the collection Road Kills is the winner of several horror film festival awards. His previous novel, The Gordon Place, was a finalist in the 2020 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. The audiobook edition narrated by Sean Duregger won the 2020 Independent Audiobook Awards horror category.

You can find Isaac on Twitter @isaacrthorne, Facebook, and Instagram or find out more on Isaac’s website.

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh

How can it possibly be more than three years since I read a Clare Mackintosh book? Then I was reviewing After The End in a post you’ll find here. Prior to that I reviewed I Let You Go here.

Today, however, I’m sharing my reviewing of Clare’s latest book, The Last Party and I would like to extend my grateful thanks to Emma Finnigan for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Published by Sphere on 4th August 2022, The Last Party is available for purchase through these links.

The Last Party

INTRODUCING DC FFION MORGAN, IN THE UNMISSABLE NEW SERIES FROM #1 BESTSELLER CLARE MACKINTOSH

On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.

His lakeside holiday homes are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours. This will be the party to end all parties.

But not everyone is there to celebrate. By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.

On New Year’s Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects.

The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbours, friends and family – and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him.

In a village with this many secrets, a murder is just the beginning.

My Review of The Last Party

Rhys Lloyd is dead.

What an absolute belter of a story. I literally suspected almost every single character in this narrative of having murdered Rhys Lloyd at some point, except for DI Crouch!

The Last Party is superbly constructed and the way in which Clare Macintosh draws the threads of the story together is just brilliant. Of course, her twisty, fast paced technique makes it impossible to say anything about the plot for fear of spoilers for other readers. Let me simply say that I thought The Last Party was a brilliant story and the shifting time frames and perspectives make it a mesmerising narrative that is just fabulous.

I loved the characters too. What Clare Mackintosh does so well is to illustrate in her characters how no-one is perfect, how we all present personas that may not be the truth about who we really are or how we really feel, and how right and wrong can become blurred and inverted. Indeed, The Last Party made my head spin and my concept of morality shift on its axis.

I thought Rhys Lloyd was a triumph. The fact that any one of those around him had reason to want him dead should have made him thoroughly despicable and the more I discovered about him, the more glad I was that he’d been murdered! However, just at the point when Clare Macintosh makes her reader delighted such a man has been murdered, she provides just enough redemption for him to add depth and make the reader question their response. I absolutely loved this aspect of the story. It’s incredibly skilled manipulation of reader expectation.

I could not be happier than to learn that The Last Party is the first in a new series as Ffion Morgan is a rounded, flawed, addictive character about whom I need to know more. I felt her sense of belonging to the local community contrasted so intelligently with her difference from others in it making her thoroughly intriguing and compelling.

The themes underpinning The Last Party are profound. Whilst the story can be read as a highly addictive police investigation into a murder, it also explores identity and fame, family and relationships, various aspects of control and manipulation in a swirling maelstrom of engaging elements. Certainly I was thoroughly entertained by The Last Party, but I was equally moved by some of the relationships and revelations, and left contemplative too. I thought this was brilliant writing.

The Last Party is everything a reader wants in a thriller. It’s twisty, engrossing, and downright cracking entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed it and think everyone should read it.

About Clare Mackintosh

clare mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant and is the founder of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival. She now writes full time and lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

Clare’s debut novel, I Let You Go, was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It was selected for both the Richard and Judy Book Club (and was the winning title of the readers’ vote for the summer 2015 selection) and for ITV’s Loose Women’s Loose Books. It is a New York Times bestseller, with translation rights sold to more than 30 countries.

Her second psychological thriller, I See You, was a number 1 Sunday Times bestseller and Audible’s best selling psychological thriller in 2016. Translation rights have been sold to almost 30 countries.

Clare is the patron of the Silver Star Society, an Oxford-based charity which supports the work carried out in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s Silver Star unit, providing special care for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy.

There’s further information on Clare’s website. You’ll also find her on Facebook and can follow Clare on Instagram and Twitter @claremackint0sh.

Skip to the End by Molly James

My enormous thanks to Team Bookends and Quercus for sending me a copy of Skip to the End by Molly James in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Skip to the End is published by Quercus and is available for purchase in ebook and hardback here with paperback released on 22nd December 2022.

Skip to the End

Three kisses. Two break ups. One happy ending…

Amy Daniels has a pretty nice life. Her career is on the up, she loves her friends, and she’s about to buy her very own flat. On a good day, Amy could be described as a catch – so why is she perpetually single?

The trouble is, Amy can see something no one else can: the end. As soon as she kisses someone, she knows, in intimate, vivid detail, how their relationship will end. A screaming argument in the middle of the supermarket over milk. An explicit email sent to the wrong address. A hasty escape through a bathroom window on the second date. At the altar – runaway-bride style. There seems to be no end to the unhappy endings.

After years of trying, and failing, to change a pre-written future, Amy has given up. But then she drunkenly kisses three men at her best friend’s wedding and sees three possible endings: two painful, one perfect. The problem is, Amy can’t really remember who she kissed, and worse, what ending belongs to which person – the only thing she knows for certain is that she’s determined to find out…

This novel will have you swirling with first date butterflies, crying with laughter and finally, brimming with joy. The perfect summer read for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Mhairi McFarlane and Sophie Cousens.

My Review of Skip to the End

Amy is looking for The One.

What an absolute treat of a book. Skip to the End is, quite simply, pure unadulterated joy and I loved it.

As an aside, I think Skip to the End would make an ideal study for any aspiring writer of romantic fiction as well as being a wonderful read for lovers of the genre. Molly James achieves the perfect balance of wit and humour, depth and levity, romance and friendship making it absolutely sparkle with pleasurable elements. I finished Skip to the End feeling my life had been made happier by reading it.

The characters are wonderful. Obviously it is Amy, through her first person narrative, who is the most rounded and developed, but I thought every single one from the most minor, to the group of friends at the heart of the story, added something. In fact, whilst Skip to the End is light and entertaining, through the range of characters Molly James adds sufficient depth of theme to enhance reader satisfaction without slowing or marring the sheer pleasure of the narrative. Amy’s Mum, for example, illustrates how, despite her premonitions, the future is never entirely knowable and Jay’s flamboyant nature hides some profound understanding of human nature which is displayed through his perceptive comments to Amy.

The plot is smashing. Of course there will be a happy ending, and of course the reader grasps way before Amy with whom that happy ending will come about, but that just adds to the pleasure of the story because the journey getting to the denouement is charming, pacy, funny and brilliantly entertaining. In fact I finished reading Skip to the End with an enormous, contented sigh and a huge smile on my face. Molly James’ writing lifted my spirits, taught me a couple of things about how I might live my life, and washed away the cares of the world as I was reading. What could be better than that?

Skip to the End is sheer delight in book form. Don’t miss it.

About Molly James

A former magazine journalist, Molly James is the author of 12 escapist novels including multiple bestsellers. Excited to take her writing in a new direction, Molly now brings a twist of magical realism to her heart-based humour, creating worlds the reader will want to return to over and again…

For more information, find Molly on Instagram.

The Other Side of Night by Adam Hamdy

It was a real pleasure to be sent a set of Adam Hamdy’s The Other Side of Night to share with the U3A reading group to which I belong. My enormous thanks to the team at Pan Macmillan for sending them to us. They arrived in time for our July meeting when, in a change from our usual morning meeting, we went out for afternoon tea.

Not everyone has told me their thoughts yet, but there has been a range of comments from those who thought The Other Side of Night was wonderful to others who found it challenging because it doesn’t readily fit an identifiable genre. Sadly I was away on holiday for the last two meetings so it will be October before I hear everyone’s opinions. Today, however, I’m delighted to share my review.

The Other Side of Night is published by Pan Macmillan today 15th September 2022 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Other Side of Night

David Asha wants to tell you a story about three people:

Elliott Asha, his son, broken by a loss that will redeem him.

Ben Elmys, a surrogate father and David’s trusted friend, a man who might also be a murderer.

Harriet Kealty, a retired detective searching for answers to three mysterious deaths, while also investigating a man who might turn out to be the love of her life.

Every word David tells you is true, but you will think it fiction . . .

My Review of The Other Side of Night

David has a tale to tell.

I have no idea what I’ve just read. The Other Side of Night does not readily fit any specific genre, being part romance, part literary fiction, part mystery, part police procedural and part sci-fi. I think it’s one of those books that would reward multiple readings so that the full impact of meaning can be explored. The clues for this narrative are threaded throughout but the reader doesn’t know to look for them so that The Other Side of Night feels mysterious and incredibly thought provoking. As soon as I’d finished it, I immediately wanted to read it again because I found it very beguiling.

It’s impossible to say too much about the plot for fear of spoilers, and the reader needs to be immersed in the story fully to appreciate it because it has surprises throughout. At the risk of sounding bonkers, it felt to me as if The Other Side of Night was rather like a sliced loaf of bread. It doesn’t matter which slice you take, it’s still part of the same loaf but each slice is distinct! In my limited knowledge The Other Side of Night put me in mind of string theory, being equally mysterious and tricky to define and it is impossible to guess the outcomes, making for a very intriguing read.

I found the characters intense and almost claustrophobic. The cast is relatively small, creating an edgy atmosphere that I found quite disturbing. I didn’t warm to Harri and yet I was desperate to know how her story ended. I found Ben completely compelling, unsure if he was insane, murderous, innocent, maligned or a complete genius. He captivated me completely.

Interesting characters and compelling narrative aside, however, it is the themes of The Other Side of Night that make it such an affecting read. Adam Hamdy explores grief and identity, truth and right, choice and consequences in an innovative and intelligent manner that leaves the reader educated and wondering just how they may behave in similar circumstances. The Other Side of Night is one of those books that reverberates in the reader’s consciousness long after the final page is read. Indeed, some of Adam Hamdy’s writing is so poetic and beautiful that it entrances as it disturbs.

The Other Side of Night is fascinating, thought-provoking and surprisingly emotional. I think it might divide readers, but it will certainly create a lasting impression and leave them thinking about their own lives with both increased understanding and bewilderment. I think you should read The Other Side of Night for yourself to see if you can articulate thoughts about it more coherently than I can! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Adam Hamdy

British author and screenwriter Adam Hamdy works with studios and production companies on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the author of Black 13, a Scott Pearce novel, and the Pendulum trilogy, an epic series of conspiracy thriller novels. James Patterson described Pendulum as ‘one of the best thrillers of the year’, and the novel was a finalist for the Glass Bell Award for contemporary fiction. Pendulum was chosen as book of the month by Goldsboro Books and was selected for BBC Radio 2 Book Club. Prior to embarking on his writing career, Adam was a strategy consultant and advised global businesses in the medical systems, robotics, technology and financial services sectors.

For further information visit Adam’s website, follow him on Twitter @adamhamdy and find him on Instagram and Facebook.

The Long Road to Overnight Success! A Guest Post by Apple Gidley, Author of Have You Eaten Rice Today?

Can you believe it’s almost five years since lovely Apple Gidley last featured on Linda’s Book Bag? Then Apple was explaining how to find the right story in a guest post celebrating Fireburn here. Today Apple is back with a brilliant post about achieving success as her latest novel Have You Eaten Rice Today? is recently published. I would like to thank Apple too, for sending me a copy of Have You Eaten Rice Today? which I’m very much looking forward to reading.

Have You Eaten Rice Today? was published on 6th September by Vine Leaves Press and is available for purchase through the links here.

Have You Eaten Rice Today?

The Emergency rumbles through the jungle, the kampongs, and towns as the communist uprising in 1950’s Malaya adds poignancy to the salutation, ‘have you eaten rice today?’ when hunger drives some terrorists to surrender.

Simon Frampton returns to Malaya as a rubber planter after failing to settle into civilian life in England after the War. His knowledge of the jungle is again put to use when a war-time covert force is reformed and renamed, Ferret Force, made up of Malays, Chinese and Europeans.

Dee Cunningham, an Australian nurse longing to escape the confines of Townsville, Queensland, joins the British Red Cross to help set up and run rural clinics in Malaya.

The violence of guerrilla warfare becomes the backdrop to their love story, but miscommunication leads to sadness. It is not until sixty years later, when Simon’s grandson Max comes to stay at his Dorset farm, when he finds a box filled with envelopes with Australian stamps, and the truth comes to light.

Have You Eaten Rice Today? is a poignant exploration of Malaya’s violent history, merdeka, and how love is found in unexpected places.

The Long Road to Overnight Success!

A Guest Post by Apple Gidley

Do you ever put down a book and sigh? I do. Regularly. The satisfaction of words that have taken you long past bedtime. Although I am fickle. Each book read that I like levitates the author to the number one spot. Until the next book. I should show greater empathy because I am a writer.

Writing is a solitary role that demands self-discipline and a healthy dose of optimism to chase away the doubts. Which is why, for me, Mondays at 10 are sacrosanct. It is when The Writers’ Circle of St Croix meet to critique and cheer on their fellow scribes. We are a diverse group with eclectic works in progress but all with the goal of seeing our books in print.

And therein lies the conundrum. Which route to take?

Self-publishing, hybrid, or traditional. I’ve tried them all.

The first, self-publishing, allows total autonomy and is the fastest and relatively inexpensive route to publication. It does though, in some ways, require the greatest self-discipline. Every book, needs to be edited, but with possible monetary constraints it is tempting to scrimp on cover design and more than one edit. There is little more off-putting for a reader than to find misspelled words or incorrect grammar, even if it’s a cracking story.

Hybrid publishing, wherein, depending on the contract, costs are shared between the author and the publisher can be expensive. It is a gentle way to learn the importance of the aforementioned editing, cover design and marketing. Due diligence is required in finding the right hybrid publisher as there are charlatans lurking behind many glowing promises.

Lag time is the biggest drawback with traditional publishing. Once a book is written authors want to get books to readers.

Finding an agent can take six months or more, and there is no guarantee your manuscript will not fall into a publishing abyss. If the work is picked up by either an agent and / or publisher the lapse between submission and response can seem interminable. The upside is the knowledge pool of not just the industry but the people in it. However, another eighteen months can easily be lost as a manuscript goes through numerous edits, cover design, and my biggest bugbear, marketing. With only four major publishing houses, albeit with numerous imprints, a level of autonomy is lost for the writer.

I am inordinately fortunate to have been signed on by an independent publishing house, Vine Leaves Press, wherein the author’s voice is heard, whilst still being open to advice and accepting they know the business. I feel I now have the best of all worlds in that a small indie press allows personal involvement, not only throughout the publishing process, but also with the stable of writers.

Writers are in many ways an insecure bunch. Not surprising when one considers the number of rejections we go through in our early writing days. On the days when I ask myself, “Who do you think you are to presume you can write?”, I make a cup of tea, or walk the dog, or do some weeding and remember an interview from 1990 in which Terry Wogan asked Rosamunde Pilcher, author of The Shell Seekers, about her overnight success. She replied “I’m an overnight success who only took forty-five years to make it.”

What writers need to remember, on those lonely days, is that someone, somewhere, is reading your words way past lights out. That ‘overnight’ is a relative term that can stretch through both hours and years.

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I think those are wise words indeed Apple. I’m sure many aspiring and established authors will be able to relate to them completely. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

About Apple Gidley

A transient life has seen Anglo-Australian Apple Gidley live in countries as diverse as Trinidad and Thailand, Nigeria and the Netherlands, and another eight in between. St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands is home, for now. Her roles have been varied-editor, intercultural trainer for multinational corporations, British Honorary Consul to Equatorial Guinea, amongst others. Gidley started writing in 2010 and is now working on a contemporary novel whilst researching for two more historical fiction books. She has short stories in anthologies, and also writes a regular blog, A Broad View.

You can find out more about Apple on her website and by finding her on Facebook or following her on Instagram and  Twitter @ExpatApple.

An Extract from The Last Girl to Die by Helen Fields

It’s ridiculous that it’s five years sine the fantastic Helen Fields appeared on Linda’s Book Bag with a superb guest post to tie in with Perfect Prey that you can read here. I’m delighted to correct that by sharing an extract from Helen’s latest book, The Last Girl to Die, as part of the blog tour. My enormous thanks to Olivia Collier at Midas PR for inviting me to participate. I’m thrilled that I have The Last Girl to Die on my TBR too.

Published by Avon Books on 1st September 2022, The Last Girl to Die is available for purchase through the links here.

The Last Girl to Die

A stunner! I guarantee you’ll put everything on hold until you arrive at the shocking final scenes. Without a doubt, one of the best crime novels of the year!’ – No.1 international bestseller Jeffery Deaver

In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.

Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.

The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?

An Extract from The Last Girl to Die

Humans and animals share a remarkable number of traits. They have the capacity to parent well, but sometimes they just up and leave. They can be kind, not only to their own species, but to others. They know fear, but they can be courageous. They experience both pleasure and pain. Animals grieve just as people grieve. They squabble and play for power. Some can be cruel. Cats play for hours with half-dead mice, tigers kill for sport, humans kill for sexual pleasure and dominance.

Hypocrisy, though, is an exclusively human trait.

The day Adriana Clark arrived in Tobermory, a line of teenage girls sat along a harbour bench and declared her showy and pretentious as they clutched their fake designer bags, their makeup copied from online tutorials, so much applied that it was a challenge to see bare skin. They said she loved herself, as they tossed their hair and watched passersby for any sign of admiring glances. They said she thought she was something really special, as they ignored the square girls, the ugly girls, the not-so-skinny girls who walked on by. They said they bet Adriana was a right bitch.

The Blether was no more of a sanctuary. Young men muttered to girlfriends that the new barmaid was a cold fish after they’d spent time trying to catch her eye while ordering a pint. Older men whispered to their wives that Adriana was sure to be trouble, as they waited for the long darkness of night to imagine themselves next to her warm, youthful body. Women welcomed her to their isle, to her new job, to the community, even as they wished she hadn’t come, knowing their partner’s eye had strayed. Older women muttered and tutted to themselves about Americans, remembering the war, all the while wishing they’d had a chance to travel and explore new shores.

Visitors came and went, leaving a trail of destruction along with much-needed money. They patronised the islanders, consigned them to the murky depths of parochialism. Drove too fast on narrow roads, left too much rubbish, trod down tender plants. But they bought mementos and guidebooks. Paid for meals at the pubs and overnight stays at guest houses. Treated the island like a plaything, then moved on.

Perhaps that was why the foreigners had not been entirely welcomed. They had yet to prove their permanency, to show they’d come with the right attitude to island life.

The priest, Father Christophe – himself a relative newcomer in island terms – had issued requests for the Clarks to be welcomed. If he’d taken the opportunity to tell the odd tale about how he’d found Americans to be morally wanting in the past, so what? If he’d made Adriana feel uncomfortable about the length of her skirt, or the tightness of her top, in the course of a discussion in the confessional, wasn’t he just doing his duty to God and the community?

Harris Eggo, the island’s most senior police officer, longed for more. To have risen through the ranks in one of Scotland’s cities, with crimes to solve that were so much more than joyriding, drunk driving, petty theft and closing-time violence. Yet here he was, wishing Adriana’s death had fallen at the feet of some other policeman. As much as the Major InvestigationTeam was overseeing the case from their comfortable mainland station, he was left with the dirty end of it. The suspicion, the anger and the rising froth of vigilantism. Here it was, his chance to shine, and all he wanted was to turn out the light and go back to bed.

The island watched and wept.

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Oo. I am SO pleased I have The Last Girl to Die on my TBR!

About Helen Fields

Helen fields

Helen Fields’ first love was drama and music. From a very young age she spent all her free time acting and singing until law captured her attention as a career path. She studied law at the University of East Anglia, then went on to the Inns of Court School of Law in London.

After completing her pupillage, she joined chambers in Middle Temple where she practised criminal and family law for thirteen years. Undertaking cases that ranged from Children Act proceedings and domestic violence injunctions, to large scale drug importation and murder, Helen spent years working with the police, CPS, Social Services, expert witnesses and in Courts Martials.

After her second child was born, Helen left the Bar. Together with her husband David, she went on to run Wailing Banshee Ltd, a film production company, acting as script writer and producer.

Helen self-published two fantasy books as a way of testing herself and her writing abilities. She enjoyed the creative process so much that she began writing in a much more disciplined way, and decided to move into the traditional publishing arena through an agent.

Perfect Remains is set in Scotland, where Helen feels most at one with the world. Edinburgh and San Francisco are her two favourite cities, and she travels whenever she can.

Beyond writing, she has a passion for theatre and cinema, often boring friends and family with lengthy reviews and critiques. Taking her cue from her children, she has recently taken up karate and indoor sky diving. Helen and her husband now live in Hampshire with their three children and two dogs.

You can follow Helen on Twitter @Helen_Fields. Visit Helen’s website for further information and find her on Instagram and Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

One Last Gift by Emily Stone

Having been privileged to help reveal the cover to Emily Stone’s second novel One Last Gift back in July I am delighted to share my review of the book too today. Emily’s debut Always, in December which I reviewed here was my outright Book of the Year in 2021, so when Emily got in touch to ask if I’d mind having a character named after me in One Last Gift I was beside myself with excitement. There was also a little trepidation – what if I didn’t like the Linda Hill in One Last Gift or I didn’t like the book? I needn’t have worried!

I think I owe thanks to Sherise Hobbs at Headline for sending me a copy of One Last Gift in return for an honest review.

Already available in ebook, One Last Gift will be published in paperback by Headline Review on 13th October 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

One Last Gift

For as long as Cassie can remember, it had been the three of them: Cassie, her big brother Tom, and Tom’s annoying best friend Sam.

Now, Tom is sorted, Sam is flying high, and Cassie thinks she’s figured it all out. Then tragedy happens and three becomes two.

For Cassie picking herself up seems unimaginable. Until she finds an envelope addressed to her, asking her to follow the trail to one last gift…

And suddenly what seems like an ending leads Cassie to something unexpected, beautiful and new…

Take a heartwrenching and uplifting romantic journey, from London to the Hamptons to the south of France and the Welsh mountains, with the author of Always, in December.

My Review of One Last Gift

Cassie is on a treasure hunt.

Oh my poor battered heart. I’m beginning to think Emily Stone may just be the most outstanding writer of this kind of fiction around. Her debut Always, in December was my favourite read of 2021 and so One Last Gift had an awful lot to live up to. It surpassed every expectation I had. I could NOT have adored it more, even if it did reduce me to a blubbering, sobbing wreck.

The quality of Emily Stone’s writing is just lovely. It seems luminescent with emotion and her ability to convey passion, both literal and metaphorical, love and fear in all their forms, and grief, feels almost beyond comprehension. It’s not as if you’re reading about Cassie and the others, but more that you’re experiencing every moment of their feelings with them. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that whilst One Last Gift is romantic, uplifting and entertaining, it actually feels profoundly cathartic too. There’s real, insightful, human understanding in Emily Stone’s narrative.

The characters are so appealing because they are layered and multi-dimensional. Every one has flaws, strengths and weaknesses. Just as in real life, they can behave generously and selfishly with both rash and considered responses and actions, so that they feel totally authentic and true. I think the most moving aspect of the characterisation is that Emily Stone explores how grief can affect us individually and she illustrates perfectly that there is no correct way to grieve.

I loved the plot of One Last Gift because it held me completely captivated with the ups and downs of Cassie’s life. That said, I had to take short breaks from reading to let my heart recover from what was happening before I could bear to read on. I think it speaks volumes that I lay awake at night worrying about the characters – Cassie and Sam in particular – and wondering what was happening to them whilst I wasn’t reading. I may have finished reading One Last Gift, but I have a feeling the people within the story, including Linda Hill, will remain with me for a considerable time.

One Last Gift is truly wonderful. It’s written with compassion, skill and a true sense of love. I adored it without reservation. I’d defy any reader to finish the story and remain unmoved by it. I totally, absolutely, loved it and I won’t forget it. Make sure you read it too.

About Emily Stone

Emily Stone lives and works in Chepstow and wrote Always, in December in an old Victorian manor house with an impressive literary heritage. Her debut novel was partly inspired by the death of her mother, when Emily was seven, and wanting to write something that reflected the fact that you carry this grief into adulthood, long after you supposedly move on from the event itself.

For more information, follow Emily on Twitter @EmStoneWrites. You’ll also find Emily on Instagram.

The Mortification of Grace Wheeler by Colette Dartford

Today I’m delighted to share details of another of my online reviews with My Weekly and this time it’s of the wonderful The Mortification of Grace Wheeler by Colette Dartford.

Published by White Fox on 18th August 2022, The Mortification of Grace Wheeler is available for purchase here.

The Mortification of Grace Wheeler

Faced with an empty nest when her only child goes to university, the flaws in Grace’s marriage are sharply exposed. Finding excuses to escape the taut atmosphere at home, she is drawn into an affair that ignites a mid-life sexual awakening.

But when her secret is discovered there is a terrible price to pay, and Grace is not the only one who pays it.

A compelling and emotional read, The Mortification of Grace Wheeler shines a spotlight on a marriage in crisis, the challenges of being a middle-aged woman, and the fear that your best years are behind you.

My Review of The Mortification of Grace Wheeler

My full review of The Mortification of Grace Wheeler can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, what I can say here is that The Mortification of Grace Wheeler is an astonishingly vivid portrait of a middle-aged woman’s life that I won’t find easy to forget. I absolutely loved it.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Colette Dartford

Colette Dartford writes contemporary fiction with compelling emotional themes. Her debut novel, Learning to Speak American, was shortlisted for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and published by Bonnier Zaffre. Her second novel, An Unsuitable Marriage, was a Kindle bestseller for over 18 months. In addition to her novels, Colette has had award-winning Flash fiction, short stories and poetry, published in popular magazines and anthologies. The Mortification of Grace Wheeler is her third novel. Colette lives in Bath with her husband and a very demanding labradoodle.

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

Staying in with Anya Wylde

I’m disappearing for a few days but before I go I just have time to welcome Anya Wylde to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me and tell me about her latest book. Let’s find out what Anya has to say:

Staying in with Anya Wylde

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Anya. Thank you for staying in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Hello, Linda. I have brought along Meara since it’s the latest book I have written, and I would love to share it with your readers.

What can we expect from an evening in with Meara?

Meara is a humorous romantic fantasy. It’s about a sweet, eighteen-year-old girl who loves baking and cooking when she finds herself thrown in the middle of a chaotic war of the realms. The eastern gods are battling the western ones for supremacy, while her only desire is to keep her little sister safe and away from the drama.

Hopefully, the readers will immerse themselves in her world and forget about the daily grind.

That sounds very entertaining! I don’t read much fantasy but I’m fond of romance and humour so I think I’ll have to add Meara to my towering TBR!

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

I have brought along a lot of things. A song called the River Flows in You since it is a favourite of Meara’s. Chocolates because why not? Peonies, cushions, cosy blanket, coffee, and a poodle. Everything that brings me joy.

I was with you all the way until you got to coffee! Can’t drink it. And I’m more cats than dogs but as this is your evening I’ll let you off. Thank you for staying in with me to chat about Meara. You put the kettle on and I’ll give readers a few more details:

Meara

Meara lives an ordinary life with her eccentric grandmother and three siblings in a small Georgian house in Dublin. On her eighteenth birthday, her little sister is kidnapped by an incredibly powerful man, and her entire world turns upside down.

A whisper of someone like her being born has been discussed for aeons by the gods. The question is, who is she, and where is she?

Meara lives an ordinary life with her eccentric grandmother and three siblings in a small Georgian house in Dublin. On her eighteenth birthday, her little sister is kidnapped by an incredibly powerful man, and her entire world turns upside down.

Long hidden family secrets tumble out, and supernatural beings suddenly surround her. However, she thinks she is a side character, the hero’s friend and the heroine’s sister. After all, her nature is more girl-next-door than a tortured soul with ninja fighting skills.

Her only desire is to get her sister back and keep her safe but to do so, she must battle dangerous beings and reign in her treacherous heart, which has begun to beat for her family’s sworn enemy, a gorgeous demigod.

Meara is available for purchase here.

About Anya Wylde

Anya Wylde lives in Ireland along with her husband and a fat French poodle (now on a diet). She can cook a mean curry, and her idea of exercise is occasionally stretching her toes. She holds a degree in English literature and adores reading and writing.

For more information, visit Anya’s website, find her on Instagram and Facebook or follow her on Twitter @Anyawylde.

Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman by Elizabeth Train-Brown

It’s always good to discover new to me authors and my thanks go to Will Dady of Renard Press for sending me a copy of Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman by Elizabeth Train-Brown in return for an honest review and for inviting me onto the blog tour. I’m delighted to share my review of Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman today.

Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman was published by Renard press on 31st August 2022 and is available for purchase here.

Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman

As recounted by the Roman poet Ovid, a young nymph, Salmacis, one day spied Hermaphroditus bathing; consumed with passion, she entered the water and, begging the gods to allow them to stay together, the two became one – part man, part woman.

An Eclectic Pagan, for Elizabeth Ovid’s fables are more than fiction, and form a framework for exploring identity. Drawing on the rich mythological history associated with the tale of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, and re-examining the tale through the lens of metaphor, Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman is a stirringly relatable and powerful exploration of gender, love and identity.

this is my lake salmacis, and i am the wild nymph

with a hollow in her belly and nothing between her legs

My Review of Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman

A slim volume of 25 poems.

Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman is an intriguing and often visceral collection that challenges reader perceptions and leaves them thinking long after they’ve read the words.

I found Elizabeth Train-Brown’s language powerful and quite violent with several references to red, blood, screaming and difficult physical experiences so that the raging against patriarchal control as in gods, monsters and complex ptsd, is felt almost physically by the reader. I also discovered on my second reading of the anthology that these works feel even more passionate when they are read aloud.

It was fascinating that there is only one upper case letter in the entire collecting in the very last entry and that it is for ‘Being’, because I thought Salmacis was entirely about being. About being who we are expected or forced to be. About being who or what others expect of us, about being afraid, enraged and lost, and about being ourselves. What Elizabeth Train-Brown does is to make the reader question accepted norms and how the readers perceive themselves, and others around them, with images of blood, moons, seas and the natural world, from mythology from gods to selfies, and cutting, bleeding and knives. Indeed, Salmacis is not an easy read because although there are tender moments, much feels disturbing and and almost displacing.

That displacement is also conveyed by the physical appearance of the poetry, where white space shows hesitation or thought and the lack of full stops in 3 a.m. voice notes in snapchat, for example, illustrates to perfection the very stream of consciousness, the unstoppable flow of poetic ideas, that the author is describing. I loved the gaps in writing is easy as breathing because they show the poet’s own hesitation, they surprise the reader when the line is completed and they engage the reader completely, giving sufficient pause for them to supply their own suggestion mentally before finding what has actually been written. This creates a feeling of connection between poet and reader.

Salmacis is challenging, thought provoking and elusive. I have no idea whether my interpretation matches the writer’s intention and that, for me, makes the collection all the more intriguing. Read Salmacis for yourself to see if you agree. I can guarantee you won’t be left unmoved or unaffected!

About Elizabeth Train-Brown

Elizabeth Train-Brown is a poet and writer whose work has been published internationally in various anthologies and journals. Their journalism on discrimination, asexuality, transgender issues and polyamory has also received widespread recognition. Outside of writing, Elizabeth follows in her parents’ footsteps as a circus performer and fortune teller. Salmacis is their first collection.

For more information follow Elizabeth on Twitter @BethTrainBrown or Instagram.

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