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
Children's Fiction

A new tale from The Badlands series by J.R.Wallis

I love a good series.  It’s the waiting for the next book that’s the hardest.  I’m not the most patient person but then again I love the sense of anticipation as the date of publication comes closer and closer.  Last year I reviewed The Boy With One Name by J.R.Wallis and boy, did I love it.  Book one from the Badlands series, I hoped that the next instalment wouldn’t be too long coming. Well The Black Amulet has now been published and I happy to say that it’s every bit as exciting as The Boy With One Name.   So without further ado, here’s a little more about both books.  If you haven’t yet come across the series then do start with The Boy With One Name.

The Boy With One Name by J.R.Wallis

wp-image-65053692

 

I absolutely adore a little magic and mystery. Throw in some mortal danger, monsters and things that go bump in the night and I’m in heaven.

Last summer the rather lovely people over at Simon & Schuster kids sent me a copy of The Boy With One Name. The cover alone grabbed my interest as soon as it slipped out from it’s Jiffy bag.

WELCOME TO THE BADLANDS … a hidden part of our world populated by creatures which most people think exist only in fairytales and nightmares.

Twelve-year-old Jones is an orphan, training as an apprentice hunter alongside his mentor, Maitland, tackling ogres, trolls and all manner of creatures that live in the Badlands – a hidden part of our own world, and which most people think exist only in fairytales and nightmares. But all Jones secretly wants to be is an ordinary boy and to leave the magical world forever…

When an ogre hunt goes wrong and Maitland is killed, Jones finally has a chance to find out where he came from. But the truth he uncovers isn’t what he’s expecting and it seems that if Jones is going to make his dream come true he’ll have to defeat a creature not even Maitland had dared take on and he won’t be able to do it alone…

He’s going to need help from Ruby, the first girl he’s ever met. She’s outspoken, fearless and determined to prove she’s as good as any boy, and unlike Jones, being ordinary is the last thing on her mind. Ruby’s desperate to find her place in the world and thinks the Badlands could be it. So, working together isn’t going to be straightforward. In fact, it could be downright dangerous.

But who said getting what you want is supposed to easy, even if it is just wanting to be ordinary?

The story features two young protagonists – Jones desperately wants to be a normal boy, yet since before he can remember fate has had other plans because Jones is an apprentice Badlander. Badlanders hunt witches, ogres, shapeshifters and other monsters that ordinary people only see in their nightmares.

Ruby is also desperate for a different life. Running away from her latest foster carer and a difficult home life, Ruby  is searching for a world she can fit into. A world where she has some purpose and meaning.

Things go terribly wrong one night whilst Jones, as part of his commencement, is making his first kill.  Suddenly he is left without his master, Maitland, the one man who taught him everything he knows and who’s been there for him since he was a baby. Now he is alone with only a talking gun (which he can’t touch) for guidance.

Looking for a safe place to hide, runaway Ruby, finds herself caught up in Jones’ life along with the monsters that she thought only belonged in fairytales and nightmares. Before long circumstances force them to work together as each tries to not only stay alive but to find the lives they’ve both dreamed of.

What follows is an adventure story that grips from the very first page as you tumble, head-first, into the Badlands. Adrenaline filled and full of danger, Wallis will have you cheering for more.

This is a great book about friendship, self discovery, learning who you are and finding courage in even the most desparate of situations. I absolutely loved Jones and fiesty Ruby. They each had their own problems but discovered that working together they could achieve anything.

An exciting start to what I hope will become a series. This will make a fantastic, fun and exciting read.

The Boy With One Name was published in August 2017 by Simon and Schuster\

Here’s a small taster that I’ve taken from the opening page.

     Jones stopped. He’d felt safe enough creeping down the path in front of the cottage, in the dark.  But now the moon had reappeared from behind the clouds, the world was relit with a softer silver light meaning he was much more likely to be seen.

He kept trying to focus on what Maitland had promised, that he wouldn’t come to any harm. But that was less easy to believe now they were actually here. Scared to go on, Jones looked behind him, to where his Master was hiding, hoping to be beckoned back.

Maitland stepped out from the granite porch concealing the front door of the cottage and stood on the path, big as a bolder in his greatcoat. He said nothing. His craggy face remained hidden below the peak of his baseball cap. And Jones knew right away Maitland wanted him to go on, however bright the moon, because this was his big night. This was his big test.

The Black Amulet by J.R.Wallis

the-black-amulet-9781471157943_lg

Reunited with his parents, Jones is finally living the ‘normal’ life he’s always wanted.  But, despite leaving the Badlands behind, there’s still magic inside him…

His two friends, Ruby and Thomas Gabriel, are struggling with their new lives too; Thomas Gabriel’s magical abilities are fading away and Ruby is railing she might never be accepted as a ‘proper’ Badlands in a world of monster-hunting run by men.

One thing could help all of them – the Black Amulet, a magical artefact hidden for centuries by the most powerful Badlands that ever lived.  But finding it won’t be easy, and using it even harder, because things are never simple when magic’s involved…

This is a fantastic second Tales From the Badlands.  All three friends are working together to find the Black Amulet but all for very different reasons.

The Black Amulet gives us more insight into both Ruby and Thomas Gabriel.  Both are desperate for their magical difficulties to be resolved and the Amulet offers the solution to those problems.  Yet it has a dark side to it. It is a powerful artefact and can take possession of those who wear it with sometimes deadly consequences.  There are ways to stay remain immune from its effects, however,  the Amulet is constantly working to break down those protections.  Perhaps together, Ruby, Thomas and Jones, can find the way to use it safely to take away all their problems.   Yet how much can you trust your friends?

I love the way the novel highlights how important it is to be true to yourself and that being ‘different’ is good.  This is a great series and The Black Amulet finishes perfectly to continue on in a third book.  I have another wait ahead of me but I have no doubt it will most definitely be worth it.

Another taster…

    ‘But Ruby, I want to be an ordinary boy too and I can’t be that with magic inside me.  It’s not meant to be in the regular world…’

     Ruby leant forward and took his hands in hers.  ‘You can still be both if you want t0.’  Ed looked at her, unsure what she was getting at.  ‘You don’t have to be a regular Badlands.  I won’t be, even if Drewman fixes our Commencement.  I’ll always be a girl.  I’ll be different to other Badlands.  So why can’t you be a different type of Badlands too?’

Review copies supplied by the lovely people at Simon and Schuster (thanks so much:)

Find out more about author J.R.Wallis by visiting his website: here.

 

Adult Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson

9781912374052

The next in the award-winning Roy and Castells series.

Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.

London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets nurders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims.  With the man arrested or the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?

Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down…

Oh my goodness I enjoyed this, KEEPER is brilliantly written.  Although I read a lot I’m not a fast reader, I generally like to take my time with a story, savour the words and allow myself to become immersed in the story. KEEPER however didn’t allow me that luxury.  It pulled me in right from the start and I literally couldn’t put it down. Short chapters that create quite a punch carried me on whilst crying a constant ‘just one more’ like a child at the park bargaining for another turn on the slide.

I’ve always been a big fan of crime thrillers and murder mystery.  From an early age I’ve had a love of the old fashioned Agatha Christie novels (and TV adaptations) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.  I love trying to figure out who the guilty party is.  Johana Gustawsson brings the crime novel right up to date with her incredibly sharp, suspenseful writing.  KEEPER features a host of intriguing (and rather damaged) characters who all contribute to the story in their own (at times rather disturbing) ways. There are so many twists and turns that I honestly found the ending a complete surprise.  Just when you think you’ve begun to understand the who, why and when, it takes you in a totally different direction.  This doesn’t mean it’s unwieldy and difficult to follow – in fact quite the opposite.  The writing is excellent and by the time I turned the last page I felt that the story had come to an excellent conclusion and all my questions had been answered.

Johana weaves her story from the late nineteenth century with the reign of terror held by Jack the Ripper through to 2015 when the brilliant Roy and Castells attempt to crack the case of a modern day serial killer who is incredibly sadistic and dangerous.  Johana Gustawsson is a French writer and I have to say the translation by Maxim Jakubowski is faultless.  He has expertly maintained the tempo, atmosphere and  brilliance of Johana’s writing.  Not a word is wasted.  At times shocking, this was an incredible thriller I heartily recommend and that will certainly have me checking the back seat of my car for quite some time to come.

I haven’t read BLOCK 46 yet but I will most definitely be adding it to my list AND I can’t wait to see what comes next in the brilliant Roy and Castell series.

KEEPER will be published in paperback by Orenda Books on the 30th of April 2018.

Find out more about Johana Gustawsson here.

 

Adult Fiction, Crime, Debut, Liz Robinson Reviews, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins – a guest review by Liz Robinson

 

Here Liz gives us the heads up on the start of a fantastic, thrilling new Crime series…

Devil's DiceThe first in the ‘DI Meg Dalton Thriller’ series is an addictive, absolute treat of a read. Meg recently moved forces and is now based in Derbyshire, she is thrown in the deep end when a lawyer is found dead in a cave and a sinister game of cat and mouse is initiated. ‘The Devil’s Dice’ was shortlisted for the 2016 Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award (for unpublished writers), so my expectations were high, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The first few pages set my thoughts fluttering, and throughout this tale a ghostly shadow hovers over the pages. Roz Watkins allows humour to enter at just the right moments, and has created a fabulous main lead. While Meg does have her fair share of problems, and a certain vulnerability too, she really grew on me. As I read, I set my mind free, to delve into the pages, to ponder, to speculate. The Devil’s Dice’ is just so readable, this is a thoroughly modern tale with a teasing strange connection to the past, and a towering cliff hanger of an ending… hopefully there will be many more stories to come.

Synopsis:

A SHOCKING DEATH

A lawyer is found dead in a Peak District cave, his face ribboned with scratches.

A SINISTER MESSAGE

Amidst rumours of a local curse, DI Meg Dalton is convinced this is cold-blooded murder. There’s just one catch chiselled into the cave wall above the body is an image of the grim reaper and the dead man’s initials, and it’s been there for over a century.

A DEADLY GAME

As Meg battles to solve the increasingly disturbing case, it’s clear someone knows her secrets. The murderer is playing games with Meg and the dice are loaded

A white-knuckle crime debut introducing DI Meg Dalton, perfect for fans of Broadchurch and Happy Valley

The Devil’s Dice was pubished by HQ an imprint of HarperCollins on the 8th of March 2018

 

Adult Fiction, Crime, Debut, Family Drama, Liz Robinson Reviews

Sal by Mick Kitson – a guest review by Liz Robinson

There’s nothing quite like discovering a new author.  Here’s Liz’s review for this wonderful debut by Mick Kitson.

SALJust gorgeous… this is an emotional and quite, quite beautiful read. After a particularly traumatic time at home, 13 year old Sal and her younger sister Peppa escape into the wilds of Scotland. Sal has spent a long time preparing, the wilderness beckons them, can they survive on their own? Sal tells their story, the first chapter is so clever, I started to realise what had been happening, and then a few carefully chosen, yet almost casually thrown away words, sent a shockwave running through me. I could clearly hear Sal’s voice, she is so individual and distinctive, her words entered my mind and expanded, filling my heart. Mick Kitson encourages the Scottish countryside to sing with intensity, while you can hear Sal, you can see and feel the clean and natural space she and Peppa find themselves in. Kindness flows from unexpected places, and love is behind every word shared by Sal, even in the darkness. Simple, beautiful, provocative yet touching, this is an outstanding debut, and a read I will return to again and again. Highly recommended.

Synopsis:

This is a story of something like survival.

Sal planned it for almost a year before they ran. She nicked an Ordnance Survey map from the school library. She bought a compass, a Bear Grylls knife, waterproofs and a first aid kit from Amazon using stolen credit cards. She read the SAS Survival Handbook and watched loads of YouTube videos.

And now Sal knows a lot of stuff. Like how to build a shelter and start a fire. How to estimate distances, snare rabbits and shoot an airgun. And how to protect her sister, Peppa. Because Peppa is ten, which is how old Sal was when Robert started on her.

Told in Sal’s distinctive voice, and filled with the silent, dizzying beauty of rural Scotland, Sal is a disturbing, uplifting story of survival, of the kindness of strangers, and the irrepressible power of sisterly love; a love that can lead us to do extraordinary and unimaginable things.

Sal was published by Canongate on the 1st of March 2018

Christmas 2017

Christmas 2017 – Book Advent – Day Four

Day Four

The Museum of Cathy by Anna Stothard

Today I have chosen an adult title.  It was actually published in 2016 and I read and reviewed it for Lovereading.co.uk.  It was fantastic.  You can read my full review on the Lovereading page here.  But here’s just a wee snippet…

Museum of CathyI was completely swept away with this story. Stothard’s technique allows us to watch events unfold with regular insights into Cathy’s past that slowly reveal the reality of what she has been hiding from with a steadily rising sense of foreboding. I found the exploration of characters sensitively handled and yet provided enough suspense and contained a level of sinister tension that had me guessing just what each one may be capable of. This is exquisite, beautifully written prose and the use of the museum as a theme throughout with setting, a means of storytelling, and metaphor, is quite brilliantly executed.” – Lovereading.co.uk

And here’s the synopsis

From the author of the Orange Prize long-listed, The Pink Hotel Cathy is a young woman who escapes her feral childhood in a rundown chalet on the East coast of England to become a curator of natural history in Berlin. Although seemingly liberated from her destructive past, she commemorates her most significant memories and love affairs – one savage, one innocent, one full of potential – in a collection of objects that form a bizarre museum of her life. When an old lover turns up at a masked party at Berlin’s natural history museum and events take a terrifying turn, Cathy must confront their shared secrets in order to protect her future. This is an exquisitely crafted, rare and original work.’

The Museum of Cathy was published by salt publishing in November 2016.

Find out more about author Anna Stothard by visiting her website here.

Find out more about Salt Publishing by visiting their website here.