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.

Books that adults should read, Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018, Historical Fiction

Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll

Emma is one of the best authors in historical fiction for children. Her first novel, Frost Hollow Hall, was published in 2013 and she has been inspiring children (and adults) to read ever since. I absolutely adore her books and it makes me incredibly happy that she is such a prolific writer as I am never particularly patient when waiting for the next. Her most recent novel, Secrets of a Sun King, is detailed below but do check out her backlist as they are ALL marvellous.

London, 1922. 

A discovery from ancient Egypt . . .
A cursed package . . .
The untold story of a young pharaoh . . .

When Lilian Kaye finds a parcel on her grandad’s doorstep, she is shocked to see who sent it: a famous Egyptologist, found dead that very morning, according to every newspaper in England!

The mysterious package holds the key to a story . . . about a king whose tomb archaeologists are desperately hunting for.

Lil and her friends must embark on an incredible journey – to return the package to its resting place, to protect those they love, and to break the deadly pharaoh’s curse . . .

Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

This year has been a wonderful year for books and there are so many I could recommend. This next title is definitely one of my books of the year. Abi is a master storyteller. Her writing is beautiful and filled with adventure, courage and magic. Sky Song was published back In January but this wintery tale will make the perfect Christmas read.

Once an adventure digs its claws in, there is not an awful lot you can do about it. Especially when magic is involved . . .’
 
In the snowy kingdom of Erkenwald, whales glide between icebergs, wolves hunt on the tundra and polar bears roam the glaciers. But the people of this land aren’t so easy to find – because Erkenwald is ruled by an evil Ice Queen and the tribes must stay hidden or risk becoming her prisoners at Winterfang Palace.

Join Eska, a girl who breaks free from a cursed music box, and Flint, a boy whose inventions could change the fate of Erkenwald forever, as they journey to the Never Cliffs and beyond in search of an ancient, almost forgotten, song with the power to force the Ice Queen back.
 
This is a story about an eagle huntress, an inventor and an organ made of icicles. But it is also a story about belonging, even at the very edges of our world . . .

Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

I won a giveaway! – The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

This week our lovely postman delivered something rather special.  A beautiful, signed copy of The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw.  Shea sent it to me all the way from America after pulling my name out of the hat on a giveaway she ran on Twitter.  I’m absolutely thrilled to give this beautiful edition a home and look forward to reading it again very soon.  It was also rather exciting to here that this spine-tingling story is going to be adapted into a movie!  Can. not. wait.

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The jacket is illustrated with silver foil that flickers with stunning colours as the light catches it.
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Three beautifully illustrated limited edition bookmarks were also included in my prize.
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Underneath the dust jacket sits a stunning hardback cover.
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Signed by the author herself, this will be a wonderful keepsake.

So this is a beautiful book but what about the story within… well that’s rather fabulous too.  Here is my review posted earlier this year.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

A haunting tale of three sisters on a quest for revenge…

Two centuries ago, in small, isolated Sparrow, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery and drowned in the waters surrounding the town. Now, each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three girls and seeking revenge by dragging boys to their watery deaths.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the town’s fate. Then, on the eve of the sisters’ return, Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into or the fact that his arrival will change everything…

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

Wowser, I loved this beguiling story full of witchcraft and revenge. Even the cover tempts you to pick it up with smatterings of foil that catch the light, making the book shimmer. It is beautifully designed. This isn’t a book that languishes in a tbr pile, it’s one that calls to you until you pick it up and then entrances you, pulling you in deeper and deeper until you reach the stunning end. Such is the magic of the Swan sisters and their sinister tale.

Ernshaw spins this tale with expert ease. Spanning two hundred years, the Swan sisters story is one that has had a hold on the people of Sparrow, a town cursed by its treatment of the three sisters, outsiders, who were said to bewitch the men with their beauty and the perfumes they concocted. Every year since, they have returned to seek their revenge. As the deadly Swan Season approaches, visitors swarm to the town and the teenagers prepare for the annual beach party that welcomes in the sinister season.  As the Swan sisters song begins, a sense of foreboding sweeps over the town as they wait for the eerie silence that can only mean the sisters have returned, and the hunt for their first victim begins.

This story swept me away and I loved inhibiting the town of Sparrow (from a safe distance). Full of atmosphere, magic and intrigue, I was sad to finish the novel.  I shall very much look forward but to revisiting The Wicked Deep so I can look for all the clues that brought me to the remarkable ending.

Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous! Oh and did I mention that it has a shimmery cover?

You can find Shea on Twitter: @SheaErnshaw

 

 

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

Christmas 2017, Young Adult Fiction

Christmas 2017 – Book Advent – Day Ten

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I first read this book three years ago now and it’s stayed with me ever since. Haunting and well crafted, this is a pretty special piece of YA fiction. It brought E.Lockhart to my attention and she is now one of my favourite YA authors. Edgy, gripping and at times shocking, this is one YA title that’s too good to miss.

We are the Liars. We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury. We are cracked and broken. It is a story of love and romance. It is a tale of tragedy. Which are lies? Which is truth?

This book actually made me gasp at the end, I just didn’t see it coming. Thoroughly recommended.

We Were Liars was published in 2014 by Hot Key Books