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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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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Bookish Post, Children's Fiction, Debut, Middle Grade Fiction

The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth by Cerrie Burnell

The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth is a story that shows us that courage, friendship and goodness comes in all kinds of packages.

Minnow is different to the other girls in her town and there’s plenty to set her apart: the blossom of pale scars which lie beneath her delicate ears, her affinity with the water which leaves people speechless, and the time when, in deep, deep water, her body began to glow like a sunken star.

When her mum gets into trouble and is taken from their boat in the dead of night, Minnow is alone with one instruction: “sail to Reykjavik to find your grandmother, she will keep you safe’.  Minnow has never sailed on her own before, but the call of the deep is one she’s been waiting to answer her whole young life.

Perhaps a girl who is lost on land can be found in the Wild Deep.

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I first came across Cerrie Burnell when she joined the children’s channel ‘CBeebies’ over eight years ago.  It was a channel I watched regularly with my son when he was very young and one that we were both very fond of.  I remember Cerrie  because she was a great presenter but I also remember being pleased that this channel who assisted me with teaching my child at such an early age, were brave enough to chose a presenter who looked slightly different to what is considered the ‘norm’;  a presenter that may arouse some curiosity amongst it’s young viewers and offer the opportunity to explore the differences amongst us all.

Any child should be able to find a character they can relate to in books but children should also be able to read strong characters that are different to them too.  To immerse your child in diversity from an early age, I believe, is vital.  To teach them that each and EVERY individual is unique, important and has so much to offer the world.  I’ve noticed over the years, both as a parent and working with young children, that they are curious when they encounter something different but they do not judge; it is the influence of the reactions around them that will then, I believe, cause the judgement to kick in.

Cerrie has moved on from presenting CBeebies and is writing fiction for children.  Inspired by her own dual heritage daughter she wanted to expand on the young heroines out there for our young readers. When it comes to her writing Cerrie herself says “Families like mine are so rarely represented in children’s literature in a positive magical context, so I wanted to create characters who reflect us but are bound up in adventure.

I was intrigued to read The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth.  As always, I try not to consider what I know about the author and let the story speak for itself…and this one certainly does.  Cerrie is a natural storyteller.  Her empathy, kindness and sense of adventure comes through in her characters.  Young readers will love the adventure and magic within the pages.  I loved the illustrations throughout, they weaved in amongst the story perfectly, framing the beautifully depicted world that Cerrie has created.  The leading characters are strong, fearsome and memorable.  Young Minnow is feisty and courageous; the love and bond she shares with her mother driving her forward to face whatever danger is thrown at her. Minnow has been raised on stories and song and it is these that she turns to when life becomes confused and her path feels uncertain. The story itself is exciting, filled with wonder and peril.  This will be a wonderful book for all middle grade readers but also as a book to be shared and enjoyed together with younger readers.

Thank you to Oxford University Press for sending me the review copy.  It has been an absolute joy to read and I certainly hope we will be seeing more from Cerrie Burnell.

About the Author

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Cerrie Burnell is an actor and writer best known for her work on CBeebies, a role that has earned her critical acclaim and a devoted fan base.  In 2011 Cerrie was named in the Observer’s top ten children’s presenters and the Guardian’s  100 most inspirational women.  She has been an author in residence for Great Ormond Street and is a patron of Polka Theatre for children.  She trained at Manchester Metropolitan and her credits prior to CBeebies include Eastenders, The Bill, Holby City and Grange Hill.

Cerrie’s one woman show The Magical Playroom opened at Edinburgh in 2013 and her Harper series, published by Scholastic, has been translated into twelve languages and was a World Book Day title in 2016.  She is the author of several picture books including Snowflakes, which Cerrie adapted for the stage for the Oxford Playhouse in 2016.  Cerrie left CBeebies in April 2017 with a commitment to push diversity in other directions.  Since departing, Cerrie has played the role of Penny in the BBC’s Doctors, presented a documentary about the NHS, and written her debut middle grade book The Girl with the Shark’s Teethwhich she is very excited about.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut

Attend by West Camel

1-2Every now and then a novel comes along that is something particularly extraordinary and unusual.  Attend is one such novel.  A tapestry in novel form, West has built a story that brings together the threads of three very different lives.  Characters who have suffered, are suffering, who feel broken and cut off. Failures, unable to fit in and yet when it comes down to it, as we weave our way through the story we can see that those around them are just the same, if not worse.  Perhaps these broken souls can actually save themselves and those around them after all.

Deborah is this strange, almost ghost like figure.  She is old, very old.  A lonely, invisible soul who believes she can never die.  She also believes that people can’t see her yet Sam and Anne both stumble across her at a time when each are consumed with a sense of despair and sadness.  Sam has moved to Deptford in the hope to finding his way and to escape the cycle of self hate and one night stands with strange men.  Anne is a recovering addict, ostracised from her family, daughter and grandson.  She’s now clean but those closest to her are set in their belief that she’ll never change, that she’ll always be a disappointment.

For both Sam and Anne, their encounters with Deborah are confusing and almost unbelievable and yet somehow she begins to make them see things a little more clearly with her strange stories and adventures. She seems to lurk in the background and yet is a central character leading the story; the thread that brings them together if you like.

This is a brilliantly written and impressive debut from West.  Words at times can be crass and harsh, making me wince and at other times beautiful and lyrical, perfectly capturing all at once the heartbreak and the brutality, as well as the beauty and wonder of the lives we are visiting.  There is a magical mystery that is held beneath the streets of Deptford, in tunnels where secrets lie still within the dank darkness. Yet these secrets begin to surface as dangerous events threaten those dear to both Sam and Anne. Action must be taken and so both face their own demons head on for the sake of those they love.

This is a tale that shows us the impact our actions can have… they seep out into the world, affecting people and events far more than we realise. No matter how small we feel our lives are, they matter.  Even for Deborah, who felt invisible and forgotten for so long.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for a copy of the eBook.  Attend is a wonderful, rich atmospheric novel and I thoroughly recommend it.

Synopsis

‘A highly anticipated debut, blending the magical realism of Angela Carter and the gritty authenticity of Eastenders’

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah. Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne
and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises. With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters and set against the unmistakable backdrop of Deptford and South London.

 

About the Author

1Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost- writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short
scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Debut, Fiction

Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary – Blog Tour

This evening I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary.

A quiet life for Aubrey?

After spending several months banged up in Sunny Banks rescue centre, Aubrey, a large tabby cat, has finally found his forever home with Molly and Jeremy Goodman, and life is looking good.

However, all that changes when a serial killer begins to target elderly victims in the neighbourhood.

Aubrey wasn’t particularly upset by the death of some of the previous victims, including Miss Jenkins whom Aubrey recalls as a vinegar-lipped bitch of an old woman who enjoyed throwing stones at cats, but Mr Telling was different.

Mr Telling was a mate…

A murder mystery like no other. I was intrigued when I first read the synopsis. The main protagonist is a cat. How fabulous is that!? Refreshing, funny and a super read. I really enjoyed Street Cat Blues.

Okay I admit I am both a lover of both cats and crime novels and so I didn’t take much convincing but it was actually a great story. I loved Alison’s take on cat life; from the turf wars, waiting for food and tickles, to surviving ‘Sunny Banks’ rescue centre. I loved sharing time with Aubrey. Quite often he went unnoticed and gave us a completely new insight into the mystery.

Aubrey is a tom cat who is familiar with tragedy. After a sad, unsettled start to life he eventually ends up living a comfortable quiet life with Jeremy and Mollie. A quiet life that suddenly comes to an end with the murder of Mr Telling. This wasn’t the first murder in the area but for Aubrey it was a step too far. He liked Mr Telling.

A cat is a curious creature that can slip unnoticed into the most difficult of situations and Aubrey makes the purrfect cat detective as he works to get to the bottom of who is behind the growing number of murders. But there is more going on in this mystery than even Aubrey realises and it’s not long before the danger is very real.

A fantastic, feline-led murder mystery that was an absolute delight to read.

Thoroughly recommended for those who like a gentle murder mystery with an unusual detective leading the way.

About the author…

Alison was born in London and spent her teenaged years in Hertfordshire. She has also lived in Somerset and Gloucestershire. After studying Law she decided to teach rather than go into practice and for many years taught Criminal Law to adults and young people. Since moving to the south coast, Alison has been involved in qualification and assessment development for major awarding bodies.

When not writing, she enjoys crosswords, walking by the sea and playing Scrabble on her iPad – which she always sets to beginner level because, hey, why take chances? Alison lives with her husband John and cat Archie.

Street Cat Blues is published by Crooked Cat Books.

Blog Tour, Debut, Fiction

Vox by Christina Dalcher

100 words. That’s all you have per day. You are being watched, your every action and movement monitored and if you step out of line the consequences are unthinkable. This is America, once the land of the free but now the land of the ‘Pure’. The unimaginable has happened. For women the freedom of speech has been eradicated.

Amazing, thought provoking and absolutely terrifying, Vox is so relevant it’s frightening. It’s a stark message to never stop trying to be heard. Never let anyone take away your voice.

Absolutely brilliant, Vox is the novel that everybody will be talking about. (100 words)

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