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

screen shot 2019-01-25 at 21.22.07

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

screen shot 2019-01-25 at 21.22.59

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.

 

 

Advertisements
Blog Tour, Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018, Fiction, Giveaway, Review

The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller

I’m so delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller. This novel is a festive feast that captured my heart from the very beginning. It’s been an absolute joy to read and chat about over the last few days. Ben has a wonderful writing style and his humour, wit and personality shine through in the seasonal tale before us. Not only is it as warm and comforting as a mug of hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows but it also answers the question… how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

img_0083

Jackson is a young boy who is having the teeniest of doubts about Father Christmas. In his heart he believes and he argues that logically he must be real – after all who else leaves the presents and eats all the mince pies? And yet the seed has been planted and so Jackson is determined to meet the man himself this Christmas Eve and ask him one very important question… How did he become Father Christmas? And so begins the story of a mean elf called Torvil, his under-appreciated and under-paid assistant Steiner, and of course, a talking reindeer. Torvil is a miser, a Scrooge like figure who puts profit above compassion, generosity and kindness. Yet on this very special Christmas Eve Torvil is given the opportunity to learn from his past and earn himself a happier, brighter future.

The Night I Met Father Christmas has been described as a ‘classic in the making’ and I wholeheartedly agree. It is full of Christmas cheer, memorable characters, humour and adventure.  it would make the perfect Christmas gift and will be enjoyed for many a Christmas to come by readers young and old.

Giveaway!

Now I would like to step in Father Christmas’ shoes and bestow one copy of this fine tale to one of you my dear readers.  So go forth and like, comment and share this post with the hashtag #FatherChristmasBeliever, and of course give me a follow, and I’ll pop your name in the hat.  Enter by midnight on Friday the 7th of December and I’ll announce the winner this coming weekend.

This competition will run via this blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. If you take part on all three platforms then your name will be entered thrice.  So please get sharing and remember to follow me here, on Twitter and my Tales Before Bedtime page on Facebook.  Thanks much and good luck.

*Please note this giveaway is only open to residents in the UK.  The winner will be sent a finished copy of Ben Miller’s The Night I Met Father Christmas  direct from the publisher. 

And just in case you missed my earlier posts which include a Q&A with author Ben Miller and Illustrator Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, here they are…

*

The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller

Jackson knows all about flying reindeer, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the magic that allows Father Christmas to deliver presents around the world in just one night, but there’s one thing he doesn’t know…how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

That all changes when, one Christmas Eve, Jackson meets Father Christmas Eve, Jackson meets Father Christmas and hears his incredible story.

So begins an enchanting fairy-tale into a magical snowy landscape, where Torvil, a mean-spirited and miserly elf, is about to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  This might not have been the story Jackson was expecting but, as Father Christmas tells him, no good story ever is…

A Christmas classic in the making from actors and comedian Ben Miller that will prove once and for all that Father Christmas really does exist!

IMG_20181202_153456.jpg

IMG_20181101_194428Ben Miller is pretty well known.  Comedian, actor and now author, he crosses generations with his work.  In our house we know him from his time playing DCI Richard Poole in Death in Paradise and more recently as Bough, the hilarious side-kick to Rowen Atkinson’s Johnny English.  In my school Library we know him for his books The Aliens Are Coming!: The Exciting and Extraordinary Science Behind Our Search for Life in the Universe and It’s Not Rocket Science, both giving interesting, insightful and enjoyable access to their subject matter.  And now he brings us this wonderful festive tale about a young boy named Jackson.  Jackson who has had a tiny seed of doubt planted into his mind about Father Christmas.  So he comes up with a plan to meet the man himself and ask him a very important question.  

I love Christmas.  I love the build up, the magic that seems to fill the air and ever since having my son (eleven years ago now), I’ve rediscovered the joy of being a .  It’s easy as adults to lose that magic and we can quite often become cynical.  So as the big day approaches Christmas stories come pretty close to the top of the list of things that make me happy.  Especially Christmas stories that I can share with my son.  When writing The Night I Met Father Christmas, Ben took inspiration from some great authors to create a wonderful tale that already feels like a classic. I already read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol every year – I love the language, moral and sheer joy that this tale brings – and I can see The Night I Met Father Christmas being enjoyed for many years to come.  So I asked Ben what his favourite Christmas Story is.

‘That one! A Christmas Carol. I am a huge fan of Dickens generally and he has been a huge influence on everything I’ve done. Having English teachers as parents meant I was introduced to him at a very early age and I love his unique and infectious wit and psychedelic warmth. Dickens is the perfect grounding for a career in sketch comedy!’

But how does one go from writing books about science to writing a Christmas story?  This is Ben’s first work of fiction and I asked him if any of the characters were based on himself or people he knows.

‘I based Jackson, the main character, on my own son. I did ask if he as OK with that! He said yes — I hope he feels the same when he’s older. Torvil, I think, is basically me.’

*

The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller with Illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

So, earlier I spoke about Ben. Now I would like to mention the beautiful illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini.

A great story is made even greater by wonderful illustrations and the combined effort of the Simon and Schuster design team and Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini have brought us an absolutely stunning hardback book that will earn precious space on your bookshelf.  It really is a keeper.  The cover is stunning, with gold foil that brings it to life and makes the book literally jump out at you when you see it.  There is so much detail throughout the entire book  and Daniela has created a gorgeous selection of illustrations that complement Ben’s writing brilliantly.  She really is a great talent and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to ask her the following questions.

How do you begin to create the wonderful art work that brings Ben’s story to life?

‘After having some initial ideas, inspired by the story, I always plunge myself into extensive visual research, mainly to find the kind of visual reference that will support me in drawing characters and things that feel real, that feel like they could exist in a parallel dimension of wonder. The drawing stage always feels quite technical in some ways for me; this is where I sweat to get the composition, anatomy ad perspective right. While the painting stage is really where all the magic happens for me… where I focus on getting the atmosphere and feel right for the picture. And where I feel like I’m in my element. Each stage is very important. But some are more “nerve-wracking” than others….’

If you could choose one other classic Christmas story to illustrate, what would it be?

‘A Christmas Carol of course :), although I would also quite like to make my own version of A Nightmare Before Christmas…’

Do you believe in Father Christmas?

‘Well, I wasn’t sure to begin with if I have to be honest… but reading ‘The Night I Met Father Christmas’ has definitely put the doubts to rest in my mind! I’m definitely going to be putting out mince pies and brandy for him this Christmas!’

*

0

 

*

Book Launch – The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller

45176921_2188947127806047_9114665933556678656_n
It was a damp and mild November evening when the Fallows family headed up to London.  Nature is giving a wonderful display of autumnal colour; golden brown, fiery reds and burnt orange underfoot with sticky, mushy leaves wet from the rain earlier in the day. This last week we’ve gained an hour and darker evenings for sparkly lights and magical time to curl up with a good book.  Winter is well and truly on its way… and with it comes Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Never shy of taking an opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit as early as possible, I was delighted to have been invited to join in celebrating the launch of a bright and sparkling new, Christmas story.

IMG_20181101_171932

IMG_20181101_171903

Flash back to summer.  The days were long, the sun was shining and people were already beginning to panic about ever seeing rain again. I however,  was settling down to read my first Christmas book of the year.  The Night I met Father Christmas by Ben Miller.

There are so many wonderful children’s authors bringing books to our young readers that will inspire and encourage a life-long love of reading.  So when someone we admire for their other work gives us a novel, I always feel a little apprehensive.  I expect it to be good enough to share a place on the shelves of those whose main body of work is children’s fiction.  Children’s books are important, they matter.  As Meg Ryan said in You Got Mail “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” With so many other distractions it’s important that we can grab their attention with stories that will fill them with wonder and let them love books rather than see them as a chore and bore.

I very much enjoy watching Ben on the screen.  We’re big fans of Death in Paradise in our household and grew to love his grumpy, yet brilliant Inspector Richard Poole and even more recently his role as Angus Bough, the ever patient side-kick to Rowen Atkinson’s, Johnny English. So I was excited to hear that he had written a Christmas story and keen for him to have done it well. It’s encouraging to know that Ben is not new to the written word, he has already published two non-fiction titles, It’s Not Rocket Science and The Aliens Are Coming!: The Exciting Science Behind Our Search For Life in the Universe.   The Night I Met Father Christmas is his first fictional title and trust me when I say, it is wonderful and very much deserves its place on any child’s (or adult’s) bookshelf.

It was an absolute treat to attend his launch party and Ben Miller is as funny and warm in the flesh as he comes across on the screen.  With a room full of people vying for his attention he took the time to sign copies of his book and my own young Ben was thrilled to meet him (as was I).  We also chatted and mingled with some lovely people and was finally able to say hello to some familiar faces including children’s author, Philip Ardagh.

IMG-20181101-WA0000
When Ben met Ben

The team at Simon and Schuster did Ben proud and the event was lovely.   We had the opportunity to meet the wonderfully talented illustrator Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, whose stunning illustrations bring the story to life.  Simon and Schuster’s design team have produced a stunning book complementing both story and illustrations. It truly is beautiful and will make a wonderful early Christmas present or perhaps be the perfect book to share with your little ones in the run up to the big event itself.

 

The Night I Met Father Christmas is available to buy now.  It is already generating wonderful reviews and much excitement.

IMG_20181101_191915

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction, Review, Young Adult Fiction

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

EVERYONE’S GOING TO REMEMBER WHERE THEY WERE WHEN THE TAPS RAN DRY

The drought – or the tap-out, as everyone calls it – has been going on for a while. Life has become an endless list of don’t: don’t water the lawn, don’t take long showers, don’t panic. But now there is no water left at all.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation and violence. When her parents go missing, she and her younger brother must team up with an unlikely group in search of water. Each of them will need to make impossible choices to survive.

The kitchen faucet makes the most bizarre sounds.

It coughs and wheezes like it’s gone asthmatic. It gurgles like someone drowning. It spits once, and then goes silent.

And so it begins…

857341D8-8198-486F-8CC2-58949CD6A842

There are certain things in modern life that are a given. We go to the supermarket, we buy food. We go home and then cook and eat that food. Our neighbours are often there for us in a crisis. Help is always on hand. We have fresh water to drink and wash with. We only have to turn on the tap. So imagine if one day the water ran out. Imagine the worst possible drought. Not in some far off country that you see in commercials asking for aid but in the country you live. A country where swimming pools are common place and everything is taken for granted.

Dry is a great novel. Through the eyes of a regular, American, suburban family we see the breakdown of society. Every aspect of human nature is shown within this story. The heroes, the cowards and the villains. Those who find their calling, those who find their strength and also those who will take and do anything, at whatever cost, to profit from the suffering of others.

After the taps run dry, Alyssa and her brother Garrett watch their parents head off towards a promised supply of fresh water.

‘See you in a bit’ Alyssa says as they go but she’s uneasy. Supplies are dwindling fast and people are turning on each other as the panic begins to spread. When their parents don’t return, the youngsters embark on a dangerous journey to find them and the water. With danger around every corner and not knowing who they can trust, things begin to spiral out of control and it’s not long before Alyssa and Garrett are fighting for their lives.

They form an unlikely fellowship with some other kids, kids they wouldn’t normally have anything to do with, but there is nothing normal about their situation and it doesn’t take them long to work out that if they’re going to survive this, they’re going to have to work together.

An absolutely electrifying story that looks at the many sides of human nature and the lengths that people will go to to survive in a world that suddenly turns upside down.

Dry is published by Walker Books.

Blog Tour, Fiction, Folk Tales, Ghost Stories, Review, Short Stories

Help the Witch by Tom Cox

There is a line where mist becomes fog and during the early days of December it is crossed.  But it’s not during fog that what has been growing in the river breaks the surface and takes a look around.  It’s on a clear night after a frosty day where sheer cold has made resilient leaves surrender and quiver to the ground.

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the first fictional offering from writer, Tom Cox.  I’ve been a follower of Tom on social media on both Facebook and Twitter for some time now and have very much enjoyed his cat related musings and following his highs and lows over the years. I am very much a cat (and general animal) lover and so have been drawn to the sensitivity and connection that he quite clearly has towards them.  He is a person who appears to feel things deeply; sensitive, enquiring and  what I would call an ‘old soul’.  Therefore I was incredibly excited to hear about his latest project of a selection of short stories.  Ghost stories.  So I am delighted to have been invited to take part in this blog tour celebrating this fantastic book and also to be able to put some questions to the author.

unnamed
1-1Help the Witch is a beautifully presented selection of short stories with a ghostly, other worldly theme.  Storytelling has been prevalent since before man could read and write.  Tales told orally would be passed down from generation to generation as a means to educate, inspire and entertain.  Of course now there are many means of telling a story.  Tom has delighted us for years with his writing through a variety of mediums including books, journalism and his website ,where he states ‘since 2015 I’ve written many many thousands of words about about nature, folklore, music, books, landscape, family, social history, films and more’.  I love reading his work and he has a wonderful gift of putting words together to create something rather magical.  Help the Witch is his first book of fictional stories and I asked him what inspired him to write this particular selection of short stories.

‘Walking and what I find while I do it has always been a big inspiration for me – particularly during my latest non-fiction book, 21st Century Yokel, and – in a more wintry, haunting sense – ‘Help The Witch’. Derelict buildings. Old clothes left on fence posts, creating an inadvertent figure who, upon being approached from the other side might potentially have a gnashing nightmare face. Copses and spinneys that retain and trap events from the distant past. What you have in ‘Help The Witch’ are some remnant echoes of the folk horror novels I tried and failed to write in my late 20s and early 30s – hopefully in more coherent, less overreaching form. It’s all really the result of a burning ambition to write spooky stories that I’ve had since I was seven years old, but tempered with scepticism, questions, a reverence for nature as the true magic and religion, and executed in a manner more minimalist than it might once have been, allowing some spaces for the reader to choose their own adventure.’

So now I ask you reader, do you believe in ghosts?  Some people are sceptical, after all  we now live in a world where our thirst for knowledge can’t be quenched.  In the past 100 years science has moved on in an alarming rate and yet there are still so many questions that remain unanswered.  To some, if we can’t explain it then it simply can’t be real.  Yet constantly we seem drawn to tales that go straight to the heart of these unanswerable questions, perhaps because they spark curiosity and fear.  It is natural to fear the unexplained.  Tom has a wise voice,  an old soul, who, although a self-confessed ‘near sceptic’, questions the world around him and looks beneath the layers of what surrounds us.  I asked him what it is that fascinates him about ghost stories.

‘Apart from the basic thing that makes so many people fascinated by ghosts – a slightly inward looking question about what we are and where all our energy goes when we’re no longer alive – I’m interested in the idea of buildings, and other spaces, that absorb events and seem to hold them. I am interested in the intangible magic that age gradually begins to add to some objects. What is also interesting when you’re writing ghost stories and tell people that is that nearly everyone has a story to share from their life, even if they are a total sceptic: an incident, often nocturnal, with no rational scientific explanation. I’m not a total sceptic, and I’ve got a few of these incidents too, although I don’t think I can honestly state that I have seen a ghost in any traditionally recognised sense. Most of all, I think, as I get older, I am more and more fascinated – happy to get totally lost in – history, and I think if you’re fascinated by that, it’s hard not to be fascinated by ghosts in some form.’

Personally I do believe in ghosts.  I believe that we each carry an energy and that events and situations leave an imprint on the places we have been.  I too have never knowingly seen a ghost but I often sense something that has been left behind.  This is one of the things I found interesting about the stories in Help the Witch, they aren’t simply your traditional creaking doorways and things seen out of the corner of your eye.  The stories are almost subtle, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.

IMG_20181016_133605
…also visually stunning, the illustrations sit perfectly alongside the stories.  Even those have left a ghostly shadow on the opposite page, something that only adds to the overall ethereal feeling that accompanies the book.

I enjoyed the sheer variety of stories that fill the book.  No two where the same and I found each and every one enticing. It feels like a collection of tales developed over time, handed down through generations.  I can imagine them being read aloud around a camp fire as the sounds of nature surround you, along with the deep, silent dark.

My favourite story is from where the title of the collection is taken, ‘Help the Witch‘. It was to my mind the spookiest, or perhaps just a little more obviously spooky than the others.  It’s tone and style of narration put me in mind of Emily Bronte as I read.  Tom creates atmosphere and a sense of place wonderfully.  He entwines history through the tale, gradually bringing the ghosts alive.  I have recently read an article by Tom called ‘the ghosts of the mountain house’ which talks about his (rather brave) plan of method-writing when working on the book, ‘to retreat to a spooky place to put it together.’  I must say it certainly worked, and reading about his stay at a desolate farmhouse in the Peak District makes the story even more spine-tingling.

Each writer is as unique as their stories and I always find the writing process fascinating.  I asked Tom to tell me a little of his methods such as if he keeps a writer’s notebook or journal.

‘I wish I’d kept journals when I was younger. I try not to have regrets in life, but that might be one. I started keeping them in earnest about a decade ago, when I was already 32. It would be interesting, just for my own entertainment, to look back on an earlier period in my life in print. Far more interesting than reading record reviews I wrote for newspapers in my early 20s, I’m sure. I had my bag stolen in August, containing a year’s worth of thoughts towards future books. It still hurts, although I don’t think it was my best or fullest journal. I write down weird things that have happened to me or people I’ve met: sometimes incredibly mundane, but weird. Sometimes the very act of writing them helps you remember them and you don’t even need to refer back to them.’

So what happens when the time comes to sit down and write?  How does your first draft come? Handwritten or typed?

Typed. I’ve becoming better at pushing through and writing a load of text in longhand but ultimately I’m part of the first generation of people whose customary way to write is using a computer: I’m accustomed to the luxury it gives you of fiddling with text as you go along.’

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write as and when?

‘My ideal routine is to start between six and seven am, and write all the way through
to late lunchtime. Then maybe go for a walk in the afternoon, or do some editing or
admin. These best laid plans happen too seldom though, and in reality my schedule
is far more chaotic. One thing that stays a stone fact is that I never write anything
very great between 1pm and 4pm. If someone tells you they wrote something great
between 1pm and 4pm, they’re lying.’

1

One of the things that initially drew me to Tom was his love for cats and his ability to look at the world through their eyes with humour, love and compassion.  My own cat, Mr Perry, features heavily on my personal instagram account and I am always fascinated how these creatures who share our lives become such an important part of them.  There is a feline presence in the title story ‘Help The Witch’ and so I was curious how much of an influence Tom’s cats had on his fictional stories too.

‘I was writing non-fiction and journalism for years without cats being a known theme of my writing life, but they bullied their way into my writing quite often. So I relented and
gave them the floor for four books, while also using that as a way to write about lots
of other themes. They were like Trojan cats. People saw them on book covers, and
didn’t realise they were a way to smuggle in stories about family, the countryside,
landscape, other animals, plus a bit of light DIY philosophy. I think they’ll always be
popping in, whatever I write, although they’re probably not as dominant as people
who haven’t read my books often assume. I’m a creatively stubborn person, but
hopefully not needlessly stubborn, and this book has a strong witchy undercurrent.
Not letting a few cats have cameo roles to add to that undercurrent would have been
needlessly stubborn.’

Help the Witch is a great collection of stories and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading and writing about. It’s also visually stunning and the illustrations sit perfectly alongside the stories.  Even those have left a ghostly shadow on the opposite page, something that only adds to the overall ethereal feeling that accompanies the book. It is only right that I hand the last few words of this piece over to Tom to answer the question, will you be writing more fictional tales?

‘Absolutely. That has always been part of the plan. I’d always assumed that when I finally published some fiction I’d do nothing but that forever. But I don’t quite feel like that now. I get a lot of pleasure out of fiction and non-fiction. I hope to write much more of both. That said, since finishing Help The Witch, so many more eerie stories have been knocking on the door – often in the early hours – and I can only oblige and let them in.’

1-1

Help the Witch is published on the 18th of October 2018 by Unbound and is available to order from all good bookshops (find your local independent here),  Amazon ,Watersones to name but a few,

Tom has a completely fabulous and fascinating website so do pop along for a look here.

Thank you to Anne Carter of Random Things Tours and Tom for sending me this wonderful book.

 

Memoir, Review

You’re Being Ridiculous! by C.E.A Forster – memoirs of a foster carer

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.

http://ceaforster.com

41-9X57aN+L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

Synopsis
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

Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Review

A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson

Haunting prose that feeds the magical story as monsters are battled, fears are faced and grief is overcome. There is something quite beautiful in Bavar and Angel’s relationship. A special connection that makes them gentler, braver and more compassionate.

Angel doesn’t fit. Not in her new school or in her foster home in the vanilla house with nice Mary. The day her parents died was the day everything changed for her. A burglary gone wrong they said but Angel knows different. Angel knows that monsters really exist but when they don’t believe her she tries to forget the memories that haunt her dreams…that is until she meets Bavar.

He too is different except that he doesn’t draw attention to himself and seems to shrink back into the shadows even though he is seven feet tall. But Angel can see him, and she sees the magic that surrounds him. The two are drawn together by their differences, by the way they stand out and by the sadness that surrounds them. Soon they discover that they have an even deeper connection and Angel believes she’s found a way to stop the monsters but she needs Bavar’s help. He’s reluctant but if there is one thing she’s sure of it’s that she wants to stop the monsters once and for all and make sure that no one else suffers the loss she has.

Bavar, sees the light in Angel, in his world of shadows and darkness she is sunshine and starlight and his need to protect her draws him into her plan to fight the monsters. But are two young teens enough to defeat the Raksasa, the strange, winged creatures you’d only expect to find in a nightmare. Everyday they are growing stronger and it’s only a matter of time until before they break through the gate and kill again.

Beautifully written, filled with magic, love and grief, this is a powerful novel with wonderful characters – I was left feeling a little of the magic had stayed behind with me.

Suitable for aged 9-11yrs+

Discover more about Amy Wilson here.

Published by Pan Macmillan

Published on 25th January 2018