Am very excited to have received these two great titles from Walker Books. Can’t wait to read them. Reviews to follow soon…
Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf
Everybody likes Chris Goodman.
Yes, he’s a little weird. He wears those crazy bell-bottom trousers, he really likes the word ennui and he shakes your hand when he meets you. But he’s the kind of guy who’s always up for a good time, happy to help out.
Everybody likes Chris Goodman, which is why it’s so shocking when he’s murdered.
A GRIPPING MYSTERY TOLD FROM MULTIPLE POINTS OF VIEW, INSPIRED BY A TRUE CRIME FROM THE AUTHOR’S PAST.
Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham
Stevie is passionate about music. It’s what keeps her going when things are particularly difficult at home.
Hafiz loves football. But he’s hardly played since he set out on the long journey from Syria.
Together the two forge a unique friendship that will help save them both.
I first came across an advert for Killer Joe on Facebook. It was Orlando Bloom who caught my eye. I’ve seen his work on screen many times but I was intrigued to see what presence he brought to the stage and the story sounded interesting if a little dark. So I bought tickets. Fast forward a few months and I find myself wondering through London on a warm, summers evening, a rare night out alone with my husband.
We arrived at The Trafalgar Studios in plenty of time and so decided to have a drink and a pretzel (delicious) in the bar before the performance. It was our first time at this particular theatre and I loved it. Small and nicely put together. The play was in Studio 1. You emerge from the walkway up some steps that bring you out into the auditorium and straight onto the stage. It creates quite an entrance. Immediately the scene is before you and Sophie Cookson was already on stage in character as the innocent, yet damaged Dottie.
From the moment I emerged onto the stage and turned towards the audience to find my seat I was completely gripped. The stage simply blends into the seating so you can actually feel the dirt and grass beneath your feet as you find your way to your seat. The whole production was a complete assault on the senses. We had excellent seats (but to be honest I don’t think there was a bad seat in the house – it’s a very impressive little theatre) and the intimate nature of the studio meant that we were so close to the stage we could literally smell the food on the table and the cigarette smoke as it curled it’s way up into the darkness above us. We felt right there amongst the action. It was utterly thrilling.
One of the things I love about live theatre is the atmosphere. Although so many effects can be achieved on screen today you still can’t quite capture the feeling of it happening right before you. Killer Joe takes a closer look at the dark side of life. The underlying theme is abject poverty and abuse and characters who live a half life existing from one day to the next in despair and loathing. The only thing drowning out that despair is the loudness of the TV, the next can of beer or pill. Their lives are poisoned to the very core and the antidote to that poison, they believe, is murder. It is then they invite Joe Cooper or ‘Killer Joe’ into their lives and begin a journey with unseen consequences that will bring the play to a shocking climax.
Each member of the cast was superb. Orlando Bloom was chilling as Killer Joe and commanded the audience with his very presence. He emits a great energy and I think he enjoyed stepping into these darker shoes. He has always come across as fearless to me and I think this is something that lends itself to the role very well. The darkness of the character captured in the arrogance of his stare as his eyes sweep around the trailer and out into the audience adding to that sense of being drawn into the play and making you feel he is staring right at you.
Sophie Cookson was a joy to watch. Her Dottie was incredible, the damage to the girl growing more evident as the play moved on. Her ‘loving’ brother Chris was played by Adam Gillen and his performance of despair, fear and destruction was fantastic. Their father Ansel, was played by Steffan Rhodri, an actor I am familiar with for his hilarious role as Dave Coaches in the tv series, Gavin and Stacey. There wasn’t a hint of Dave in this performance and he switched to the role of the wasted, hard done man living in a trailer brilliantly. A man who was beaten by life and yet still trying to hold on to some degree of respect within his own household. Neve McIntosh played his wife and step-mother to both Dottie and Chris. I’ve come across Neve before on television in an episode of Death in Paradise and unknowingly in Doctor Who and her presence on stage was wonderfully engaging. Her character shocking from the very moment she walks on stage. All in all a brilliant cast and even now a few days later I am thinking of that play.
It is brutal and it’s shocking but absolutely brilliant. The final scenes come together superbly and left me on the edge of my seat and absolutely blown away. Killer Joeis due to finish on the 18th of August but if there are still tickets available then I urge you to grab some and go along.
This is a blog tour with a difference and I’m delighted to be kicking it off today on Tales Before Bedtime. The tour has been inspired by the novel, Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham which is published today by Walker Books. As Siobhan’s book is about empathy and seeing things from others perspective I’m delighted to have the opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and post a piece by a fellow blogger and book lover.
Our lives are often touched by people who leave a mark: perhaps a light in dark times or kindness, love and laughter. Perhaps they’ve reminded us of who we are or who we’d like to be, or simply they’ve become part of memories that stay with us long after we’ve known them. Quite often we never get the chance to let them know what they mean to us and Amy has expressed this perfectly in her piece. We should never presume that others know how we feel about them. Some things just shouldn’t be left unsaid.
So now over to Amy.
Open Letter: To those, I still love but have lost
To those, I still love but have lost,
I have wanted to write this for the longest time, but this was finally the right time. For this blog tour but also because I finished university recently. University was a place where I met so many new people, but my life seems very up in the air.
You might be wondering who this is about, and the truth is: this is for everyone. Anyone who has made an impact on my life. My friends. My family. Those who are no longer in my life anymore. Although this is my side of the story, I respect your OK too. After all friendship is a two-way relationship.
Life has a way of making us lose touch with people. People you think will be in the longest time in life. You make plans. Going to university. Even bridesmaid at a wedding. Then BAM. Life gets in the way. You move. Someone else moves. You lose contact. Your life becomes liking each other’s posts on Instagram or Facebook. You become someone’s old friend rather than someone’s friend. It’s weird.
So, this is for you. You may never see this, but I know that you mean something to me. We may have lost touch, but I still love you. Like you. Remember you. I remember the times when I laughed so hard that I cried. The films that we saw together. Our days at school. The lessons and the inside jokes that only worked at that times that we would laugh at and everyone would think we were crazy. The lunchtimes. The breaks. The throwaway conversations about our day. The nights that we stayed up too late and the sleepovers that we had.
I remember it all. And I hope you do too. But I don’t mind if I am just a distance memory. We needed each other at that time. We moved on and that’s OK. A piece of me would like to talk to you. See you again. See where you are now. But I don’t mind if I don’t. I hope you are well. That your life is great. Because you deserve it. You really do.
So that’s you. If you wonder about me. I’m good. I’m really good. I’m doing what I love, and I am working towards where I want to be. I hope that this is enough. I really do. But if that’s not. Do what I am scared to do. Because I’m here. I’m here.
The weird thing is that I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll leave it here. If you read this and think it sounds like you. Then it probably is. Know that I remember you. That I love you.
Thank you Amy for sharing such a personal message with us. It was lovely to read.
Do make a visit to Amy’s blog here where she shares her love of books and writing.
And readers do share your thoughts on this post by leaving a comment. Do you have anything you wish you hadn’t left unsaid?
Want to know a little more about Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham? Here’s the synopsis.
Fourteen-year-old Stevie lives in Lewes with her beloved vinyl collection, her mum … and her mum’s depression. When Stevie’s mum’s disability benefits are cut, Stevie and her mother are plunged into a life of poverty. But irrepressible Stevie is determined not to be beaten and she takes inspiration from the lyrics of her father’s 1980s record collection and dreams of a life as a musician. Then she meets Hafiz, a talented footballer and a Syrian refugee. Hafiz’s parents gave their life savings to buy Hafiz a safe passage to Europe; his journey has been anything but easy. Then he meets Stevie…
As Stevie and Hafiz’s friendship grows, they encourage each other to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.
An uplifting story of friendship, unity and hope that highlights the important and topical issues surrounding young carers and young refugees.
Find out more about this title from Walker Books by visiting their website here.
Thank so much to Kirsten and John at Walker books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.
Dinah is one of my favourite authors, she not only has the beautiful ability to paint pictures in my mind, she also conjures taste, evokes smells, and I feel, I really feel the emotions of her characters. Historical (tick), relationship (tick), family drama (tick), provocative, rich, expressive, captivating, exotic, vibrant (tick, tick, tick). Her books have been in the Sunday Times top ten, and two have been Richard and Judy book club picks.
Liz –Who was your favourite character from a book when you were a child and what was it about them that you loved?
Dinah –I loved Jo from Little Women because she was such a strong and driven character. I was fascinated by her longing and determination to be a published writer and my heart broke when her sister burnt her manuscript. She might have forgiven her sister, (horrid, horrid girl, whose name escapes me!) but I didn’t.
Liz –Have you always written? What made you decide to try your hand at writing a book and how long was it before you were published?
Dinah –My first novel took about a year to write and remains unpublished – always will do so. Writing it was a fantastic learning experience, but I’d never want to see it in print. Everything I learnt as I wrote that first book influenced me as I took on the challenge of writing The Separation, which was bought by Viking at Penguin in 2012, and published in 2014. Years before I began to write novels I tried my hand at a children’s book and, throughout my life, I have scribbled my thoughts as a way of coping with life. It never occurred to me to write a novel until I had time on my hands and worries that I could do nothing about. I had no idea if it was something I could do or not. Luckily it turned out well. Writing fiction began as a means of escape but now my only regret is that I left it so late.
Liz –Do you read non-fiction, if so, is it for pleasure, for research, or a little of both?
Dinah – It’s mainly research, although I recently read a wonderful memoir written by a woman with early onset dementia. Both my parents had age related dementia and I so wish I’d been able to read this book while they were still alive. So worth a read and a huge bestseller it’s called Somebody I used to know by Wendy Mitchell. Everyone should read it.
Liz – I find myself transported to the world you write about, particularly when it comes to the senses, do you write from memory, imagination, or when you are there?
Dinah – It’s a combination of all those things plus anything that might have inspired me during the research period. Sometimes a detailed memoir helps to create the feel of country in my mind, sometimes a film, sometimes dry old anecdotes that I’ve found hidden away in an obscure corner of the internet or in a dusty old book. All of it helps but nothing beats going to the country to pick up atmosphere and sensory detail, although when I’m there I often need to search to find the vestiges of the past that I’m really after.
Liz – What has been the nicest surprise you’ve had since you started writing?
Dinah –I have been lucky that there have been so many. Firstly, The Tea Planter’s Wife being chosen as a Richard&Judy book club pick was just out of this world thrilling. And then when it went on to become a Sunday Times Number one and staying in the top ten for months… Wow! It was totally unexpected and so amazing I really had to pinch myself daily. Since then I’ve had two more top tens and a second Richard&Judy pick this year with The Sapphire Widow. All of this has truly surprised and delighted me, along with how lovely the people I work with at Penguin are, plus the fantastic readers, authors, and bloggers I’ve met along the way. It’s all been a wonderful surprise.
Liz – What is your favourite research trip memory?
Dinah –Leaving Tea Trails. We had been staying in a fabulous colonial bungalow beside a huge lake in the hilly tea country of Sri Lanka, where I set Tea Planter. We had to depart for our journey home with our luggage piled high in one canoe, and us squeezed rather nervously into another, because the road had been completely washed away by the monsoon. I had visions of the cases landing in the water or, if not that, one of us – but, despite being a bit wet, we reached the other side without mishap.
Liz –Can you tell us anything about your next book?
Dinah – I am loving writing this one. It’s about a crime that happened in the past in Burma but that must be solved in the present. It revolves around the tricky relationship between a mother and her daughter and, as a dual narrative novel, it’s set in Gloucestershire as well as Burma. Publication is scheduled for July 2019 although that may change. For example, this year The Sapphire Widow had been scheduled for late July but because of the Richard& Judy window it had to be brought forward to early April in a mad but very exciting rush. They didn’t even have time to make the book proofs and everyone had to be sent finished copies instead.
Thank you so much Dinah, I can’t wait to get my hands on your new book!
Dinah’s latest novel The Sapphire Widow is available now in Paperback, Kindle and Audio Book.
Today I would like to share with you a memoir by C.E.A. Forster. The author is a foster carer and she has decided to share her stories within the pages of her book, You’re Being Ridiculous!
A new authorial voice relaying true stories that are likely to both horrify you and make you laugh out loud. Events and conversations are told with pace, humour and humanity as the author shares with you her memories of the situations she has lovingly endured while at the mercy of her numerous foster boys. It is heart warming, heart breaking and heartfelt in equal measures. It is a memoir of sorts but it is definitely not a misery memoir.
C.E.A. Forster is youngish, conceivably pushing middle age, although she would argue as to where that line is drawn, and she is just wanting to share with you the trials, tribulations and sheer joy of her time as a foster carer.
She writes of the sounds of bystanders that she can still to this day hear ringing in her ears, tutting at her apparent inability to control the children in her care and of the mayhem that follows theme everywhere, along with her repeated admonition to them of “you’re being ridiculous!”.
Claire has experienced this awful questions in the most public of places concerning the differences between boys and girls and has been informed by a six year old on the habits of mating Turtles. Have you ever heard of pee wars? Have you ever crash landed in a World War II plane and lived to tell the tale? Not to mention some of the topics discussed at the dinner table that would make even the most bold of us blush.
Claire won’t mind you laughing at her or with her and she will leave you knowing, in no uncertain terms, just how much she grew to love these boys and how they will always have a special place in her heart. She hopes that maybe one day they will come back into her life to remind her of their own memories.
You can feel the love and compassion Claire has felt for each and every one of the children that have shared her home. It is not a light undertaking being a foster carer, to provide a safe haven for these troubled young souls who for whatever reason have found themselves in need of temporary shelter.
Each child that she talks about within the book has obviously had a massive impact on her life and we can hope the their stories each have happy endings but one thing we can be sure of is that for a brief time they were able to be with someone who shared with them her zest for life, sense of humour and who was willing to love and care for them unconditionally, providing them with a brief respite before they moved on to whatever the future has in store for them.
Claire decided to share her life and her home with children who were in need of care, love and an escape from the difficulties they faced. She is very considerate and discrete in her narration. This isn’t about the horrors and heartbreak that the children may have come from. It’s not about the effect their young experiences have had on them but it’s about nurturing and helping those fragile beings so they leave a little brighter and a little happier than when they arrived. This book is a celebration of her decision to become a foster carer and the kindness and love she has been able to provide these children during the time they are with her. The children may have only been with Claire for a short time but I can tell she will always carry a little of them with her and I imagine that they will carry something of her too.
A light-hearted, funny and yet at times sad book, this was a pleasure to read. As a parent I can understand some of Claire’s more cringe-worthy encounters but she seems to have addressed some tricky (and at times very embarrassing moments) with a cool, calm head. Any parent will tell you that you learn on the job and no two children are ever the same. For a foster carer this can be even more of a challenge as they have such little knowledge of the small but powerful personalities presented before them and are left to constantly think on their feet.
I feel that it is wonderful to know that there are people such as Claire out there ready to be there for these children, whatever circumstances they may be coming from.
Thank you Claire for inviting me to read and review You’re Being Ridiculous!
You can discover more about Claire by visiting her website here or follow her on Twitter @cea_forster
The brilliant new novel from the author of Hold Back The Stars
Thea and Isaac were close, but they’ve grown apart.
Thea world tirelessly, convinced that she can prove everyone around her wrong – convinced she can prove that time travel is possible. But when her latest attempts goes awry, she finds herself picking up the phone and calling her old friend.
Issac is in New York – it’s the middle of the night, but when he sees who’s calling him, he cannot ignore his phone. At Thea’s request, he travels home, determined to help her in her hour of need.
But neither of them are prepared for what they will discover when he gets there.
The Light Between Usis a story of second chances and time travel. It begs the dangerous question that we all ask ourselves – what could have been? “
Katie’s novels are completely unique. They are love stories that are complex with plots that are smart, thought-provoking and brave. She makes us question the reality that surrounds us and just how far love can take us.
The Light Between Us is a story about love, yes, but it is also about the choices and actions we take and the effect they have on the world around us. There is also a very powerful message about mis-understanding, lack of communication and jumping to conclusions.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story as I wouldn’t want to give anything away. I thoroughly enjoyed discovering as I read and I urge you to do the same. This is science fiction slap bang in the here and now, totally relatable and current. The writing as always is brilliantly sharp. Setting, character and place are brought to life wonderfully; there is also adventure, danger and of course a love story.
She feels the thrill of excitement – her skin tingles with the power of the laser, magnified by the glass house; the hairs on her arms stand up and she can’t help but smile.
Is it working? There’s the smell of electricity in the room, and a sound of crackling, underpinned by a thrumming hum. It must be working – she knew it would. She was right all along.
She hopes Rosy’s all right in the glass house, and that it’s not too warm. She should check on her.
Thea shields her eyes with her arm, peering towards the glass house where, inside, Rosy should be standing – is she there. It’s too bright to see. Thea moves gingerly towards the cubicle, protecting herself from the light, when –
A blinding colourless brightness, then the power goes out with a womp as the lab falls into total darkness.
They stand at the centre of it all, surrounded by the black.
‘I think we did something bad.’
The Light Between Us by Katie Khan
I love a novel that leaves my mind full of images at the end. This story has certainly stayed with me and the vividness, light and emotion along with it. Katie has the ability to capture the magic, wonder and fragility that encompasses love. As always there is an element of heartbreak, light and darkness but I absolutely love the way Katie ends her novels. This one was particularly memorable and as with Hold Back The Stars, I can see The Light Between Us coming to film or tv.
Katie is an exciting, intelligent author and I have loved both of her novels so far. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Thank you so much to Hannah Bright for sending me a copy of The Light Between Us,it was an absolute joy to read.
Also by Katie Khan…
Hold Back The Stars
A few years from now, not too far in the future, two people meet.
It is a classic story of boy meets girl.
Except that it’s not.
When we find them, they have an hour and a half left.
Unless they can save themselves, they won’t survive.
The clock is ticking.
Bittersweet and life-affirming, Hold Back the Stars is the love story of the year.
Beautifully written, this stunning, unusual debut weaves its way through an intense, all-encompassing first love. A love forbidden by the times in which they live and yet one that they’ll risk everything not to lose.
Hold Back the Starsis set in a future where the world has been ravaged by war and a new society introduced. The earth is now peaceful but this comes at a price. There are rules and one of the rules is that you don’t fall in love until you reach the appropriate age. Yet the heart rarely follows rules and when Carys and Max meet its ten years before either should be thinking of settling down. They are young, rebellious and maybe the system no longer works for their generation.
Throughout the novel Carys and Max are desperately trying to find a way to survive after their ship is damaged and they are stranded in space and rapidly running out of both air and options. I loved discovering their relationship as Khan dips in and out of their past moving us towards the moment that brought them to be being in space and the catastrophic situation they find themselves in. It is intense and Khan conjures up the sheer vastness of space and their desperation as they watch the minute’s tick away taking them closer to death. Yes this is a novel about survival but ultimately it is a unique love story about how true love can turn our world upside down and also, maybe it can be the very thing that saves us too.
I write books about light and space.”
To find out more about Katie you can visit her website here.
quotation taken from Sponsor’s Foreword by Craig McWilliam from p9, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up published by V&A Publishing, 2018
Frida Kahlo has always intrigued me. She is someone I had heard of but knew very little about except that she was a famous artist who created self-portraits full of colour and beauty. So when a friend offered to take me to the V&A Museum to see an exhibition celebrating this unusual artist, I jumped at the chance.
I am incredibly drawn to colour. The bolder and brighter the better and Frida Kahlo is one that seems to have embraced that within her life. I knew that she had, rather sadly, died young and I have come across some of her more famous work from time to time but otherwise my knowledge has been sketchy. This wonderful exhibition has completely changed that. It has been expertly curated, bringing together her work alongside some truly fascinating personal items of Frida’s. It really helps to bring to the life the artist behind the art. Her work was always deeply personal, an extension of her most intimate self and so it seems fitting that it should be presented to us now in such a manner.
In 1954, following her death, Frida Kahlo’s possessions were locked away in the Casa Azul (Blue House) in Mexico City, her lifelong home. Half a century later, her collection of clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and other personal items was rediscovered.
quotation taken from, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up published by V&A Publishing, 2018
Frida Kahlo’s life was filled with pain, ill health and massive obstacles to overcome and yet she was able to fully embrace her love of life, beauty and passion. She used art to radically change the way we see the world, examining our sense of self and the world around us. Her self-portraits are haunting and although she painted many, each one has a different feeling, a different message to convey.
As with many of Kahlo’s art works, the power of the self-portrait lies in its sense of anguish and a tense ambiguity about who is regarding whom
quotation taken from p13, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up published by V&A Publishing, 2018
As a child she suffered from Polio which left her disabled and then in her late teens an accident involving a tram left her bedridden for a year with injuries that would plague her for the rest of her life. This is when she began to explore her artistic side and reinvented herself despite her disabilities.
Her imagine was completely of her own making, Frida herself becoming a work of art as well as the practical purpose of hiding her disabilities. Although battered and bruised she celebrated her body and turned it into a platform to exhibit her art, be it through the beautiful, bright clothes she chose to wear, the flowers taken from her garden and worn in her hair or the paintings she decorated her body casts with, Kahlo sought to bring beauty to everything.
The exhibition is interesting, full of information and fascinating relics. Visually stunning, at times it took my breath away with the colour, the stature, the intimacy. Her art was an expression of herself but also a way for her to explore her heritage, her gender, her political beliefs, and her broken body. There is so much to read into her work and the objects that we are now fortunate enough to see.
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up offers a fresh perspective on the life story of this extraordinary artist, whose charisma and powerful sense of style continue to captivate. Specially commissioned photographs show her distinctive Mexican outfits along with her self-portraits, an unprecedented pairing that is enriched by iconic images of the artist.
quotation taken from, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up published by V&A Publishing, 2018
The accompanying book, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up is full of fascinating essays and stunning photography. If you can’t make it to the exhibition then I recommend this as a brilliant substitute. If you are lucky enough to be be able to visit then allow yourself plenty of time to immerse yourself in the exhibits. Don’t miss a thing. And do take home the book if you can. It adds another dimension to what you see within the exhibition and allows you to study it in your own time. It not only gives greater depth to the exhibition but gives a fascinating background to the world and time that Frida lived in.
Visiting the V&A and witnessing this exhibition has allowed me to see so much more of Frida Kahlo. I was touched by a great deal within the exhibition and the book is allowing an even greater insight. She was incredibly talented and incredibly courageous. Her life was short but her time still fills our world with colour, beauty and the desire to question and look within; to not only know ourselves better but to strive to be the very best, most enquiring, courageous, openminded and beautiful versions of ourselves.
The exhibition, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, will be running at the V&A Museum until Sunday 4th of November. Tickets cost £15 but entry is free to members.
You can purchase a copy of the accompanying book, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up direct from the V&A at a special exhibition price by clicking here.