Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut, Family Drama, Relationship Stories

The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie

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Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie. Over 100k eBooks have already been sold to date and the publication in paperback will bring this wonderful family saga to the hands of many more readers.

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.

There is something rather wonderful about a good family saga. It pulls you in, makes you care and you follow through all the ups and downs, the heartache and the happiness because you want to see where it all ends. The Sewing Machine is one such story.

I was initially drawn in by the sewing machine. Using both image and name tempted me to pick up this engaging novel. My Nan used to own a singer sewing machine and so the brand itself holds memories of my own.

The Sewing Machine takes us through a period of time of over a hundred years, through various time points until the threads are all brilliantly brought together. Although at times heartbreaking, it was a comforting read, like a warm, hearty casserole on a winters day.

At the heart of the story is the sewing machine itself and how this item impacted on so many lives. I thought Natalie brought each of the characters together wonderfully. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each and every one. There was an awful lot of love amongst the pages of this book and it shows us that hope can be found in even the most difficult circumstances. My favourite character was Alf, such a warm, loving and generous human being. I also loved Fred and the issues he faced as he unravelled his past and the past of his family. A beautifully written debut, The Sewing Machine is simply unforgettable. I enjoyed reading this so very much.

Thank you Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for arranging my review copy.

About the Author

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Natalie Fergie is a textile enthusiast, and has spent the last ten years running a one-woman dyeing business,
sending parcels of unique yarn and thread all over the world. Before this she had a career in nursing. She lives
near Edinburgh.

www.nataliefergie.com
@NatalieSFergie

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Blog Tour, Children's Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Tales Before Bedtime Juniors

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest spell-binding novel from Michelle Harrison – A Pinch of Magic. I’m also thrilled to share a piece from Michelle herself on the inspiration behind the story. Read on dear reader, read on.

How stunning is this cover? Believe me it’s even more beautiful in the flesh, shimmering with gold foil. The detail is amazing and you’ll catch many glimpses of the story on this eye-catching cover.

I absolutely adored reading A Pinch of Magic, it’s a wonderful story full of adventure, courage and magic. Betty Widdershins is a sparky young lady desperate for travel and adventure but she might just get rather more than she bargained for. This is a story about magic but it’s also a story about family, love, and that nothing good can come from jealousy and hatred. Recommended for age 8+, I think this is a joyous read for anyone. Michelle is a mesmerising writer and I was completely held within her spell from the moment I picked the book up.

Synopsis

It was on Betty Widdershins’ thirteenth birthday that she first learned of the family curse…

Living on the isle of Crowstone, surrounded by eerie marshes and a formidable prison, the Widdershins sisters: Betty, Fliss and Charlie, are desperate for adventure. But when Betty strays too far from home, she learns the awful truth: a deadly curse has haunted her family for generations. If Betty and her sisters leave Crowstone, they will be dead by sunrise.

But the knowledge of the family curse comes with a bit of excitement too! Each sister inherits a magical object, been passed down the family: A scruffy carpet bag, a set of wooden nesting dolls and a gilt-framed mirror – none of them are what they seem.

Will they be enough to help the Widdershins break the curse? Or will the sisters have better luck with a mysterious prisoner who claims he can help them?

And now lets here a little from the author herself…

Author, Michelle Harrison

Widdershins and Witches: the inspiration for A Pinch of Magic – by Michelle Harrison

I came across the wonderful, whimsical word ‘widdershins’ in one of the spell books I often leaf through when researching magic for my stories. It’s a word commonly associated with witchcraft, and means the witches’ path/ the wrong way/ anti-clockwise. In the past, even observing someone walking ‘widdershins’ was enough to warrant an accusation of witchcraft. These days, when it is used by modern wiccans it’s usually for the purposes of banishing or eliminating something. It’s also believed to be unlucky. Naturally, I fell in love with the word immediately, and decided it had to be the name of the family in my next story.

Originally, A Pinch of Magic was based on witches, a subject I find endlessly fascinating. In the first three chapters and synopsis which I sent to my editor, Betty Widdershins discovered she was a witch on her thirteenth birthday and had to master a signature spell linked to an ordinary object of her choosing.


The idea stemmed from a snippet of local folklore linked to the Essex village of Canewdon. According to legend, there will always be six witches in the village, and whenever a stone falls from the church tower walls it signifies that one of them has died and been replaced within the coven.

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While I loved the idea of all this, there was a problem. My publisher already had several other books about witches lined up, so my editor asked if we could rethink the witch element but retain certain parts of the folklore. Following some discussion and brainstorming I came up with the idea of a family curse, which allowed me to keep the ‘fairy tale’ aspect of the falling stones. Of course I then had to give Betty some siblings to ramp up the tension and danger of the curse, so Fliss and Charlie were introduced. As the youngest of three sisters myself, it felt like a good dynamic and the ‘power of three’ fits with my liking of fairy tales.

The witch became a sorceress, the church a tower, and the stones falling from it a warning of imminent death for the cursed girls. Finally, the ‘signature spell’ became a set of three magical objects handed down the family – after all, gifts and curses go hand in hand. The name of ‘Widdershins’ still worked perfectly with the idea of being cursed; being both unlucky and symbolic of the girls trying to ‘banish’ the curse from their lives. But I have to admit that it’s such a favourite word of mine that I was intent on using it – and I’m thrilled that it continues to be part of my working life, because I’m already working on the Widdershins’ next adventure . . .

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So there we have it, the synopsis and the inspiration. There is already so much buzz surrounding this book. It is also a Waterstones book of the month (with some absolutely gorgeous special purple edged copies). This is a story to entrance young readers and add fuel to reading for pleasure, a story that will be treasured. I am so happy to hear there are more Widdershins’ adventures coming our way, these characters have found their way into my heart and I can’t wait to see where their story takes them next.

If you’d like to discover more about Michelle and her writing then take a look at her website here.

Thank you to Michelle for sharing Widdershins and Witches and her stunning photographs for me to feature on my blog.

Thanks also to Olivia Horrox at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy for review and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

 

Young Adult Fiction

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

The award-winning author of The Hate U Give returns with a powerful story about hip hop, freedom of speech – and fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you.

Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. But when her first song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Bri finds herself at the centre of controversy and portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. And with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it – she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

Angie Thomas has created quite a stir in the world of YA fiction, hard-hitting with characters and situations many young people can relate to. Her first novel The Hate You Give was a book picked off the library shelves time and time again.

Nominated for awards and adapted for the big screen it’s certainly a lot to live up to but I think On The Come Up can certainly hold it’s own. It’s smart and very readable making it suitable for even reluctant readers. Give them a story that will grip them, excite and move them and they won’t be able to put it down. I can’t wait to share it with my young adult readers.

On The Come Up is published today by Walker Books.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult Fiction

Inborn by Thomas Enger

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for another gripping offering from Orenda Books. Inborn by Thomas Enger is a thrilling court room drama that had me hooked and reading into the night.

When a teenager is accused of a high-school murder, he finds himself subject to trial by social media … and in the dock.

A taut, moving and chilling thriller by one of Nordic Noir’s finest writers.

When the high school in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim becomes a murder scene, the finger is soon pointed at seventeen-year-old Even. As the investigation closes in, social media is ablaze with accusations, rumours and even threats, and Even finds himself the subject of an online trial as well as being in the dock … for murder?

Even pores over his memories of the months leading up to the crime, and it becomes clear that more than one villager was acting suspiciously … and secrets are simmering beneath the calm surface of this close-knit community. As events from the past play tag with the present, he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew. Was the death of his father in a car crash a decade earlier really accidental? Has his relationship stirred up something that someone is prepared to kill to protect?

It seems that there may be no one that Even can trust.

But can we trust him?

A taut, moving and chilling thriller, Inborn examines the very nature of evil, and asks the questions: How well do we really know our families? How well do we know ourselves?

Oh my, this is one good read. A chilling prologue leads us into the story where we follow young Johannes, a bright young soul, as he walks into something he really wishes he hadn’t. What follows is a series of events that we begin to witness through the trial when 17 year old Even takes to the dock.

Twists and turns aplenty my suspicions changed on many occasions. Wonderfully told mostly through the voice of a 17 year old the story keeps the fear, frustration and despair right on the surface. It brilliantly showed the dangers of social media. How it can be easy to condemn and spread hate and mistrust. Chinese whispers for the 21st century and a super way to throw in those clues (or red herrings).

You can’t help but feel sorry for Even; he has a difficult life with a reclusive younger brother and a mother who still continues to drown her sorrows some years after the death of their father in a car crash. The only sense of parental support comes from their uncle Imo. And now Even’s recently ex-girlfriend has been murdered and he is under suspicion.

I love the way Enger has built the story around the trial, hearing what Even has to say but also returning to past events with flashbacks through Yngve Monk, the Chief Inspector who has recently lost his wife and is floundering somewhat. He is also a great character though and I felt his loss keenly. Enger expertly portraying the sense of bewilderment and sadness that follows the death of a loved one. Monk really cares about the case too, determined to get to the bottom of what happened on that awful night he puts his grief to one side and gets the job done – with a little bit of help of course. The picture gradually becoming clearer and clearer until the shocking conclusion is revealed.

Absolutely gripping, this is one that I would definitely recommend for young adults and older readers alike. It is also crying out for a tv adaptation. There are plenty of skeletons in the closet of the people in Fredheim and they’re about to come out in a most spectacular but deadly way.

Thoroughly recommended.

Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and to her and Orenda Books for my eBook. As much as I prefer print copies I do LOVE the way I can read in the dark with an eBook. 🙂

About the author

Thomas Enger is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication, and marked the first in the bestselling Henning Juul series. Rights to the series have been sold to 28 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Killer Instinct, upon which Inborn is based, and another Young Adult suspense novel, was published in Norway in 2017 and won the prestigious prize. Most recently, Thomas has co-written a thriller with Jorn Lier Horst. Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

Art & Exhibitions

Dior – Designer of Dreams Exhibition at the V&A Museum


Dior: Designer of Dreams – The Sunday Review

This weekend saw the opening of a feast for fashionistas and anyone interested in beautiful design. The Dior – Designer of Dreams Exhibition at the V&A Museum

Visually it really is a stunning feast for the eyes but even more than that it is an incredible testimony to the designer who, after the austerity of the war years, brought beauty and style to the female figure. You can feel the history behind each piece documenting a time of elegance, beauty and change. A time when life was to be celebrated and lived.

Dior himself died young in 1957 (he was only 52), but those few years left a legacy that is still inspiring and resonating in the world today. His design house was only ten years old when he died, but his vision and ideals are still alive and well today.

The exhibition brings us pieces designed by Dior himself and also from the Creative Directors who have led the fashion house on, from strength to strength, since his death.

And now the V&A have brought the collections together, and what wonderful hands these pieces are currently in. The curation is inspired, the presentation impeccable. The clever use of mirrors bring each piece to you from every angle and the visual effect is stunning.

Christian Dior is such a recognisable name and yet I knew very little about the man himself. My visit to the V & A today has shown me what an incredible talent he was. Although he has been gone for over sixty years, Christian Dior is very much still inspiring and enchanting us.

Tickets for the exhibition are sold out throughout February but it is open until July 14th. Members can visit anytime for free and although there was some rather long queues today we didn’t have to wait too long.

 

 

 

Adult Fiction, Bookish Post, Coming Soon, Crime, Debut, Fiction, Review, Suspense, Thriller

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

A Tales Before Bedtime Sunday Review

Sometimes you discover an author and there is an instant connection.  You soak up their words and disappear into their worlds.  Whenever you hear there is a new offering on the horizon your ears prick up, damn it your whole damn head up – somewhat like a meerkat – and wait eagerly for it to arrive.  It’s a truly wonderful feeling.  One such author that holds that magic over me is Louise Beech. Her writing never fails to leave me entranced.  Her novels are all so different and yet all so wonderful.  I can’t tell you how happy I was to receive a proof copy of her latest novel, Call Me Star Girl.  

There were three things that sold this novel to me.  

The author. The publisher. The synopsis.  

Although the fact that it was quoted as being ‘reminiscent of Play Misty For Me, surely one of Clint Eastwood finest and most chilling of films, did catch my attention too.  I watched the film again not too long ago and there is still so much I love about it, not least the 70’s music, style and cinematography, but it gives you the feeling that you’re watching a series of events spiralling helplessly out of control. All these factors put together had me feeling this novel was going to be GOOOOD.  And Oh my, I wasn’t wrong.

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

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Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show.

The theme is secrets.  You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.  Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years.  She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father…

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station, who says he knows who killed the pregnant Victoria Valbon, found brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago. 

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything.

In her writing Louise delves deep into the mind. She looks at cause and effect, how events and trauma shape our personalities and actions. We can never really know what goes on in another’s mind and she shows the dark maze winding deep within each of us; holding endless fears, desires, doubts and secrets. It is truly powerful. Call Me Star Girl also looks at the darker side of love. The all-consuming love that can rarely end well. The story is dark, creepy and utterly engrossing as Stella’s past and present collide with shattering consequences.

Louise’s characters have this wonderful ability to get inside your head, leading you on with the story, sharing their story, so you are standing right beside them in that dark, god forsaken alley. Atmospheric to say the least, the setting of a radio station through the night provides the perfect backdrop for events to unfold.

Her plotting is superb, the twists and turns leaving you fearful for the outcome but unable to tear yourself away. This is one story that will stay with you; like a whisper it will creep into your thoughts long after you turn the final page.

Absolutely brilliant and thoroughly recommended.

Here is a wee snippet taken from the first few pages…

‘The lights buzzed and flickered. I held my breath. Exhaled when they settled. I would not be spooked by a trickster.

Stella, this will tell you everything.

How did they know what I wanted to know?

What was everything?

I opened the main door, book held tight to my hammering chest. The car park was empty, a weed-logged expanse edged with dying trees. It’s always quiet at this hour of the night. I waited, not sure what I expected to happen – maybe some stranger loitering, hunched over and menacing. They would not scare me.

“I’m not afraid,’ I said it aloud.

Who was I trying to convince?

I set off for home. I usually walk, enjoying the night air after a stuffy studio. I’m not sure why – though now it seems profound – but I paused at the alley that separates the allotment from the Fortune Bingo hall. Bramble bushes tangle there like sweet barbed wire. It’s a long but narrow cut-through that kids ride their bikes too fast along and drunks stagger down when the pub shuts. I rarely walk down there, even though it would make my journey home quicker. The place disturbs me, so I always hurry past, take the long way around, without glancing into the shadows.

I did that night too.

But I looked back. Just once, the strange book pressed against my chest.

It was two weeks before they found the girl there.

Two weeks before I started getting phone calls.

I didn’t know any of that then. If I had, I might have walked a little faster.’

About the Author

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Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015.  the follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize.  Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed and critically acclaimed.  All four have been #1 kindle bestsellers.  Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetics Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice.  Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

You can follow Louise on Twitter: @LouiseWriter and visit her website here.

Call Me Star Girl is published by Orenda Books on April 18th 2019 which still gives you plenty of time to discover Louise’s previous work if you haven’t yet done so.

Thank you so much to the lovely team at Orenda Books for sending me the proof copy to read and review for an honest opinion.

 

 

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut

The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden

Today, I’m delighted to say,  is my stop on the blog tour for The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden.  This is a wonderful novel and Oh Billy, you have broken my heart. There is something rather beautiful in this tale of lost love, mistakes and missed opportunities and it moved me to tears on more than one occasion.

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The Six Loves of Billy Binns is deeply moving, bittersweet century-spanning debut set in London against the backdrop of the changing 20th century.

At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what Love feels like one last time.

As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a lifetime of hope and heartbreak.

This is the story of an ordinary man’s life, an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.

Billy was born on the first day, on the first year of the 20th century. He is over a 100 years old and spending his final days in a care home. He has seen many residents come and go. Chairs filled and then left empty awaiting the next old soul. He knows he doesn’t have long but he has a need to remember the man he was and remember the times he knew love.

‘I want to remember what love feels like, one last time.  To remember each of the people I loved, to see them all clearly again.’

Surely he was a good man and he simply wants to be remembered for something other than the shrivelled old body he has become. Because once upon a time there was so much more.

According to author, Richard Lumsden, the idea for the novel began in 1992 when he was just twenty-seven and living in Shepherd’s Bush.

richard lumsden author picture‘Inspired by old photographs on the walls of the library (now the bush theatre) of trams on the Green, and an old white arch beside the central line station, I mapped out Billy’s story but became daunted by the amount of research required to detail all of the last century and turned to written TV & radio scripts instead.

In 2000, I discovered a series of booklets published by the Shepherd’s Bush Local History Society.  I phoned their secretary, Joan Blake, who invited me to their monthly meetings in the back of St Luke’s Church on the Uxbridge Road.  Over the next few months I listened to stories of growing up in W12 through the 20s, 30s & 40s, and watched slide shows featuring the exhibition palaces and canals at White City.  With the kind help of Joan and her friends I was finally able to get started.  It took me eighteen months to research and write part one of the novel.  Then, faced with more intensive bouts of historical research for parts two to five, I decided I wasn’t cut out to write novels and abandoned the idea.

By 2009, having already worked on a couple of plays for BBC Radio 4, I decided to write ‘The Six Loves of Billy Binns’ as a play too.  It still needed more research but a 45 minute radio script was less daunting than going back to the novel.  In 2009 Sir Tom Courtenay gave Billy his voice, and the radio play, of which I’m very proud, still gets repeated from time to time.  However, I knew I’d bottled out by not telling Billy’s story as originally intended.

In 2015 I turned fifty, and at a very different stage of life, twenty-three years after starting part one of the novel.  A supportive literary agent encouraged me to get it finished.  I went back to my Shepherd’s Bush Local History Society booklets and took another two years to complete a draft to send out to publishers.

It’s a story about love, disappointment, and the flaws that make us human.  Billy has a tendency to reinterpret his own history, but ultimately he’s an ordinary man who lived an ordinary life, and I hope the readers might take him to heart on his journey to remember what love feels like.’

So Billy’s journey has taken it’s time to come to us but the time is definitely right.  Life today moves incredibly fast  and this novel not only takes us through the history of the last century but reminds us that life is fleeting.  Yes, his story was at times incredibly sad and there were moments when I just wanted to shout ‘Billy NO!’ in frustration.  Yet there were also the most wonderful moments of tenderness, especially towards the end.  Moments that made me stop to take a breath.  Now that I’ve reached the end I feel that I have shared so much with Billy.  I have such affection for him and I wish that some things had worked out differently.  Yet every experience he went brought him to the place he was at the end.  It was beautifully done, beautifully worded and I really don’t think I will ever forget Billy Binns and the lessons he has taught me.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and sending me a copy of this wonderful novel.  Thank you also to Richard for bringing Billy to us.  This novel has quite obviously been a journey for you and I’m so glad you carried it through to the end.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden will be published by Tinder Press on the 24th of January.

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