Belle Hotel Blogtour

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13 October 2008. Welcome to the worst day of Chef Charlie Sheridan’s life, the day he’s about to lose his two great loves: his childhood sweetheart, Lulu, and the legendary Brighton hotel his grandfather, Franco Sheridan, opened in 1973.

This is the story of the Belle Hotel, one that spans the course of four decades – from the training of a young chef in the 1970s and 80s, through the hedonistic 90s, up to the credit crunch of the noughties – and leads us right back to Charlie’s present-day suffering.

In this bittersweet and salty tale, our two Michelin star-crossed lovers navigate their seaside hangout for actors, artists and rock stars; the lure of the great restaurants of London; and the devastating effects of three generations of family secrets.

When Anne Cater invited me on The Belle Hotel blog tour, I was delighted as it combined two things I absolutely love – cooking and the seaside! I absolutely love Brighton and its atmosphere of fun and nostalgia and the setting was a huge aspect of why I loved this book.

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The hotel in this novel is almost a character in its own right as we follow it through history across the decades – We see it in the 70’s when I was growing up, right through until its demise around ten years ago and this was one of the things that I also really loved. Books that span various decades are always a real nostalgia-fest for me and I loved being taken back in time to my own family’s seaside holidays in the 1970s and 80s – from Punch and Judy shows to seeing Keith Harris and Orville and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Franco and Charlie’s adventures in running the Belle Hotel across the years was really enjoyable to lose yourself in. The eclectic style of the book, interspersed with recipes such as Omelette Arnold Bennett Lobster Belle Hotel also added to my enjoyment of this read as did the snippets of letters, memos and receipts. It felt like we were fully immersed in the ‘memory’ of the Hotel itself and exploring all these fragments really added to my reading experience.

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I loved the idea that we time travel through the book and see the ups and downs of the Hotel’s history from the other side of the front desk. The fact that Craig Melvin has worked in this industry himself for so long means that this novel has a totally authentic feel to it and I really wondered exactly how much of it was based on his own experiences in the hotel industry across the years.

Having been a waitress in the holiday hotel industry myself as a student I found much to connect with and laugh about in these pages –  I read it aloud to my sister at times to see how much she’d agree with how realistic it was. It sparked so many memories and laughs about our own experiences, through reading about some of the funny moments in the hotel’s long and frequently hilarious history and I definitely felt that the book’s eclectic structure made it easy to keep picking up and indulging in another slice of the hotel’s interesting history.

The book has been described as a ‘Foodie One Day’ by The Big Book Group and I loved that idea – the story of Charlie’s romance with his childhood sweetheart Lulu is one of the most satisfying aspects of The Belle Hotel and there are some bittersweet moments where you’ll definitely be wondering what on earth he is doing as well as plenty of times where you’ll be rooting for him.

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This is a departure from the gothic reads that I’ve been immersed in over the winter and I found it a real palate cleanser to be beside the seaside enjoying the ups and downs of hotel life over the last week, reading The Belle Hotel. If you are after something totally different and feel intrigued to find out more about the fascinating history of The Belle Hotel, then grab yourself a copy right here

Thank you so much to Anne Cater and Unbound for inviting me on the tour and introducing me to another memorable and thought-provoking read that I might never have discovered otherwise. Another reason why I love #Bookblogging so very much

Follow the tour and see what the other Bookbloggers have enjoyed about it too!

Writer on the Shelf

Craig Melvin

Craig Melvin holds an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and works as restaurant consultant in London and Brighton.

He was mentored by Albert Roux at catering college and has worked in the restaurant and hotel business ever since.

He also runs http://www.lunarlemonproductions.com with his wife Mel.

The Belle Hotel is his first book.

 

 

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The Sewing Machine Blog Tour

 

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents.  His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.

‘A tapestry of strong characters and accomplished writing’ Herald Scotland
‘A hopeful and poignant debut that lingers long after the final page’ Helen Sedgwick, author of The Comet Seekers
‘An extraordinarily accomplished and beautiful debut novel woven with historical detail’
Rachel Lucas, author of Wildflower Bay

The Sewing Machine is the kind of novel that I absolutely love. Three stories connected across time with lives and experiences that you are equally drawn to and whose stories you can move between effortlessly.  Natalie Fergie writes Jean, Connie & Fred so convincingly that you really feel that you’ve spent time in their worlds, making it very hard to pull yourself away. It’s a novel made for long winter afternoons and I got lost in it in my winter break in gorgeous Ayrshire this year.

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The three characters’ stories are all very different and their connections with the sewing machine itself are for very different reasons – what they have in common, however, is a very real feeling of authenticity. It feels like time travel in the very best way. It gives you a chance to experience three very different worlds and get a glimpse through the keyhole in a way that so very few writers are able to conjure for their readers.

 

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Jean and Donald’s involvement in the strike – where 10,000 workers walked out after an incident in the Singer factory made me go off and explore this fascinating episode of history that I’d never previously known about and talk about it with my mum. It is amazing to see how workers were treated by large companies not even that long ago and I loved the way that Jean and Donald’s personal story was brought to life beautifully against the historical background surrounding their romance

 

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Connie and Alf’s story moves us forward in time to a time that many of us will be able to connect with through the tales forged in our own childhoods and told to us by our parents and grandparents. Both my nana and my mum were talented at sewing and my little sister and I spent many happy hours playing with the button boxes, rick rack braid and pinking shears in our childhood. One of the things that I loved best about this book was how much I connected with it personally and the fact that 10,000 other people have loved it too means that Natalie Fergie’s book is clearly allowing lots of people to time-travel seamlessly back into their family’s past.

I often find that multiple narratives can result in you feeling drawn to one that you found more engaging at the expense of the others. Not so here. There was a pleasing balance of all of these stories through their connection with the sewing machine. All of the threads of these stories were so cleverly stitched together that the patchwork take of these lives has stayed with me long after finishing it.  Her characters were so well-drawn that I felt like I knew them and wanted to dedicate my attention to the way their stories interconnected, rather than feeling that one overwhelmed the other.

 

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Natalie Fergie is such a talented voice. She draws the reader into her characters’ worlds and makes them live for us as we read.  Jean and Connie’s tales are all the more powerful due to their connections with real-life events.

The way that Fred’s modern-day story is linked to the past through the discovery of the notebooks was a wonderful device to connect the present and the past seamlessly and allowed us to see that sometimes a book can be so well-written that being brought to tears by its characters seems just as natural as being moved by episodes of your own family history. I cannot recommend it warmly enough and am so delighted that it’s had such success. If you haven’t already put it on your 2019 TBR list, then you absolutely should now.

Here is the link to treat yourself to a copy right away

 

I loved this gorgeous book so much that I devoured it in a single day. Thank you so much to Anne Cater at RandomThingsTours for inviting me to take part in this very special tour

I absolutely loved Fictionophile’s blogpost -and the accompanying picture was just perfect

 

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Now, I’m just waiting on her next one…

 

Writer On The Shelf

Natalie Fergie Author Pic.jpg

Natalie Fergie is a textile enthusiast and has spent the last ten years running a one-woman dyeing business, sending parcels of colourful and unique yarn and thread all over the world. Before this, she had a 27-year career as a nurse and latterly, as a Health Visitor.

Natalie lives near Edinburgh with her husband, and a dog called Boris. Her sons have flown the nest.

The Singer 99k which was the inspiration for the novel has had at least four previous owners, possibly more. It was bought for £20 from someone who lived in Clydebank, just a stone’s throw from the site of the factory where it was made a hundred years earlier.

It’s quite possible that there are another eight sewing machines in her house.

Website

Twitter

Material Remains Blog Tour

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A small world fractured in the wake of an untimely death

On a hungover Friday morning, Mike McEwan’s life of tea, pints, late mornings and the occasional essay comes to an abrupt halt. Consumed with guilt, grief and confusion, Mike haunts the ruins of St Andrews, rebuilding them in his mind and obsessing about the loss of someone he barely knew, unsure of his place in her life, or her death.

The discovery of an ancient plague burial site drags Mike back into contact with those around him. But life has changed, both for himself and others, and the burial ground holds more than the bones of those long dead.

Mike peels back the layers of earth and the darkness of its history and tries desperately to connect the victims of the past to the tumult of his present.

Student life around him continues at its own bizarre and drunken pace. Late-night parties, stolen golf carts and ridiculous drinking games go on for most as always. But others have been dragged in as well, and look on Mike with suspicion and rage.

 

 

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As someone who studied in St Andrews, I was intrigued by the premise of a book set somewhere so familiar to me – so when Anne Cater invited me onto this blog tour, I couldn’t have said yes fast enough. Add that to the fact that I love books with a mystery at their heart and ones that draw me in from the very start with an intriguing premise – and it’s safe to say that I was really looking forward to Material Remains…

 

This book grabbed me and pulled me right into the story. I was really intrigued by the way that Mike dealt with Charlie going missing and the journey that he went on in exploring his reaction to her disappearance. At times, I felt like I was right back in St Andrews in the pub with Mike and his friends and I feel that this book has really captured that experience perfectly.

Richard Bray is an excellent writer – it’s hard to talk about this novel without spoilers, so I’ll just need to tell you that you must read it for yourself. You will be intrigued by the disappearance and want to know more about what is being hinted at beneath the surface and the mysterious connections with the burial grounds.  You’ll definitely want to read on and find out exactly what has led to Charlie’s vanishing and how Mike will deal with this situation as student life continues around him despite his loss. It is an evocative read that will make you feel like you are there, walking up the scores and popping in for a pint with Mike and his fellow students.

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I really liked the way that Material Remains asks us to look at events from an unusual perspective and re-see them, once we have a greater understanding of everything that Mike been through in order for us to reevaluate our understanding of what ‘the truth’ actually is. This was a much more intriguing read than I expected – I started off just being drawn in by the St Andrews link and even though it was great to reminisce about Raisin Weekend and high jinks on the beach, I really did begin to immerse myself in the story and enjoy the ideas that emerged through the many ‘deep and meaningful’ stories that these students were exchanging.

 

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This isn’t just a straightforward thriller or mystery. Material Remains goes a little deeper than that and asks us to think about the way that time resonates with the present and the past and how our experiences of grief and loss will affect each and every one of us differently. The end of the novel makes us rethink again everything that we’ve discovered earlier and will leave you deep in thought at the end, for sure.

 

Anyone interested in history, Scotland and human emotions will love this novel. I  had really high hopes for Material Remains and I’m delighted to say that I was definitely not disappointed. Even though this book touched on dark and difficult subject matters at times, it was dealt with very sensitively and Charlie’s disappearance wasn’t sensationalised or dealt with in a brutal or dismissive way.

 

 

Get yourself a copy here

Writer On The Shelf

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Richard W H Bray is an award-winning author (and is a touch smug about this). When not making wine in south-west France he writes books and tries to work out how to move back to Scotland. His first book, Salt & Old Vines, was published by Unbound and you should buy that too.