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.

 

 

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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.

Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Crime, Series

Poppy Denby Investigates by Fiona Veitch Smith

Another fabulous discovery for me this year is the Poppy Denby Investigates series. I do love a whodunnit and have been a big Agatha Christie fan for many, many years, so these tick all sorts of boxes for me. I read book four in the series, The Cairo Brief, just recently and have since received the previous three titles which I very much look forward to curling up with. This series is perfect for lovers of a good, classic crime novel. Poppy Denby is a feisty, intelligent protagonist and I very much look forward to following her adventures.

Find out more about the series by visiting author Fiona Veitch Smith’s website here.

Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018

Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech

This next title is for adults. Louise is a wonderful, wonderful writer. Her stories are incredible and she has the most beautiful way with words. Her first novel was only published in 2015 and already she has an impressive collection of titles under her belt. I urge you to try any one of them but today I’d like to recommend the one that introduced me to this fantastic author and in which I fell in love, Maria In The Moon.

Like a cold spider, the memory stirred in my head and spun an icy web about my brain. Someone else crawled in. I remembered

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

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

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

Adult Fiction, Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018, Dyslexia Friendly, Ghost Stories

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My next recommended read is an absolute classic that was first published on the 19th December 1843. It is one of THE most famous Christmas stories ever and one that has inspired countless stories told in books, film and plays ever since. It is also one of my absolute favourites.

I have a beautiful illustrated copy which was given to me by my husband quite a few years ago now and I take great delight in reading it once a year at Christmas time. This particular edition was published by Dover Publications and is are republication of the edition published by William Heinemann, Ltd., London,1915. It features 12 full-colour plates and 18 black-and-white drawings by Arthur Rackham.

There have of course been many, many editions of this wonderful story. Most recently, publisher Barrington Stoke, have produced a dyslexia-friendly edition, in a format accessible to all readers. Amongst the hustle and bustle of our modern, chaotic Christmas, this is the one story that continues to remind us that Christmas is a time for love, compassion and humility. I find it incredible that it still continues to spread Christmas spirit over 150 years since it was first published.

Of course we all know the story but have you read A Christmas Carol? If you own a copy please do share a picture.

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book to raise the Ghost of an Idea which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,

December, 1843. C. D.

Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Ghost Stories

The Lingering by SJI Holliday

And so my first recommended read is an adult ghost story. I reviewed this on my blog quite recently and I absolutely loved it.

Adult Fiction – A Christmas Eve Book Love Recommendation

Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history

When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…

At once an unnerving locked-room mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Young Adult Fiction

Odette by Jessica Duchen

Odette Cover Image.jpgThere is something rather wonderfully unique about this tale. A fairytale for grown ups with all the darkness and magic that surrounds them. I absolutely adore the ballet Swan Lake; the music, the dancing and the storytelling is all wonderful and something I never tire of. When I read the synopsis of Odette my immediate thought was ‘I have to read this!’ I was curious how this tragic story could be brought into the twenty-first century.

By day Odette lives as a swan and then at dusk she becomes a woman and so it has been for nearly 200 years after being cursed by the evil Baron Von Rothbart. She lost everything that day and ever since has been looking for her one true love, a love that will last a lifetime – as this, she believes, is the key to break the spell. Then on a cold, stormy night she crashes through Mitzi’s window. Mitzi who is nursing her own broken heart after the death of her father and the end of a relationship. Mitzi who now wonders if she might be going mad. After all how else would you explain a woman who is half human, half swan?

With most fairy-tales true love is the key to breaking the spell but this is no ordinary fairy-tale and I was carried along following the twists and turns, wondering if a young woman from the 19th century could actually find true love in the 21st.  The combination of villainy, romance, music and literature all added up to an enchanting read.

I absolutely adored this novel. It is a wonderful story and the ending quite unexpected but perfect. The characters remain with me long after reading the final word and I can still see them all in my mind’s eye. I’d love to know what life has in store for them next.

This is a story about finding love, empathy, loyalty and friendship.  Yet it also touches on contemporary issues such as homelessness, exploitation, illegal immigrants and integration.   It shimmered and shined from beginning to end and held me under it’s spell long after I read the final page. Thoroughly recommended.

SYNOPSIS
When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. At sunset, though, it becomes a human being.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, woman by night, with no way to go home to Russia, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled…

A narrated concert based on ODETTE is in the planning stages with the award-winning violinist Fenella Humphreys. pianist Viv McLean and Jessica as narrator. Music will include a celebration of Tchaikovsky’s magical score for Swan Lake, plus works by Chopin, Liszt and Gershwin. The first performances will be at Music at Mansfield Street, London W1, 17 April 2019 and St Mary’s, Perivale, 27 April 2019. – This sounds just wonderful!

About The Author

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Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist, specialising in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous magazines around the world. Her first five novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Music plays a vital role in her books, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Ghost Variations.

Jessica is the librettist for the opera Silver Birch by Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include the libretto for a youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019 (an updating of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale) and two large-scale choral works with Roxanna Panufnik.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on several music magazines before going freelance to concentrate on writing. She edited a piano magazine for five years and was then classical music and ballet correspondent for The Independent from 2004-2016. Her output also includes plays, poetry, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. She lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys playing the piano, cookery, long walks and obscure books about music.

Thank you to Anne at RandomThingsTours for my ebook to read and review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.  This is definitely one I will be buying for my bookshelves.

For a longer synopsis and an extract from the book please visit: https://unbound.com/books/odette/

LINKS

ORDER FROM UNBOUND

https://unbound.com/books/odette/

AMAZON: PAPERBACK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odette-Jessica-Duchen/dp/1789650003/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539504625&sr=8-1&keywords=Odette+duchen

AMAZON: KINDLE

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odette-Jessica-Duchen-ebook/dp/B07JC5NJ4Y/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1539504625&sr=8-2&keywords=Odette+duchen

WATERSTONES

https://www.waterstones.com/book/odette/jessica-duchen/9781789650006

JESSICA DUCHEN’S WEBSITE

https://www.jessicaduchen.co.uk