Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Literary

Midland by James Flint

Today I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for this incredible novel. Readers, may I introduce you to Midland by James Flint.

A tale of two families torn apart by the hidden debts of love, from the award-winning novelist James Flint

On his way back from a meeting one day, investment banker Alex Wold finds himself standing up to his waist in the Thames, trying to guide a lost bottlenose whale back out to the sea. Later, as he’s drying out his suit and shoes, the news comes through that Tony Nolan – his mother’s ex-husband – has died of a sudden heart attack. Alex wonders if the universe is urging him to resolve a long-running feud with his environmentalist brother Matthew, and with the Wolds and the Nolans all heading back to Warwickshire for Tony’s funeral he now has an opportunity to do just that. But he finds Matthew as angry as ever, unable to relinquish his obsession with Caitlin, Tony’s troubled daughter, whose actions force both families to take an uncomfortable journey into the past. 

In Midland, the acclaimed novelist James Flint carries out a devastating exploration of what binds families together, and what tears them apart.

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This is absolutely stunning.  It’s a novel to take your time over and immerse yourself in James’ beautiful writing.  From the very first chapter I was entranced.  To me this novel felt like a celebration of language and the power it has.  James has a unique voice, capturing moment, place and circumstance perfectly.  He freezes time; holds it still for us and allows us to look at it from all angles. Here is a tiny snippet from early on in the novel where we are introduced to Alex and the whale he is compelled to help.

It was a perfect January day.  The spokes of the London Eye shone with the glycerine light of the low winter sun.  Big Ben stood cold and proud above the traffic, rendered timeless by the refrigerated air.  News helicopters hovered at the old clock’s shoulders like winged familiars, their spinning rotors patiently processing the sky, almost but not quite achieving thought.  And the river shone beneath the Victorian arches of the bridges, slapping and sucking at the weedy brickwork as the tide went out, grinning and gurgling as it slowly slackened its grip.

In the midst of all this beauty the whale seemed like hope, like a conciliatory messenger sent upstream by the senate of the seas.  Here they were, the people of England, gathering to greet it, to embrace it, to send it back from whence it came with tidings of peace and love.  Festival was in the air.  People were happy and amazed.  People were good, the universe was good.  Today had become one of those rare days on which the laws of combat were suspended and, for a brief period, death was not the truth of things.

It was the image of a man and whale that drew me to the synopsis of this novel. It is an incredibly strong image and sums up the power of the story wonderfully. Secrets, homecomings and the complexities of family are woven in the landscape and James has created a novel that is both bold and memorable. It is one that I keep safe on my bookcase and will no doubt return to, it is so rich in detail that I feel I’ll always find something new amongst the pages.

The blog tour runs through until the end of the month so do check out what others are saying about Midland. I’m so thrilled to have discovered James Flint. I think he is an exciting talent and I look forward to reading more from him. Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author

james flint author pictureBorn in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1968, James Flint is the author of three novels and one book of short stories. In 1998 Time Out magazine called his first book, Habitus, “probably the best British fiction début of the last five years,” and when it was published in France it was judged one of the top five foreign novels of 2002. His second novel, 52 Ways to Magic America, claimed the Amazon.co.uk award for the year 2000, and his third, The Book of Ash, won an Arts Council Writers Award and was described by the Independent’s leading literary critic as “a bold British counterpart to DeLillo’s Underworld.”

In 2002 his short story The Nuclear Train was adapted for Channel 4 television; he has had a long involvement with Port Eliot Festival and curated the film tent there for several years; and his journalism has appeared in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer, Sight & Sound, Time Out, The Times, The Independent, Arena, The Economist, Dazed & Confused and many others. From 2009-2012 he was Editor-in-Chief of the Telegraph Weekly World Edition, and he is currently the co-founder and CEO of the health communications start-up Hospify.

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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, Crime, Thriller

Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb

Today I am taking part in the blog tour for Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb and oh my, is it a cracking good read.  Published on January 10th this novel has quite literally started my new year off with a bang.  It was an absolute treat to read.  Fast paced, brutal and a total adrenaline ride, I consumed it in a weekend.  Every possible minute this beauty  was in my hands.  It was a deliciously guilty pleasure and I overindulged with glee.

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Yes, I know, my fluffy slippers and comfy pj’s don’t exactly say ‘girl kicking ass’ but in my head I was right there, living it. 🙂

Here’s the synopsis:

A price on her head.  A secret worth dying for.

Just 48 hours to expose the truth…

Single-mother bounty hunter Lori Anderson has finally got her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob – and they want her dead.  Rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ – Carlton North – who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them.  If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed.  If she fails, they die.

With North due back in court in 48 hours, Lori sets off across Florida, racing against the clock to find him and save her family.  Only in this race the prize is more deadly – and the secret she shares with JT more dangerous – than she ever could have imagined.

In this race only the winner gets out alive…

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Deep Dirty Truth  is book three in the series and I have to be honest and say that this is my first encounter with Lori Anderson.  It didn’t hinder my reading in any way.  The story is so sharp, so well written that I felt like I’d been following all along.  The novel has been described as ‘Brimming with tension, high-voltage action & high-stakes jeopardy’ and I completely agree.  I just could not put it down.  I loved it.  It was a thrilling ride and I instantly fell in love with Lori.  Man, can she kick ass and yet there is something vulnerable about her, something that makes her incredibly likeable.  From the very outset I was invested in her and her feisty, courageous daughter, Dakota.

The story starts off with a perfectly normal school run but within pages the action hits as Lori is abducted right outside the school gates.  From that moment on it doesn’t let up and the death toll steadily rises as she fights against all odds to keep her family – and herself – alive.   We hear the story mostly through Lori’s voice so we can feel her fear, pain, courage, anger, and her sheer determination to find a way out of this seemingly hopeless situation.

Apparently film rights are under negotiation and that is nothing but a good thing.  Its just crying out for the big screen.  Thoroughly recommended.

More about the author

1-2Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most
of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego –
Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging
at crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest
releases. She is also a member of the crime-themed girl band The Splice Girls.

Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University
London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California, which inspired her Lori
Anderson thrillers. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and
chickens.

Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories, and hit number one on the UK and AU kindle charts. My Little Eye, her first novel under her pseudonym Stephanie Marland was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.

Thank you so much to the wonderful Anne Cater and superb publisher, Orenda Books for my review copy.  I shall definitely look to catch up on the previous two Lori Anderson novels and very much look forward to book four.

Find out more about author Steph Broadribb here.

Find out more about Orenda Books here.

For more reviews on this awesome novel check out #DeepDirtyTruth on Twitter and follow the #BlogTour

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Uncategorized

The Woman in the Window by A J Finn

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Now this review is a wee throw back to February last year.  I’m excited to share it again as the paperback edition has now been published by HarperCollins.  Towards the end of 2017 when I was still on the editorial team of Lovereading, we received a proof in the office that caught our eye. It was hailed as THE book of 2018. Quite a claim don’t you think? Yet it did sound intriguing.

So what’s the hook? – A woman trapped in her own home and suffering with a debilitating mental illness witnesses a terrible crime. She is an unreliable witness. She drinks heavily, barely existing on meds and a diet of wine, she limps through each day watching classic crime movies and spying on her neighbours. The police shrug the crime off as an hallucination caused by the mix of drugs and alcohol, yet she’s convinced what she saw actually happened. But how can she prove it when she’s unable to even leave the house without being consumed by terror and panic?

Yet things are about to become even more terrifying for Anna as someone else knows what really happened that night and they’re determined to make sure the truth stays hidden – no matter what.

The book…

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The Woman in the Window By A.J.Finn

What did she see? It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside. Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

So, I was intrigued. It was already creating a stir and the consumer reader review panel at Lovereading loved it. I leant it to a friend who quite simply devours crime novels – and she loved it. Finally over half term I found time to sit down with it myself and I absolutely LOVED it.

It’s a cracking psychological read. Brilliantly told through Anna’s perspective, the tension is built in such a way that I felt as though I was standing right next to her, so palpable was her fear and distress. His ability to plunge us into her mental issues whilst slowly revealing both her past and present was absolutely gripping. Finn’s nod towards the classic thrillers such as Niagara, Wait Until Dark, The Vanishing, Rosemary’s Baby and of course, Rear Window add a sense of crime noir that has you gripped from the start (and started the itch to watch those old, yet timeless classics again).

This is definitely worth the hype and one that I would recommend reading when you have the time to immerse yourself fully, without distractions.

Now published in Paperback by HarperCollins

Adult Fiction, Crime, Reading Challenge

Read Christie 2019 – The official Agatha Christie Reading Challenge

If you’ve visited my site recently you may well have guessed I’m rather fond of an Agatha Christie story. Growing up I enjoyed watching Hercule Poirot on television (both Peter Ustinov and David Suchet) and I still watch them to this day – I recently enjoyed a very lazy, relaxing afternoon watching back to back Death on the Nile and Evil Under The Sun. I also thoroughly enjoyed the recent BBC adaptation of The ABC Murders. I read my first actual Agatha Christie book about this time eleven years ago. I remember it vividly as I was newly pregnant and suffering from a heavy cold. I was ill enough to need a few days in bed and although my head pounded I just couldn’t stop reading until the book literally fell from my hands.

My delight and enjoyment of her stories has never ceased and although I have seen many adaptations on the screen I haven’t read as many as I would have liked. So I am going to rectify that by signing up for the Read Christie 2019 challenge on the official Agatha Christie website. I thoroughly look forward to discovering some old favourites along with some new tales from the Queen of murder mystery herself.

We begin with The ABC Murders. I know the BBC adaptation has received a mixed bag of responses but personally I really don’t mind how faithful an adaptation is to the original book – I like to see a story from a different perspective. I am intrigued to see the differences though and can’t wait to read the story as Agatha intended it. Already I’m thrilled to find Japp very much alive and Hastings providing the narration.

So my reading pile grows ever larger with new and now classic fiction. I look forward to sharing them with you. Have you read any Agatha Christie before? If so which would you recommend? Do answer in the comments and do let me know if you’re also taking part in the reading challenge.

Must go now… am itching to get reading.

Time to talk

2018 – What a great year for books!

I wanted to send out one last post in 2018, a post to celebrate all the amazing books that have visited Tales Before Bedtime.  Over the last year I have seen my blog grow incredibly.  My visitors have increased massively and come from all over the world.  It never ceases to make me smile when each and every one of you take a moment to read my posts.  So I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you.  Also a big thanks must go out to the publishers, authors and blog tour organisers who send me books to read and feature on my blog and via social media.  I appreciate each and every book that comes my way and I do read them all. The book world is a friendly one and I’ve met so many wonderful people both on social media and in the flesh.  I hope that I have helped, in my own way, bring new books and authors to you too.

So now on to 2019.  The New Year always brings great excitement – all those new books we’ve yet to discover! Already my review pile is growing and I can’t wait to read and share them all with you.  Please keep on checking in to see what I’ve been up to; follow, share and do comment too.  It’s always lovely to hear from you.  Now all that’s left for me to do is wish you all a very happy New Year – may it be filled with peace, love, good health and of course great books!

Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Crime, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

I love a good drama no matter how it’s presented. Be it radio, television, book or on the big screen, each method has a thoroughly unique way of bringing the story to you. This is one of the reasons I love storytelling, there are so many possibilities. Each begins with the storyteller themselves and then the reader/viewer/listener comes along and creates their own version. We all see things with different eyes and I believe each reader/viewer/listener will experience the story in their own unique way. Our beliefs and our personalities all have an effect on what we take from a story. We won’t all love or hate the same things and when we enter a story, as individuals, we interpret it in our own way.

I do love to read the books from which the stories originated but I’m not precious about which should come first. For example when I was younger I found The Lord of the Rings difficult to get into, that is until I saw the films. I was swept away by Peter Jackson’s vision and it encouraged me to return to the novels and now I find their complexity absorbing and fascinating. There is generally so much more in the books themselves and I found it easier to dive into them after being spellbound by the films.

One of the most heavily adapted authors over the years is the wonderful Agatha Christie. I have quite literally grown up on the adventures of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. It’s easy to be swept away by a new adaptation on our screens but I’d love to take a moment to remind you of the pure joy of falling into one of her novels and discovering her stories exactly how she intended them.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is possibly not as festive a read as the title suggests, for as you’d expect murder casts a shadow over the festivities. I was given, by my husband, a beautifully produced hardback edition, published by Harper Collins, for my wedding anniversary in October. It’s been a while since I’ve actually read an Agatha Christie novel so I very much looked forward to this festive treat. The inscription alone was enough to assure me I was in for something special.

My Dear James,

You have always been one of the most faithful and kindly of my readers, and I was therefore seriously perturbed when I received from you a word of criticism.

You complained that my murders were getting too refined – anaemia, in fact. You yearned for a “good violent murder with lots of blood.” A murder where there was no doubt about its being murder!

So this is your special story – written for you. I hope it may please.

Your affectionate sister-in-law,

Agatha

I was completely absorbed by Agatha’s superb plotting and characterisation skills. I absolutely adore these classic, old fashioned mysteries. I recently read that she began writing her stories at the end and worked her way backwards. The complexity to them certainly fits this method. What fun she must have had! There are generally several possibilities as to who the murderer could be and she drops clues a plenty along the way. When watching the screen adaptations I often find it hard to discover who the guilty party is, it is difficult to squeeze all the vital information in along the way but as I read I found myself nodding, “Yes, but of course!”

In Hercule Poirot’s Christmas we see the gathering of an estranged family at Christmas time. Old Simeon Lee is a ‘thin, shrivelled figure of an old man’, a man looking forward to a Christmas surrounded by his family. Yet this old man is not feeling sentimental. He is a wicked, cruel man who is intent on stirring up a hornets nest. As the family slowly gather Agatha gives us an insight into their relationships with the old man. Before long old Simeon Lee meets a violent, bloody end and any one of them could have been tempted to yield the knife. Yet the murder took place behind a locked door with only the victim discovered inside. A complicated case but one that Hercule Poirot expertly unpicks.

The book is rather wonderful and I was immediately curious to see how it was transferred on to the small screen. Thankfully ITV player currently has a number of the wonderful adaptations starring David Suchet as Poirot and so I was able to settle down with a selection of festive treats and watch. The adaptation was of course changed to suit the time constraints of television and also some details had been tweaked but I still enjoyed it immensely. For me the book was the winner as generally we can discover so much more about character and plot that may not always come across on the screen. I also preferred Agatha’s original detail. Reading the novel also reminded me of where all these programmes that thrill and entertain us come from. It all begins with words on paper and for me that’s an exciting and inspiring thought.

Synopsis

It is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed. But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man.

For more information why not visit the Agatha Christie website here.

“Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”

Macbeth.