Adult Fiction, Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight – Louise Beech

Each month my author spotlight shines a sparkly light upon authors I admire and whose books I heartedly recommend. Read on to discover more about these spellbinding story makers who weave their magic into our lives through the pages of a book.

November 2017

November 2017 has gone in a flash and the nights are cold.  I absolutely love this time of year.  I’m just starting to feel festive, nature has been providing us with beautiful autumnal colours and the cold weather provides the perfect excuse for staying in the warm with a good book.  With Christmas approaching it also give me an extra reason to buy books for others too.  I adore giving books.  They make the perfect gift (easy to wrap too!) and I always hope I manage to match the right book with its recipient.

This year has been an amazing year for books.  I’ve read so many fantastic stories for both adults and children but one of the standout books for adults for me this year has to be Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech.  I have therefore decided to shine my light on Louise this month.

Louise Beech
Louise Beech

Louise has been writing for many years and has won awards for her short fiction.  In 2015 her debut novel, How To Be Brave was published by the small but wonderful publishing house, Orenda Books.  Orenda have a knack of finding excellent writers who produce outstanding work and Louise is certainly a great example of that.

I read Maria in the Moon towards the end of the summer and have since found my mind returning to it many times.  It is a wonderfully absorbing read, incredibly moving and absolutely beautifully written.  Louise is a skilled writer whose characters draw you into their world and when you finally reemerge a part of them and their story will always remain with you.  Maria in the Moon is an expertly crafted exploration of the mind and the power of the memories we hold there.

Maria in the Moon

Maria in the Moon

Opening lines….

Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name.

     When she called me it in her sing-song voice, I felt as lovely as the shimmering Virgin Mary statue on the bureau in her hallway.  When I went for Sunday lunch, I’d sneak away from the table while everyone ate lemon meringue pie and I’d stroke Mary’s vibrant blue dress.  Then, listening for adults approaching the door, I’d kiss her peeking-out feet – very carefully so that I didn’t knock her over.

     I didn’t want to break her.  Not because I knew my mother would send me to bed without supper.  Not because I knew I’d be reminded of my clumsiness for weeks after.  But because Nanny Eve was given Virgin Mary by her own mother, and she loved it dearly.  She would whisper to me that ‘virgin’ meant ‘pure’. Pure Mary.  Some of the letters in Mary were like those in my middle name.

     But that was all we shared.

Set after the destructive floods of 2007, we join Catherine as she begins a stint as a volunteer for a local Flood Crisis call centre.  She listens to others who are suffering, others who are in pain.  Yet deep within her memory lies a secret that is working it’s way towards the surface, a secret that has stayed suppressed in her memory since she was a child.  This is an emotive read.  It made me laugh, it made me cry and I was swept away by the story and the many varied characters that I met along the way.  Catherine was complex and damaged but also very compassionate.  Her story is heartbreaking and I felt every bit of her pain and confusion due to the wonderful writing.   The human mind will always inspire dark subject matter, but Louise has also captured the beauty there too and shows that sometimes out of the flood comes a chance for healing and for light to lay where darkness once was.

Absolutely stunning, I recommend this wholeheartedly and if you haven’t discovered Louise Beech yet, well, you’re in for a treat.

Synopsis

‘Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.

With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything.

Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

‘Like a cold spider, the memory stirred in my head and spun an icy web about my brain.

Someone else crawled in.

I remembered.’

Maria in the Moon was published by Orenda Books on 30th September 2017

Also by Louise Beech…

The Mountain in my Shoe

Mountain in my shoe

Synopsis

A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself.

On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family …and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.

The Mountain in my Shoe was published by Orenda Books on 19th September 2016

How To Be Brave

How to be Brave

Synopsis

All the stories died that morning – until we found the one we’d always known. When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love – and what it really means to be brave.

How To Be Brave was published by Orenda Books on 17th September 2015

Find out more about Louise by visiting her website and blog here.

Thank you for visiting.  Please do share, like or comment below. Happy Reading!

Adult Fiction

The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox

I originally reviewed this title last year for Lovereading. I’ve been a fan of Essie’s since first reading the wonderful Elijah’s Mermaid in 2013. Her writing is haunting and incredibly atmospheric and I’ve loved each one of her memorable novels. Essie also writes an absolutely fascinating blog as The Virtual Victorian. I thoroughly recommend checking her out if you haven’t already discoverer her. Read on for my Lovereading review or click on the link above to go direct to their website.

Ed Peters, a young Fleet Street journalist, lives a hedonistic 1970’s lifestyle of which he’s grown weary. Whilst the country is in the grip of a stifling heatwave, Ed returns to his mother’s hometown of Brightland in an effort to make his peace with both her and his past. However, an encounter in a junk shop leaves him bewitched by the story of the young silent movie actress, Leda Grey. As he sets out to meet the reclusive actress both life and sanity are at risk as he enters Leda’s world and the secrets hidden away for over 60 years in her decaying cliff-top house.

The oppressiveness of the heatwave together with the trickery and magic of the silent films is incredibly atmospheric throughout the book; causing us to question what is real and what is a mirage, blurring fact and fiction. Essie’s writing is beautiful and sensuous, capturing the very essence of time, place and character perfectly. Even days after finishing this story I can still see Leda Grey sweeping through the house, both in her young innocence and later as the weary, tormented ghost of the girl she used to be. Yet there is more to this faded movie star than meets the eye. What secrets surround her and what horrors haunt both woman and house? Ed is soon drawn into her story and the curse that surrounds her. Haunting, sad and beautifully written, this is yet another stunning novel from the wonderful Essie Fox.

Published by Orion.
Published in paperback: 14th November 2017

Reviewed originally for Lovereading.

 

Musings and Wonderment

For the love of Autumn

Autumn Leaves

I wrote this two years ago now and it’s still as relevant today as it was then…

4th November 2015

Today I awoke to the sound of rain. It’s not an unpleasant sound, not at all. As it entered my consciousness my first thought was ‘I’ll need my wellies today’.

image

I love autumn. I love the colours, I love the light as the sun sits low in the sky and gives everything an amazing intensity. Every sense is catered for: The smell of rain and woodsmoke. The taste of a fresh morning, like the first bite into a crisp, juicy apple. Nature provides a feast for the eyes as the leaves on the trees enthrall us with their colour and beauty before they finally, ever so gently, loosen their grip and drift gently to the ground. The sounds of the wind and rain, the splash of a puddle and the crackle of a bonfire. Yes, I do so love autumn.