My (extra) Ordinary Life by Rebecca Ryan

When I met Rebecca Ryan at a recent Team BATC blogger and author evening and heard her read from My (extra) Ordinary Life I knew I’d love it so I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour by Sara-Jade and it’s a real pleasure to share my review today.

Published by Simon and Schuster on 5th January 2023 My (extra) Ordinary Life is available for purchase through the links here.

My (extra) Ordinary Life

Have you ever wondered how normal you are?
What if you were 
perfectly average?
More than anyone else. 

For Emily – it’s true. When she watches a documentary on the average human she sees her life. Her job, her hair, her favourite food. All of her – plainly, horrifically average. Even her blood group. Right there and then, she decides she wants more.

She’ll travel the world (i.e. venture out of her hometown)

She’ll become a vegan (it’s interesting to hate cheese, right?) 

She’ll do something daring (As long as it’s safety tested) 

Nothing will stand in the way of Emily living her best life. Not even Josh and his dimples. Because she absolutely can’t fall in love… that would be too ordinary.

And from now on, Emily is going to be extraordinary. 

My Review of My (extra) Ordinary Life

Emily is far too average! 

I absolutely loved My (extra) Ordinary Life. Reading about Emily felt as if Rebecca Ryan had climbed inside my head and voiced every doubt I’ve ever had about my own existence. Her perception of how we think and feel is exceptional. And the book is joyously funny. I laughed aloud so often I think my husband thought I was quite mad. I think My (extra) Ordinary Life would make the most fabulous film as Rebecca Ryan’s writing is so vivid, fast paced and engaging that it is as if you’re watching Emily’s life rather than merely reading about it. 

The plot revolves around Emily’s attempts to make herself less average, and simply romps along, but it is also far, far, more than a humorous and brilliantly entertaining read. It’s imbued with emotion too so that self-doubt, loss and grief form the catalyst for the action and Rebecca Ryan has the amazing skill of being able to make her readers laugh even as tears are streaming down their faces. My (extra) Ordinary Life feels like a book written by an author who truly understands human nature.

What I think works so fabulously is the concept of finding your own path in life. Emily learns that she isn’t just a teacher, a friend, a sister, a daughter. She’s the sum of her grief, her responses to life, and her own actions, making My (extra) Ordinary Life incredibly affecting and, indeed, life-affirming and helpful. I was desperate for Emily to be happy from the very first word.

I loved all the characters (save for Mr Hughes, but you’ll need to read the book to find out why) and whilst Emily is exceptionally well drawn, Kaz is also simply brilliant. There’s smashing love and romance in My (extra) Ordinary Life but even better is the portrayal of female friendship through Kaz and Emily’s relationship. Indeed, I didn’t want simply to read about them. I wanted to climb into the book and be friends with them too because they felt so authentic and real. 

My (extra) Ordinary Life is one of those books that remains with the reader long after the last page is read. It entertains, it teaches and it moves, but even as is does those things, it leaves the reader feeling uplifted, understood and completely satisfied. I just loved it and cannot recommend it highly enough. Emily might feel ordinary, but My (extra) Ordinary Life is extra-ordinarily fabulous! 

About Rebecca Ryan

Rebecca Ryan lives in Bradford with her husband and three young children. Although she always loved writing, it hadn’t really occurred to her that she could do it professionally. She recently left her job as a teacher to pursue writing full-time. She enjoys walking in the countryside and takeaways (if that counts as a hobby).

For further information, follow Rebecca on Twitter @WriteBecsWrite, find her on Instagram or visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

A Duo of Julia Stebbing Children’s Books

My apologies to Julia Stebbing for keeping her waiting so long for reviews of two of her children’s books whilst life has been quite challenging, and my enormous thanks to Julia for sending me When Moggie and Froggie Met Doggie illustrated by Stephen Stone and Rainbow Cat and the Big Tidy illustrated by Nivya Kuriakose in return for honest reviews.

Julia’s books last appeared on Linda’s Book Bag when I reviewed When Moggie Met Froggie here.

I also reviewed both The Lost Smile and Remarkable Women in Verse here.

Published by Sticky Bun, When Moggie and Froggie Met Doggy is available for purchase here and Rainbow Cat and the Big Tidy is available here.

When Moggie and Froggie Met Doggy

While out seeking mice to eat, Moggie comes across a grumpy Doggie clinging to a tree, and their relationship gets off to a rocky start. Little did either of them know they would soon become good friends. In this amusing tale, with cute illustrations, read how Moggie and Froggie, with new friend Doggie, learn how to have fun together. An adorable sequel to When Moggie Met Froggie.

My Review of When Moggie and Froggie Met Doggie

Doggie is in a spot of bother!

As I’ve come to expect with a Julia Stebbing children’s book, When Moggie and Froggie Met Doggy is a cornucopia of fun, rhyme, humour and friendship. There’s a really lovely story as Moggie discovers Doggie stuck up a tree having been frightened by Froggie and which resolves itself through kindness, friendship and playing together as children learn not to judge others on first appearances. I love the concept that a dog, cat and frog can be friends as it illustrates to young children how diversity doesn’t have to mean alienation.

The language is so well balanced that Julia Stebbing blends familiar words with new vocabulary that enhances children’s language acquisition even as they are enjoying a light-hearted and humorous story. The rhyme not only affords the opportunity for children to predict what is coming next to reinforce language skills, but it is so smooth that it makes reading the story aloud a real pleasure because it flows so effectively.

Alongside themes of friendship, being scared, and learning about others, there are fantastic illustrations by Stephen Stone that bring the story to vibrant life. The expressions on the animals’ faces are not only hilarious, but they help children learn how we use non vocal or verbal communication too.

When Moggie and Froggie Met Doggy is a smashing children’s book that I thoroughly recommend.

Rainbow Cat and the Big Tidy

When a colourful cat goes for a walk with a dog with one shoe and they come across a field strewn with rubbish – ‘The biggest mess that Cat has seen’– what can they do?

HOW will they tidy up the mess? WHO will help them?

This charming story, told in rhyming verse, helps a young child learn the importance of clearing up litter and of teamwork. A serious theme, with fun illustrations. For ages 3-7.

My Review of Rainbow Cat and the Big Tidy

Rainbow Cat finds too much litter.

Whilst Rainbow Cat and the Big Tidy is a book aimed at very young children, I think it is a highly important one for us all and it would fit perfectly into a home, school or other group involving young children because it illustrates the issues of the environment in a gentle and effective manner.

I especially liked the fact that Cat is indeed a rainbow coloured cat as I felt it helped promote all types of characters and countered stereotyped expectations so that children learn to accept others as a result of their actions and not their appearance. There’s a lovely message that working as a team makes life easier and fun too as Julia Stebbing includes a range of animals and birds who collaborate in clearing up litter and restoring nature.

The language used in Rainbow Cat and the Big Tidy is so well constructed, with an effortless rhyme scheme and an easy rhythm so that children can hear patterns of language. Alternate end rhyme and rhyming couplets, ellipsis and parenthesis all provide concrete examples that enhance children’s own independent writing so that Rainbow Cat and the Big Tidy is a brilliant educational tool as well as a fun and entertaining story.

I loved the illustrations by Nivya Kuriakose too. The animals have a style young children will love whilst I found the backgrounds almost ethereal at times, giving a sense of what might be if only we were more careful with our environments and took more care to take our rubbish home.

Filled with friendship, co-operation and playfulness, Rainbow Cat and the Big Tidy is a super children’s book.

About Julia Stebbing

Julia has always lived in north London and was brought up in Stanmore. Opposite her house were only fields and the local school was a mere 5-minute walk. The spinney nearby provided opportunities for jumping a stream, picking blackberries, and hiding in the woods. Switch to three children later, husband David, and seven grandchildren – 3 girls and 4 boys. She used to write song lyrics and now loves writing children’s stories, especially in rhyming verse. S

She has published two books, The Lost Smile, a picture book which is the first in a series of The Fabulous FiveRemarkable Women in Verse tells the story of Rosa Parks, Helen Keller and her governess Anne Sullivan, and also Florence Nightingale.

You can find out more on Sticky Bun’s website and on Facebook. You’ll occasionally find Julia on Twitter @stickybunpub and Instagram too.

Hackney: A Guest Post by Joe Thomas, Author of White Riot

I’m a product of the 1970s and 1980s, being eligible to vote for the first time in 1979 and at university studying for my first degree from 1979 to 1982. Consequently, when I heard about White Riot by Joe Thomas I simply HAD to feature it on Linda’s Book Bag. My enormous thanks to Corinna Zifko at Quercus for arranging for me to host a guest post from Joe Thomas in advance of next week’s White Riot publication day.

Published by Quercus imprint Arcadia on 19th January 2023, White Riot is available for pre-order here.

White Riot

1978: The National Front is gaining ground in Hackney. To counter their influence, anti-fascist groups launch the Carnival Against Racism in Victoria Park. Observing the event is Detective Constable Patrick Noble, charged with investigating racist attacks in the area and running Spycops in both far-right and left wing groups. As Noble’s superiors are drawn further into political meddling, he’s inveigled into a plot against the embattled Labour government.

1983: Under a disciplinary cloud after a Spycops op ended in tragedy, Noble is offered a reprieve by an old mentor. He is dispatched in the early hours to Stoke Newington police station, where a young black man has died in suspicious circumstances. This is Thatcher’s Britain now, a new world that Noble unwittingly helped to usher in, where racial tensions are weaponised by those in power.

Supercharged by the music and counterculture of the era, White Riot weaves fiction, fact and personal experience to record the radical tale of London’s most thrilling borough. Politics, music, police corruption, institutional racism and the power of protest all take centre stage in a novel that traces the roots of our current political moment.

Hackney

A Guest Post by Joe Thomas

I was born in Hackney in 1977 and for 25 years I wanted to leave. Now, it’s an aspirational address, gentrified and expensive. I was born in Hackney Mothers’ Hospital on Lower Clapton Road which was later to become known as ‘Murder Mile’. I lived on Mildenhall Road, just down from Clapton Pond. I wrote White Riot to try and better understand the Hackney I grew up in, the time and place, and how the borough, it seems to me, is something of a lightning rod for the political and social currents of the country.

White Riot is a historical, social crime novel about police corruption, institutional racism, the devastating effects of Thatcherism, and the counter-cultural movement of the late ‘70’s and ‘80’s. White Riot is a novel that reveals the dark heart of Hackney, shows the divisive roots of gentrification – and prefigures the political division of contemporary Britain. It is unashamedly political; I want to interrogate the discourses of power, of inequality, think about what and why and how it was as it was, as it is.

I remember the National Front graffiti on the canal towpaths, the sawdust on the floor of the public bar in the Prince of Wales (renamed the Princess in honour of Diana), the seafood stall where my brother and sister and I drowned our cockles and prawns in vinegar while mum and dad were inside fetching drinks.

I remember the day when we sat outside the Ship Aground pub just next door, and it started to rain. The landlord waving the families in, breaking the law to let us shelter. Except for an Asian family enjoying their crisps and their cokes; they weren’t allowed. We didn’t go back there again. I went past on the 55 bus the other day and saw the pub’s set for demolition.

I remember the Hackney Show on Hackney Downs, the Labour Club in Dalston, steel bands and heavy reggae, kids in I Love ILEA and GLC t-shirts, Granny’s takeaway and Chimes nightclub, where, for a period, serious violence was a regular occurrence.

Chimes nightclub is now the Clapton Hart, a hipster pub, all distressed wood and oversized board games, very nice it is, too. I popped in for a pint when on a visit to my cousins who still lived on Mildenhall Road. When I ordered, I asked the barman when the pub opened, when it changed, was no longer the notorious Chimes nightclub, told him I was born up the road. Oh, about a year ago, he said, I’m surprised you didn’t know. I nodded. Well, I said, for the last ten years or so, I’ve been away. What I mean was that I’d been living abroad. When I sat down with my drink it occurred to me that he’d given me a funny look. Local boy, been away, ten years. He served me pretty sharpish when I went back. I didn’t disabuse him, and it made me smile: Hackney’s come a long way if I look like a ten-stretch criminal.

****

I’m sure you look perfectly respectable Joe! Thanks so much for the insight into Hackney and how it has inspired White Riot. Fascinating!

About Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas was born in Hackney in 1977. He is the author of the critically acclaimed São Paulo quartet – Paradise City, Gringa, Playboy, and Brazilian Psycho – and Bent, which was a Guardian Best Book of 2020 and an Irish Times pick of the best crime fiction of 2020. His new novel, White Riot, will be followed by Red Menace and True Blue. Joe lives in London with his partner and son, and teaches at City University of London.

The Garnett Girls by Georgina Moore

It was a real pleasure to be part of the cover reveal for The Garnett Girls by Georgina Moore in a post you’ll find here. I cannot thank the author enough for sending me a copy of The Garnett Girls in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint HQ on 16th February 2023, The Garnett Girls is available for purchase through the links here.

The Garnett Girls

Love makes you do things you never thought you were capable of.

Forbidden, passionate and all-encompassing, Margo and Richard’s love affair was the stuff of legend– but, ultimately, doomed.

When Richard walked out, Margo locked herself away, leaving her three daughters, Rachel, Imogen and Sasha, to run wild.

Years later, charismatic Margo entertains lovers and friends in her cottage on the Isle of Wight, refusing to ever speak of Richard and her painful past. But her silence is keeping each of the Garnett girls from finding true happiness.

Rachel is desperate to return to London, but is held hostage by responsibility for Sandcove, their beloved but crumbling family home.

Dreamy Imogen feels the pressure to marry her kind, considerate fiancé, even when life is taking an unexpected turn.

And wild, passionate Sasha, trapped between her fractured family and controlling husband, is weighed down by a secret that could shake the family to its core…

The Garnett Girls, the captivating debut from Georgina Moore, asks whether children can ever be free of the mistakes of their parents.

My Review of The Garnett Girls

The Garnett family have secrets bubbling beneath the surface.

The Garnett Girls is an astonishing debut. The prose is achingly beautiful and enormously affecting, so that I found myself weeping on more than one occasion. It’s not just the stunning descriptions that capture the reader, but the thrum of life, of longing, and of emotion vibrating under the surface of every syllable. The Garnett Girls is not so much a book you read as one you feel. Georgina Moore has created a kind of emotional tuning fork in her narrative that the reader experiences viscerally. 

I loved the Isle of Wight setting because it created a claustrophobic atmosphere that suited the intensity of the narrative. It is as if The Garnett Girls could not have been set anywhere else. Similarly, I found the London settings added a sense of relief in me as a reader that echoed the increased freedom the characters felt when they were there, so skilled is the writing. 

The plot has its moments of high drama, but that isn’t the point of The Garnett Girls. Rather, it is a story of how and why Margo, Imogen, Rachel and Sasha are as they are. Their characters are so acutely observed that it feels as if Georgina Moore has peeled back their physical attributes to expose their very souls. She writes about family dynamics, marriage and relationships, shining a mature, incisive and totally understanding spotlight that shows the reader exactly who these people are and what makes them behave as they do, even whilst the characters themselves don’t have self-knowledge, or, when they do, they prefer to deceive themselves. Indeed, deception and lies form the bedrock of this story and hold the reader captivated.

I loved the way Imogen’s play echoes Margo’s life so that there are layers and depths to uncover as you read. Similarly, the powerful emotional pull between characters, particularly between Margo and her daughters, is akin to the relentless implacable pull of the tides around the Isle of Wight conveyed by Georgina Moore so effectively. She creates an atmosphere of brittle hedonism overlaying a murkier realism and vulnerability that I found incredibly affecting. 

The Garnett Girls is an intense, beautifully wrought portrait of family and the lies we tell, especially to ourselves. It’s fierce, passionate and affecting and I absolutely loved it. 

About Georgina Moore

Georgina Moore is an award-winning book publicist who has worked in the publishing industry for twenty years. She has worked with a huge variety of authors across all genres and at all stages of their careers – from debuts to household names.

The Garnett Girls is Georgina’s first novel and is set on the Isle of Wight where Georgina and her family have a holiday houseboat called Sturdy. Georgina’s main residence is a houseboat on Taggs Island in the River Thames, where she lives with her partner, two children and Bomber, the Border terrier.

For further information, follow Georgina on Twitter @PublicityBooks or find her on Instagram.

Staying in with Katy Regan

It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome Katy Regan to Linda’s Book Bag today as her sixth novel has just been released and she’s going to chat with me all about it.
Let’s find out more:

Staying in with Katy Regan

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Katy and 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? 

I have brought in my latest book How to Find Your Way Home. It’s my sixth novel and out in paperback last week (Thursday 5th January).  The reason I have brought it today however is because I think it’s the perfect uplifting read for these January days when Christmas is over and we’re yearning for spring!

We most certainly are! What can we expect from an evening in with How to Find Your Way Home?

Well, it’s set in spring for a start – it begins in February and ends in early summer, and is definitely the most descriptive of my six novels in terms of landscape.

My main character Stephen is a keen bird-watcher and huge nature-lover, so think lots of scenes of the wonder of migration, the coming of the spring light and the re-emerging of wildlife in the English countryside.

That sounds wonderful – especially as I’m married to a nature lover called Stephen! I’m delighted to have a copy of How to Find Your Way Home on my TBR!

I like to think this is a novel with a big plot too though! And there’s a big, I hope, satisfying twist. I just got a message from a reader yesterday in fact that said, “This book! I didn’t want it to end!! …and did not see that twist coming AT ALL!!” Messages like that are music to my ears, obviously, since that twist was really hard to come up with!  My challenge with this book was to write something more lyrical but which also had a really compelling storyline so I hope I pulled that off.

I’m sure you have! 

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

I’ve brought a photo of some artwork by the mural artist Simon Bates, which depicts Glasgow’s patron Saint Mungo in modern day clothes, holding a robin. This is a reference to the legend that says that St. Mungo’s prayed over this bird – that had actually died and belonged to his master St. Serf – and brought it back to life.

I didn’t know this though, when I saw it on a wall on a street corner of Glasgow. I’d gone there for a solo writing retreat to wrestle with the book that was to become How to Find Your Way Home back in 2019. I was really struggling and thinking of throwing in the towel if I’m honest.

I’m very glad you didn’t.

Then, on a walk around the city I came across this mural of a man (I just thought it was a picture of an ordinary man – perhaps a homeless man), with a bird in his hand and it obviously reminded me of Stephen, the main character in the book, who is a keen ornithologist and also homeless.

That’s quite spooky…

I took it as a huge sign from the universe that I should carry on with this novel! I am so glad I did.

I cannot wait to read How to Find Your Way Home. I have a feeling it will be exactly my kind of read Katy. Thank you so much for staying in with me and telling me all about it. Let me give readers a few more details:

How To Find Your Way Home

What if the person you thought you’d lost forever walked back into your life?

In March 1987, four-year-old Stephen Nelson welcomes his new baby sister, Emily. Holding her for the first time, he vows to love and protect her, and to keep her safe forever.

Thirty years later, the two have lost touch and Stephen is homeless. Emily, however, has never given up hope of finding her brother again, and when he turns up at her office, she thinks her wish has come true. But they say you should be careful what you wish for – because there is a reason the two were estranged . . .

As the two embark on a birding trip together, Emily is haunted by long-buried memories of a single June day, fifteen years earlier; a day that changed everything. Will confronting the secrets that tore them apart finally enable Emily and Stephen to make their peace – not just with their shared past and each other, but also with themselves?

Haunting, beautiful and uplifting, Katy ReganHow to Find Your Way Home is about sibling love, the restorative power of nature and how home, ultimately, is found within us.

Published in all formats by Pan Macmillan’s Mantle Books, How To Find Your Way Home is available for purchase through the links here.

About Katy Regan

Katy Regan grew up near Morecambe in Lancashire. She began her writing career as a magazine journalist and is ex-Features Writer and Commissioning Editor of Marie Claire, where she also had a long-standing and popular column, ‘And then there were three… sort of’ about her unconventional route to motherhood. She has written for most national magazines and newspapers. She has also written two self-help books (a cause for great amusement among those who know her well.)

She lives in Hertfordshire with her son. When she’s not writing, she mainly loves swimming in freezing cold lakes, reading and going on mini-breaks. How To Find Your Way Home is her sixth novel.

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

Cover Reveal: The Nice Guy and the Devil by Tom Trott

It’s almost a year since I stayed in with Tom Trott to chat all about the first book in his Cain thriller series, The Florentine in a post you’ll find here.

Today it’s my pleasure to reveal details of the second book in the series, The Nice Guy and the Devil which will be released on 5th May 2023 and is available for pre-order here.

Let me give you all the details:

The Nice Guy and the Devil

Nice, France — Retired CIA agent, Cain, is living a quiet life, trying to stay out of trouble.

But he can’t turn off his old instincts like a lightswitch.

When an unsuspecting American woman becomes the target of criminals, he can’t sit back and do nothing.

What starts as one good deed puts Cain in the sights of highly-trained mercenaries, brings him to the attention of INTERPOL, and puts him on a collision course with evil personified.

With no one he can trust, in a land of double-crosses, Cain must rely on his wits to survive.

Pre-order The Nice Guy and the Devil through the links here.

And if you’d like to catch up with the first book:

The Florentine

When Cain retired from the CIA, he moved to Florence, Italy to get away from his past.

He’s had nine years to enjoy fine wine, good food, and the Tuscan countryside.

But now his old boss has tracked him down, and he needs Cain to do one last job.

What starts as a simple trade entangles Cain in a web of secrets involving the mafia, an NSA whistleblower, and his own past.

With the Italian police and international assassins on his trail, he’ll have to survive the night to solve the mystery of who wants him dead.

Published on 6th May 2022, The Florentine is available for purchase here.

About Tom Trott

Tom Trott is an author, film nerd, and proverbial Brighton rock. He lives in Brighton, UK, with his wife and their daughter.

He wrote a short comedy play that was performed at the Theatre Royal Brighton in May 2014 as part of the Brighton Festival, a television pilot for the local Brighton channel, and won the Empire Award (thriller category) in the 2015 New York Screenplay Contest.

He published his first novel, You Can’t Make Old Friends, in 2016. Since then he has written five more books. He writes film reviews and features for Frame Rated.

His inspirations as a writer come from a diverse range of storytellers including Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Joel & Ethan Coen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Ira Levin, Quentin Tarantino, and many more books and films beside.

For further information, follow Tom on Twitter @tjtrott, visit his website or find him on Facebook and Instagram.

Escape to Darling Cove by Holly Hepburn

It’s a little over a year since I reviewed Holly Hepburn’s The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures for My Weekly in a post you’ll find here. Today I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for her latest book Escape to Darling Cove. My huge thanks to Sara-Jade Virtue for inviting me to participate and for providing a copy of Escape to Darling Cove in return for an honest review.

Escape to Darling Cove was published yesterday, 5th January 2023, by Simon and Schuster and is available for purchase through the links here.

Escape to darling Cove

The brand new series from Holly Hepburn, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Katie Fforde. Originally published as novellas, this paperback contains all fours parts of the story from irresistible beginning to heart-warming conclusion. 

Eve has always lived on Ennisfarne, an idyllic island just off the coast of Northumberland and only accessible when tides are low. There she runs a bar overlooking Darling Cove, a heavenly horseshoe-shaped beach named after her seafaring ancestors, whose links to the Farne Islands stretch back centuries.

Logan is a famous photographer desperate to evade the limelight after a difficult break-up. Renting a cottage from Eve, he chooses Ennisfarne in the hope of anonymity but is immediately spellbound by its natural beauty.

The pair don’t get off to the best start, butting heads over Eve’s adorable but boisterous Chocolate Labrador. But when Logan’s true identity is revealed, Eve realises her new tenant isn’t quite the man she thought he was. Is it too late to start again or will Logan’s island escape be over almost before it’s begun?

The brand new novel from Holly Hepburn, author of Coming Home to Brightwater Bay, will whisk you away to a sublime seaside retreat you’ll never want to leave.

My Review of Escape to Darling Cove

Logan needs a break from his hectic life.

Oh my goodness I loved Escape to Darling Cove. It is utterly gorgeous and transported me away from the cares of the world to its joyous setting. The descriptions of Ennisfarne Island are so convincingly beautiful it made me desperate to pack my bags and head there immediately. Holly Hepburn has a painterly style that creates such vivid and evocative images in the reader’s mind, truly bringing the landscape to life. The book is akin to a love letter to the Northumbrian coast. There’s a fabulous sense of community portrayed too which somehow seems to encompass the reader as well as Logan as he escapes from life. 

What also struck me about Holly Hepburn’s writing was the genuine warmth and humanity that permeates her story. Reading Escape to Darling Cove felt a bit like coming home. Initially published as four separate episodes, the narrative melds together without a hitch in a smooth, enticing story that I found enchanting. The plot romps along with a satisfying blend of glamour and the more ordinary aspects of life so that it feels balanced, credible and enticing.

The characters are equally wonderful. I loved Eve’s feisty independence even when it meant she was scuppering her own happiness. I loved, too, the fact that she is called Eve. Her name is befitting of someone who illustrates the full depth of a woman’s character. Logan is incredibly attractive – not because he is handsome and mixes with the rich and famous, but because he illustrates the true values in life as he learns to adjust to Ennisfarne‘s environment. Through Logan, Holly Hepburn gives her readers an insight into how they might simplify and improve their own lives, making them happier as a result. This is a powerful theme in the book. All the more minor characters are distinct, real and clearly drawn so that I could imagine Escape to Darling Cove translating brilliantly to a television series.

Other themes of trust, art, friendship, love, family, belonging and nature, for example, add texture and interest so that Escape to Darling Cove feels layered, authentic and absolutely absorbing. 

I absolutely adored Escape to Darling Cove. Certainly it is a love story, but it is so much more. Escape to Darling Cove is about finding meaningful value and contentment and Holly Hepburn’s skilful, mesmerising writing gives the reader those attributes in spades. Don’t miss this one! 

About Holly Hepburn

Holly Hepburn has wanted to write books for as long she can remember but she was too scared to try. One day she decided to be brave and dipped a toe into the bubble bath of romantic fiction with her first novella, Cupidity, and she’s never looked back. She often tries to be funny to be funny, except for when faced with traffic wardens and border control staff. Her favourite things are making people smile and Aidan Turner.

She’s tried many jobs over the years, from barmaid to market researcher and she even had a brief flirtation with modelling. These days she is mostly found writing.

You can follow Holly on Twitter @HollyH_Author and find her on Instagram.

 

Dinna Fash Yersel, Scotland! by Allan Morrison

The end of 2022 felt like enormously hard going so I needed a little light relief. My enormous thanks to Gavin at Luath Press for providing it by sending me a copy of Dinna Fash Yersel, Scotland! by Allan Morrison and illustrated by Bob Dewar.

Published by Luath on 21st December 2022, Dinna Fash Yersel, Scotland! is available for purchase here.

Dinna Fash Yersel, Scotland!

These are tough times.

Prices spiralling! Climate change! International tension! Pandemics! It’s not hard to find things to worry about.

But Scottish grannies can be an oasis of calm. Their wit and wisdom, their compassion and knowhow, their measured good sense and withering reproaches are exactly what is required.

Scottish grannies are reassuring. They are relevant. And they need to be heard.

My review of Dinna Fash Yersel, Scotland!

An anthology of Scottish grannies’ sayings for challenging times!

Dinna Fash Yersel, Scotland! is enormous fun. Filled with Bob Dewar’s cartoon style images, the pictures alone are enough to raise the spirits as grannies appear in all shapes and sizes and there are small, appropriate images in between each saying.

I found the vernacular spellings created exactly the right tone and I had great fun trying out my Scottish accent reading them aloud. I certainly needed the translations underneath many of them and found it fascinating to see if the translation provided matched what I would have put. Some of them seemed totally accurate and others felt a tongue-in-cheek English received pronunciation approximation of the Scottish. This added to the sense of fun. For example, I loved ‘It’s hangin’ fae ma bottom lip shoutin’ Tarzan’ translated as ‘Find the article yourself’. (And try saying that with a strong Scottish accent – just brilliant). When my Pilates class begins again I am going to use ‘Ah’m fair puckled’ when it all gets a bit too strenuous!

Divided into twelve sections covering everything from love, through health to international tensions, there really is something for every reader here. I read the book through in order but I think it would be even better dipped into at random. Humour aside, I think there’s an underlying pragmatism and appreciation of an older, often overlooked, generation that helps make Dinna Fash Yersel, Scotland! all the better.

I laughed aloud at Dinna Fash Yersel, Scotland!, had to think about some of the meanings and thoroughly the book. Great fun!

About Allan Morrison

Allan Morrison is a prolific author whose previous books include Goanae No Dae That, Last Tram Tae Auchenshuggle, Haud ma Chips Ah’ve Drapped the Wean, Naw First Minister, Haud that Bus and Should’ve Gone Tae Specsavers, Ref! His media appearances include The One Show, The Riverside Show, Out of Doors and Good Morning Scotland. He is involved in charity work and after-dinner speaking, and is a member of his local Rotary club. Allan enjoys hillwalking, sport and travel, and is a keen football supporter. He and his wife live in the west of Scotland, and he is the proud grandfather of four grandchildren.

About Bob Dewar

Bob Dewar was born in Edinburgh at an early age. 16 years later he was published nationally. He worked in D.C. Thomson’s studio where, among other things, he ghosted Dennis the Menace. After going freelance, he did political and social commentary for The Scotsman newspaper. He has illustrated books for the children’s and English Speaking Departments of Oxford University Press, Fife Educational Social Development, A&C Black and many Scottish publishers – Birlinn, Luath, Black & White and Itchy Coo. His work has also appeared in The Times, The Herald, Scottish Field and The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Giveaway: Death in High Heels by Kitty Murphy

Having thoroughly enjoyed Death in Heels by Kitty Murphy I am delighted to be part of the blog tour today and able to give away a paperback copy to a luck UK reader. My huge thanks to Rhiannon at FmCM for inviting me to participate and for sending me a copy of Death in Heels that I previously reviewed here.

Death in Heels was published by Thomas & Mercer on 1st January 2023 and is available for purchase here.

Death in Heels

When Fi went to support her best friend’s drag debut, she didn’t imagine a killer would be going to watch it too. And they’re waiting for their grand finale…

Fi McKinnery is full of nerves as the gorgeous Mae B (aka her best friend Robyn) takes to the stage for her debut at drag club TRASH, but Mae B is dazzling…that is until local queen Eve lampoons her performance and ruins the show. So when Eve turns up dead later that night, face down in the gutter of a rain-soaked Dublin street, the timing seems awfully suspicious…

The police are quick to rule Eve’s death an accident, but Fi is convinced it was foul play. When her ‘Hagatha Christie’ amateur sleuthing backfires, it drives a wedge between Fi and Robyn. But when another friend is targeted in a hit-and-run, she’s determined to get this twisted killer caught, no matter what the consequences.

Even as the rest of the gang start to distance themselves, Fi is certain that they’re all in terrible danger. Something dark is lurking beneath the feathers, glitter and sequins of Dublin’s drag scene. And it’s not just the sticky floor and cracked mirrors. Someone is targeting the queens. When another member of the group is gunned down, it’s clear the danger is coming ever closer. Can Fi stop the killer before any more of her friends are hurt?

Giveaway: A paperback Copy of Death in Heels

For your chance to win a paperback copy of Death in Heels by Kitty Murphy, click here.

UK only. Entries close at 11.59PM on Sunday 8th January 2023. Please note that the winner must supply a UK postal address and that the prize will be sent from FMcM. Postal strikes may affect delivery times.

About Kitty Murphy

Kitty lives with her husband, Roger, on the very westerly edge of Co. Clare, Ireland. She adores drag in all its forms and crime fiction in all its chilling splendour. Kitty is bi/queer. From a well-spent youth divided equally between the library and the LGBTQ+ scene, it was only a matter of time until both worlds collided in a flurry of fictional sequins.

For more information, follow Kitty on Twitter @scribblingink1 or find her on Instagram.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Devil’s Way by Robert Bryndza

My enormous thanks to Robert Bryndza for sending me a copy of his latest Kate Marshall thriller Devil’s Way in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Devil’s Way will be published by Raven Street on 12th January 2023 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Devil’s Way

THE TRUTH HIDES IN THE DARK

Kate Marshall’s investigation into a young boy’s disappearance sends her down an unexpectedly twisted path in a riveting thriller by multi-million bestselling author, Robert Bryndza. 

When Private Investigator Kate Marshall is rushed to hospital after being pulled into a riptide current in the sea, the near-death experience leaves her shaken. During her recovery, she befriends Jean, an elderly lady on the same ward. Jean tells the harrowing story of how her three-year-old grandson, Charlie, went missing eleven years ago during a camping trip on Dartmoor.

By the time Kate is well enough to go home, she’s agreed to take on the case, but when Kate and her trusty sidekick Tristan start to look at the events of that fateful night, they discover that Jean has a dark past that could have put Charlie in jeopardy.

Was Charlie abducted? Or did he fall into Devil’s Way? A rushing river that vanishes into a gorge close to where they were camping.

When Kate and Tristan discover that a social worker who flagged concerns about Jean and her daughter was found brutally murdered shortly after Charlie vanished, it makes them question everything they thought they knew about the family…

Filled with twists and turns, Devil’s Way is the fourth Kate Marshall novel and the most gripping and satisfying yet!

My Review of Devil’s Way

Kate Marshall has a new case to solve.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Devil’s Way. There’s a vivacity to Robert Bryndza’s style that draws in the reader and propels them through the narrative from the dramatic opening pages to the very last word. I’m so annoyed with myself that it has taken me so long to discover his books. 

A really vivid sense of place in the area where Charlie disappeared adds a sensation of malevolence that heightens the reader’s sense of dread and tension. There’s an almost supernatural undercurrent that I found creepy and effective. I thought the plot was assured, credible and completely engaging because there are resonances of real cases so that this story feels authentic and believable even whilst it’s being entertaining. Devil’s Way is all the better for not being a standard police procedural, but having private investigators who give a fresh perspective to solving crimes. 

I thought Kate was an inspired character. A female protagonist heading for fifty feels such a treat and a change from the usual 30 somethings of so many stories. I loved the fact that she’s multi-faceted with a murky past and her own problems that make her feel real and genuine. It didn’t matter at all that this is the fourth book in the series and I haven’t read the others because Kate’s back story was woven in with subtlety and Devil’s Way could easily be enjoyed as a stand alone text. I also found Jean fascinating because Robert Bryndza writes with human understanding that gets beneath the surface of a character and explores the psychological and social elements that make them who they are. His weaving in of mental health, social services and the way we present public personas adds depth too, making for a really satisfying read. 

I found Devil’s Way fast paced, absorbing and fascinating. Although the story is resolved perfectly, Robert Bryndza leaves the reader pondering the outcome and thinking about the characters long after they’ve finished reading so that the book has a resonance that endures. I really appreciated this level of maturity and sensitivity. Devil’s Way may be my first Robert Bryndza read, but it most certainly won’t be the last. I really enjoyed it and can highly recommend it.

About Robert Bryndza

Robert Bryndza is an international bestselling author, best known for his page-turning crime and thriller novels, which have sold over five million copies.

His crime debut, The Girl in the Ice was released in February 2016, introducing Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster. Within five months it sold one million copies, reaching number one in the Amazon UK, USA and Australian charts. To date, The Girl in the Ice has sold over 1.5 million copies in the English language and has been sold into translation in 29 countries. It was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller (2016), the Grand prix des lectrices de Elle in France (2018), and it won two reader voted awards, The Thrillzone Awards best debut thriller in The Netherlands (2018) and The Dead Good Papercut Award for best page turner at the Harrogate Crime Festival (2016).

Robert has released a further five novels in the Erika Foster series, The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath, Cold Blood and Deadly Secrets, all of which have been global bestsellers, and in 2017 Last Breath was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Mystery and Thriller. Fatal Witness, the seventh Erika Foster novel, has recently been published.

Most recently, Robert created a new crime thriller series based around the central character Kate Marshall, a police officer turned private detective. The first book, Nine Elms, was an Amazon USA #1 bestseller and an Amazon UK top five bestseller, and the series has been sold into translation in 18 countries. The second book in the series is the global bestselling, Shadow Sands and the third book, Darkness Falls.

Robert was born in Lowestoft, on the east coast of England. He studied at Aberystwyth University, and the Guildford School of Acting, and was an actor for several years, but didn’t find success until he took a play he’d written to the Edinburgh Festival. This led to the decision to change career and start writing. He self-published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels, before switching to writing crime. Robert lives with his husband in Slovakia, and is lucky enough to write full-time.

You can find out more about Robert and his books on his website. You can also find him on Facebook and Instagram.