The Bins of Cotteridge Down by Peta Lemon

Bins cover

I’ve been lucky enough to read and review two previous children’s books by Peta Lemon so I was delighted when she sent me her latest, The Bins of Cotteridge Down, in return for an honest review.

You’ll find my review of Timmy on the Toilet here and The Fed-Up Cow here.

Published by Quirky Picture Press on 23rd November 2018, The Bins of Cotteridge Down is available for purchase here.

The Bins of Cotteridge Down

Bins cover

In a corner of England lies an old town.
A curious place – it’s called Cotteridge Down.
Cotteridge Down was not at all clean.
But the smelliest, filthiest place ever seen.
Festering rubbish is left on the ground.
Cruddy old carpets and boots lay around.
The smell is revolting! Too much too bear.
Even the rats packed and left in despair.
Fed-up and cross with the state of the place.
An empty street bin says, “What a disgrace!
Right, that’s it, enough is enough.
Now it is time for the bins to get tough!”

Join the Bins of Cotteridge Down as they teach the litter bugs a lesson and carry out the greatest cleaning expedition ever known!

Can the bins save Cotteridge Down before it is too late?

And will they get a Royal seal of approval?

The Bins of Cotteridge Down is the third rhyming picture book by Peta Lemon and Maria Dasic Todoric. With hilarious illustrations and an important message about respecting the environment, it will have to be read again and again!

My Review of The Bins of Cotteridge Down

Cotteridge Down is a gleaming place to live. But it wasn’t always like that!

Having previously reviewed two of Peta Lemon’s brilliant books for children, Timmy on the Toilet and The Fed-Up Cow it’s difficult to say something new and original about The Bins of Cotteridge Down as it is just a wonderful as the other two with fabulous illustrations, a cracking story and super language use.

Maria Dasic Todoric’s illustrations exemplify the text with perfection. I can imagine teachers or parents returning to The Bins of Cotteridge Down time after time because there’s so much to look at, enjoy and discuss. Children might spot the different animals or investigate the different countries on the globe as those around the world see what has happened to create Cotteridge Down into the place it has become.

Once again, Peta Lemon’s language use works so well thorough a seemingly effortless rhyme scheme. She provides numerous opportunities to develop literacy through that rhyme scheme and rhythms of the writing, also extending children’s vocabulary with words and phrases such as ‘swerving’ and ‘despair’ or ‘hatched a plan’. There’s such a fabulous plot as the bins take control of the rubbish and the people of Cotteridge Down. I love the humour that underpins the story too.

Most outstanding for me, however, is the powerful environmental message behind The Bins of Cotteridge Down. If we are to save the planet, we need our children to have an understanding of how their actions and those of their communities affect the places we live. When even the rats are so fed up with the mess they have to leave then something has to be done! Peta Lemon covers so many environmental concepts from discarded chewing gum to litter, dog mess to fly-tipping with such vitality and entertainment that the message is conveyed and absorbed naturally and effectively. The Bins of Cotteridge Down would encourage primary aged children to take a real pride in their environment and make them realise how their own small actions contribute to a wider effect. Sheer genius.

I think The Bins of Cotteridge Down is a sensational book for children that would enhance any home or classroom.

About Peta Lemon


Peta Lemon is the author of beautifully illustrated children’s picture books, published under the imprint Quirky Picture Press.

Her books are always funny, written in rhyme and illustrated by Maria Dasic Todoric.

You can find Peta on Facebook.

Staying in with Špela Kranjec

notice me

I feature all kinds of books here on Linda’s Book Bag for many different reasons. Today I think Špela Kranjec has brought along a very important book as we stay in together this evening.

Staying in with Špela Kranjec

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

Thanks for the invitation! I read quite a few of your “Staying in with…” articles, and I’m honored to take part.

You’re very welcome. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

notice me

Of course, I brought my own book, NOTICE ME: My 9-Year Struggle against Anorexia. It tells the story of my 9-year struggle with anorexia, which, of course, I overcame.

(I’m so pleased to hear you managed that Špela. I’ve taught many youngsters who’ve battled hard against anorexia.)

During these nine years, I experienced feelings that were anything but pleasant, and behaved in a way that I would never ever consider if I was healthy. I would never wish anyone to go through what I have. But, as I did go through this and I can’t erase it, I can now do everything I can to help others start their fight with a bit more knowledge and advice, so that they can overcome anorexia more easily and quickly. And I think a book is the right way – it will, hopefully, be available around the world, for anyone to read it.

(I hope so too. It’s such an important subject and I know those with anorexia often feel very isolated and alone.)

What can we expect from an evening in with NOTICE ME:My 9-Year Struggle against Anorexia?


Of course, you can expect a touching story, written by a simple girl who had decided not to give up on her life, and climbed back up from my lowest point in life.

Anyone who is fighting a battle against anorexia can identify with me, find themselves in my story, realizing that they are not alone. This will help give them the boost for this very difficult and long fight, which they might not even want at the moment. Through my story, I let the reader know that it is worth fighting, that there are still good times to be had, even though it might not look like it. I know it’s easier to listen to someone who was in a situation similar to yours. You’re never sure with other people – are they only saying things because they want to change you in some way? So you’re constantly questioning if they’re even right. Also, it is very easy to be a smartass about something you never experienced. Simply put, I can say without a doubt that someone who has not experienced an eating disorder cannot know how such a person feels, as a person with anorexia will experience some new and unusual feelings that are better left unknown.

( I quite agree! Although I’ve never experienced it first hand I have seen the struggles in others.)

That’s why my book is not intended only for those with eating disorders. With this book, I hope to describe the life of someone suffering from anorexia to those fortunate and healthy. I believe this will help them imagine this particular situation, and consequently make it easier for them to offer help. Help and support are so very important for people suffering from anorexia!

(I think I would have found this really helpful when I was teaching Špela.)

So you can expect to find a whole range of feelings, empathy and reliving, thinking and soul-searching, as well as practical advice in solutions that will hopefully help you solve your problems.

(It sounds incredibly helpful to all of us.)

What else have you brought along and why? 


On this occasion, I brought a delicious sandwich, filled with cheese, ham and crispy lettuce! I can’t help myself, but every time I read my book, write an article on anorexia, work on a project related to my book, or just talk about eating disorders, all the memories from the past come rushing back, and my body wants food. As if it’s trying to make sure anorexia never comes back. I’ve already joked about this – I really shouldn’t write too many articles, as I’d be constantly eating. 🙂 That’s why I’m having this sandwich today, and I intend to enjoy it immensely! I won’t think about its calories. I won’t think about the fact that bread might be unhealthy. I won’t be thinking about miles I need to run to burn all the calories in this sandwich. I will only enjoy its taste, and eat it with as much gusto as if I were eating my last sandwich! And I believe you can all join me and enjoy a sandwich! Let this sandwich be a symbol of victory over anorexia and the beginning of a new chapter in life.

P.S.: Don’t forget about a piece of chocolate! 🙂

Let’s tuck in Špela! Thanks so much for sharing your story and your book with us. I hope NOTICE ME:My 9-Year Struggle against Anorexia is a real success and helps as many readers as possible.

NOTICE ME:My 9-Year Struggle against Anorexia

notice me

With her brother, Špela started the project NOTICE ME: My 9-Year Struggle against Anorexia, which will be launched on Kickstarter in December. Support them and help Špela make her dream come true by clicking here.

NOTICE ME: My 9-Year Struggle against Anorexia is being funded on Kickstarter and if you would like to back it please click here.

About Špela Kranjec


Employed as an economist in a fashion store, but a nutrition advisor by education. She chose this field of study because of her desire to help others. She is also a passionate mountain climber. Špela is a 26-year-old girl with a difficult life experience, which led her to write a book.

She says that her experience had made her the person she is today. And even though it was difficult, she is now proud to say that she managed to overcome something terrible, ultimately becoming a strong and stable person, trying to do some good in this world.

You can find ŠpelaKranjec on Facebook and Instagram, visit her website and follow her on Twitter @BookSpela.

A Winter Beneath the Stars by Jo Thomas

A winter beneath the stars

I adore Jo Thomas’s writing and when a surprise copy of A Winter Beneath the Stars arrived from Bookends I was so excited and immediately bumped it up my 900+ TBR .

You can read my reviews of Jo’s Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard hereThe Olive Branch here and Late Summer in the Vineyard here. I also have a smashing post about Jo’s top 5 holiday destinations that you can read here.

Published by Headline Review, A Winter Beneath the Stars is available for purchase here.

A Winter Beneath the Stars

A winter beneath the stars

Halley has been running from her problems for years.

On a courier trip to Tallfors, deep in Swedish Lapland, everything is going to plan. Halley has her bag, with two precious wedding rings inside for delivery… until she doesn’t.

The only way to save the wedding is to team up with mysterious reindeer herder Bjorn, the one person who can lead her across the snowy tundra to be reunited with her bag.

On a journey of a lifetime beneath the stars, with only the reindeer and a bad-tempered stranger for company beside the fire, Halley realises that she will need to confront her past heartaches in order to let the warmth of love in once more…

My Review of A Winter Beneath the Stars

Halley has a package to deliver but not all goes according to plan.

Now, I have to admit that I am so used to warm Mediterranean settings from Jo Thomas that I approached A Winter Beneath the Stars with trepidation. I shouldn’t have worried. All the glorious trademark descriptions, especially of food, are present so that I felt as much as if I were returning home to a place I knew well in Jo Thomas’ writing as Halley does in her quest across the snow. I did have to accept that Halley would travel with a complete stranger in difficult conditions when I’m not sure I would have done, but I found Jo Thomas persuaded me completely. I believed in the narrative without question.

A Winter Beneath the Stars is a lovely, lovely read. I was utterly transported to a winter wonderland and all the references to the dogs, reindeer, snow, stars and Northern Lights brought memories of my own experiences of them in Lapland rushing back because the writing was so realistic and evocative.

Not only was I transported by location, but Jo Thomas managed to place me emotionally right inside the hearts of Bjorn and Halley so that I felt every one of their hopes and fears with them. It takes enormous skill to hold a reader’s attention with just two characters for much of the time, with Lars and the wedding party as supporting cast, and I was entranced throughout. I was desperate for a happy ending for them all because I cared about them as real people.

However, I have to say that I was incredibly affected by the themes woven throughout this fabulous story. I felt the gradual uncovering of Halley’s motives for all her travel and Bjorn’s need to rediscover a more simple way of life resonated through to my very soul. This may be a relatively lighthearted read, not intended to profound introspection, but I found A Winter Beneath the Stars touched me and I can’t stop thinking about it.

I loved A Winter Beneath the Stars. It’s romantic and engaging and just perfect for winter reading.

About Jo Thomas

jo thomas

Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.

You can visit Jo’s website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @jo_thomas01.

Staying in with Sandra Danby

Connectedness by Sandra Danby

It has given me enormous pleasure this year to stay in with a range of authors I would never have otherwise ‘met’ and I’m delighted today that another new to me author, Sandra Danby, has agreed to stay in and tell me about one of her books.

Staying in with Sandra Danby

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

It’s a pleasure, Linda.

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

Connectedness by Sandra Danby

I’ve brought my latest book, Connectedness. Published earlier this year, it’s the second in the Identity Detective series. It will appeal to fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore with its mixture of Family, Suspense, Secrets and a touch of Romance.

(With some of my favourite authors there, you’ve piqued my interest immediately Sandra!)

A new reviewer said, “I think the characters came off as so realistic, I couldn’t not like it! I also think the cover is going to draw people in like hotcakes, it’s brilliant! Anyway, great plot and writing, it’s sure to be a hit!” The exclamation marks are hers, not mine!

(How brilliant. I’m sure you must be thrilled with that response. I love the cover too.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Connectedness?

In the first book in the series, Ignoring Gravity, journalist Rose Haldane searched for answers about her own adoption as a one-day old baby. Now she turns detective to help artist Justine Tree. It’s the first time Rose has been employed to solve an adoption mystery and she is nervous about getting it right. But as each day passes, she feels further away from finding Justine’s missing daughter and starts to wonder if Justine really does want her to succeed. The novel explores the concept of whether telling a lie to protect a loved one is a good idea, both Justine and Rose struggle with this. There’s a love story in Spain – Justine’s story is set partly in 1980s Málaga where she went to art college – intertwined with her modern day story as an internationally successful artist [think Tracey Emin without the unmade bed] where a scandal could endanger her career. I loved writing about Justine and the art world, I discovered a love of art previously unexplored; I just wish I was less ham-fisted with a paintbrush. So, there are lots of twists, love and betrayal, sadness and ultimately hope. I’ve just realized I haven’t mentioned the Yorkshire connection, my homeland and so it seemed natural for Justine to be a Yorkshire woman too.

(Oh. I do love the sound of this series Sandra. I’m devoting next year to reading and reviewing so I think my enormous TBR may just need to increase!)

What else have you brought along and why? 

shortbread fan & fingers - photo @SandraDanby

Biscuits play an important role in the story, appearing in Justine’s Yorkshire childhood and her art studio in London. They trigger memories and provide moments of bonding between Rose and Justine at sticky moments. One reader told me she read the book longing for a packet of shortbread biscuits! So I tonight I have an assortment of the key biscuits… assorted shortbread fans and fingers, fig rolls, Garibaldis, custard creams, Ginger Nuts and chocolate Hob-Nobs. Justine’s favourite biscuit is a shortbread fan… and it’s mine too, with a large mug of strong Yorkshire Tea.

Connectedness by Sandra Danby - biscuits

Now you really are my kind of guest Sandra. It’s always tea time in the Hill household and I am somewhat addicted to all those biscuits but shortbread is one of especial favourites. I’ll have to ask you back again. Thanks so much for staying in with me and telling me all about Connectedness. It sounds my kind of read.


Connectedness by Sandra Danby


Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.

 Connectedness is available for purchase here.

 About the ‘Identity Detective’ series


Rose Haldane reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases.The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz.

 About Sandra Danby

sandra d

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.

You can find out more about Sandra by visiting her website, following her on Twitter @SandraDanby and finding her on Goodreads, Pinterest and Facebook.

Nici’s Christmas Tale by Jean Gill

Nici's Christmas Tale Cover

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour for Nici’s Christmas Tale by Jean Gill. I haven’t been accepting blog tour request for a while but I couldn’t resist this one!

Published by The 13th Sign on 30th November Nici’s Christmas Tale is available for purchase here.

Nici’s Christmas Tale

Nici's Christmas Tale Cover

A stand-alone short story in the multi-award-winning Troubadours Quartet series
1157: Aquitaine. The wolves are coming! 

At midnight on Christmas Eve, while the blizzard blasts snow through every crack in the castle walls, Nici the Shepherd’s Dog stands guard in the sheepfold.

Beside him as usual are his pack and the flock they protect but this night is not usual at all. A small boy braves the snowy night, seeking the protection of his great friend while he is banned from his parents’ quarters in the castle. 

Nici recalls other times and other dangers, his trials and failures, the reasons why he ran away with a young girl, now the little boy’s mother. He would still give his life in a heartbeat for Lady Estela. And yet, on this snowy night, he cannot help her. So, while he waits and comforts Estela’s son, he tells his own puppies the story of a dog’s life.

My Review of Nici’s Christmas Tale

On a cold wintry evening the puppies want a story from Nici.

I’m astounded by Nici’s Christmas Tale because although it is a short story, it packs an enormous punch and contains everything a full sized epic novel might contain. Jean Gill is an incredibly skilled writer and I’m only sorry I haven’t encountered her work before.

Nici’s Christmas Tale is resonant of the great traditions of storytelling and I found myself likening Nici to the troubadours of old. There’s peril, affection, loyalty, love, crime and evil woven into a narrative that I found entrancing. I devoured this narrative in a single sitting, not because it is a short story, but because I was captivated.

Nici is such a clear character. His voice reverberated in my head until I was sitting in the straw listening just as much as the others. I felt so sad for him on several occasions and so proud of him on others and had to remind myself I was reading a story about a sheepdog and not a person I knew! I think the accuracy of the historical detail contributed to me feeling this way too, especially in those moments when Nici describes being in the great hall.

As well as being thoroughly entertained and transported back in time by Nici’s Christmas Tale I also loved the allegorical theme of shepherding. There’s so much to ponder about how we treat others and wish to be treated. 

Nici’s Christmas Tale is a smashing tale to be enchanted by on a cold winter’s afternoon. I thought it was excellent.

About Jean Gill

Jean Gill Author Picture

Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named ‘Endeavour’, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.
You can sign up to Jean special readers’ group here for exclusive news, offers and a free book and follow Jean on Twitter @writerjeangill.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Nici's Christmas Tale Blog Tour Poster (1)

Interviewing Lucy Van Smit, Author of The Hurting

The Hurting

I am so pleased to welcome Lucy Van Smit, author of The Hurting, to Linda’s Book Bag today. We have been ‘virtual’ friends for a while so it’s good to get to know one another a bit better. In a change from my usual staying in posts, we are having a more extended chat so let’s get started!

Staying in with Lucy Van Smit

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Lucy.

photo 1

Hurrah! Such a delight to be invited – I am in awe how you spend 4-5 hours a day blogging; helping readers and authors to find each other, thank you, Linda.

It’s been my pleasure to feature so many authors here Lucy – though I have to confess I am ready to take a short break and will be cutting back in 2019. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me before I do though!

There’s nothing better than a chat about life and books with a glass of wine.  I love this book section of yours so much and it’s great to take a moment to reflect on life.

I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the posts. I’ve loved doing them.

What books did you bring with you?

The Hurting

I wanted to talk to you about my debut, so I brought The Hurting –  I’m very excited to have the German edition too. They’ve pitched it as Nordic Noir Wuthering Heights – an epic love story set in the Norwegian Fjords between Nell, a British girl and Lukas, a damaged boy, raised by wolves who persuades Nell to steal a baby.

photo 2

Sounds brilliant. And I see you’ve brought Michele Obama’s autobiography. Why is that?

Well, they might seem strange bedfellows, but ‘Becoming’ is a key theme for both our books. They are about the choices we make and how those choices shape us. My protagonist Nell realised she “binned her life like toilet paper and never noticed” and I was fascinated how Michelle Obama also came late to reflecting about her choices and had to stop ticking her ‘boxes’ of success. I was raised to value cleverness and success over feelings, and I wanted to write ‘big’ about emotions; the unbearable, overwhelming, obsession of first love and inner conflict.

I think those are themes we can all relate to Lucy. How does they manifest themselves in The Hurting?

Nell wants to be a songwriter but can’t find her voice to tell her father. Her sister has cancer and their unfaithful mother abandoned them, so Nell doesn’t believe in love; until she meets Lukas. She has to choose what matters more, being with the love of her life… or being herself and saving the baby she stole for him.

I think I’m going to have to add The Hurting to my towering TBR Lucy. This sounds my kind of read.

I see you brought in a photograph from your book launch in Trafalgar Square. 

photo 3

Yes, it was a big day, I was fifty before I listened to that small voice that told me I was a writer. I wasn’t interested in getting published and wanted to learn to write well. The Hurting was written on my MA course and won The Bath Children’s Novel Award. The legendary Barry Cunningham published it – he discovered J. K. Rowling and my 93-year-old mum and teenage son were mesmerised by him at my launch.

How exciting. And congratulations on that award. It looks like you got some great reviews too.

Thanks!  Here are a few of them. I have to keep pinching myself. All I wanted to do was write a book that blew people away and one they really loved.

“A writer to watch” The Irish Times

“Compelling, dark, enthralling – read it now! Don’t you just hate it when you fall in love and steal a baby? Seriously, Lucy Van Smit takes an ‘out there’ premise and draws the reader in, via layered plotting and nuanced characterisation. The Nordic backdrop is fabulous, and Nell is an enigmatic lead, complex and flawed and absolutely compelling. I can see this as a movie, for sure. Loved it and very, very much recommended.”  L.V. Hay, script consultant, author, script editor.

“Have I said how much I really love The Hurting? I have read it twice now – just a gorgeous, gorgeous piece of writing. My niece (who’s at Rugby) has completely flipped for it and made all her friends buy it – it’s totally intense and cool is her review.” Cat Muir, screenwriter, children’s novelist.

“And the WRITING.  Oh, my goodness your writing.  You don’t miss a space for punch and power.  No fluff.  Some absolutely beautiful ways of saying things that make you almost breathless with description, followed by another and another – all in the same paragraph.  Till you’re overcome with the intensity of your feelings and how you can put them across.” Pamela Townley, author, screenwriter.

These are fabulous Lucy. They make me want to read The Hurting even more. Adults clearly love the book, but I thought it was what we call YA or Young Adult?

Yes. It’s written for Year 8 upwards, but 80% of the YA readership is over 18. Many young people today experience toxic relationships, mistaking control and emotional coercion for love. I go into schools to talk to pupils and they love hearing stories how I messed up at their age, and it inspires them to listen to themselves more. I need to do more of that!

Oh I totally agree. I also love YA fiction and think that the intended audience is such a tough one that frequently YA fiction has to be some of the best there is.


I love these reader responses. You must be so proud of The Hurting. Thanks so much, Lucy, for staying in with me to tell me all about it.

Thanks for having me, Linda. And I hope you listen to your instincts to cut back a bit.

Ha. I’ll have put out almost 600 posts by the end of 2018 and I have agreed to only 9 in 2019. I think I’d call that cutting back!

The Hurting

The Hurting

Nell’s family arrives in Norway in financial disgrace. She is dominated by her family – her religious father and her sister, whose cancer stops Nell from embracing her dreams of a musical career. She doesn’t believe in love, either, until she falls for Lukas. But Lukas has his own dark agenda, and in this tale of hidden secrets and shocking twists, he manipulates Nell closer to the point of no return. How far is she willing to go for love?

The Hurting is published by Chicken House Press and is available for purchase through the links here.

About Lucy Van Smit


Lucy van Smit is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and a TV producer who travelled worldwide for NBC News, flew on Air Force One with President Reagan, got surrounded by tanks at Manila airport in a coup, before she chilled and made documentaries for Canadian Broadcasting on John Le Carré, Martin Amis and Ian MacEwan. The Hurting is being translated into Russian, German and Polish.

You can find out more by visiting Lucy’s website, following her on Twitter @Lucyvansmit and finding her on Facebook and Instagram.

What Happens in France by Carol Wyer

What happens in France

I can’t believe how long it is since Carol Wyer featured on Linda’s Book Bag. Last time we were celebrating the publication of Carol’s The Missing Girls in a post you can read here. I have also been lucky enough to interview Carol about her writing here to mark the publication of Carol’s Little Girl Lost.

Today, with enormous thanks both to Carol and Ellie Pilcher at Canelo I am reviewing What Happens in France.

What Happens in France will be published by Canelo in early 2019 and is available for pre-order here.

What Happens in France

What happens in France

In What Happens in France, Bryony Masters isn’t one to shy from a challenge, so when her father falls sick she makes it her mission to find her long-lost sister and reunite their family. With the help of handsome friend Lewis, she snags a coveted spot on a primetime game show set in beautiful France – the perfect, public platform to launch her search!

With a social media star dog, a high maintenance quiz host and a cast of truly unique characters, Bryony and Lewis have their work cut out for them to stay on the show and in the public eye.

Yet as the audience grows and the grand prize beckons they find that the search that brought them together may just fulfil more than one heart’s wish…

My Review of What Happens in France

With their father having suffered a stroke, Bryony is desperate to find her runaway sister Hannah before it’s too late.

What Happens in France is a hugely entertaining read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t know if it’s a case of the right book at the right moment but I had been feeling very depressed and low and a couple of days immersed in the events in France brought the smile back to my face, even if I did shed a small tear too.

I thought the concept of the game show for What Happens in France worked brilliantly because it resonates with the kind of programmes to which we all seem to be addicted. It gave a super insight into the gameshow process and I loved the way it linked to traditional quizzes and treasure hunts too so that there was a smashing blend of expectation and surprise in the plot. The French setting was lovely and has made me want to visit the places mentioned and I have to confess to feeling quite hungry at times reading Carol Wyer’s descriptions of the food.

I found all the characters vivid, lively and engaging except for a certain Professor Potts who was still lively and realistic but not at all engaging. Rather, I wanted to punch him – hard. I’m not usually a great fan of dogs in stories but Biggie Smalls totally captured my heart because of the quality of Carol Wyer’s writing. He was an absolute hoot and I could just picture the expressions on his face. I hope I’ll be seeing more of him in future books.

What appealed to me most about What Happens in France, however, was indeed Carol Wyer’s writing style. I thought the contrast between past and present tenses distinguished the different sections highly effectively but most of all I loved what I saw as a kind of honesty in her writing. It’s difficult to define quite what I mean but I found the narrative accessible, easy to read and, well, congenial I suppose. It made me feel as relaxed reading What Happens in France as Bryony is in her relationship with Melinda.

Speaking of relationships, I thought the interplay between the characters was deftly handled so that I believed utterly what happened between them. I am definitely hoping there will be more adventures for them in future books. I don’t want to say too much as it will spoil the read for others, but there is so much to enjoy in the dynamics between Bryony and Lewis in particular.

Given that What Happens in France is essentially quite light-hearted, Carol Wyer explores some weighty themes too. Hannah’s story is one of guilt, responsibility and identity whilst the power of social media, television and celebrity underpins much of the action. Love and trust, families and friendship are all woven in too so that there’s a good layer of depth to this story that I found very satisfying.

What Happens in France is comic, romantic, entertaining and, at times, a little bit bonkers, so that it really is feel good fiction. I had enormous fun reading it and I really recommend it.

About Carol Wyer


As a child Carol Wyer was always moving, and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published by Safkhet and journalism in many magazines.

Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

All of Carol’s books are here. You can follow Carol on Twitter @carolewyer, visit her website and find her on Facebook and Instagram.