Belle Hotel Blogtour

Displaying

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.

Image result for brighton postcard retro

 

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.

Image result for lobster dishes

 

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.

Image result for brighton cartoon

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.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

Image result for troon winter

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.

 

Image result for natalie fergie  sewing machine f

 

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

 

Related image

 

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.

 

Related image

 

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

 

Image result for natalie fergie  sewing machine f

 

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

unnamed

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.

 

 

Image result for st andrews creative commons

 

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.

Image result for st andrews creative commons

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.

 

Image result for dig st andrews

 

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

Image result for richard w h bray

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.

Severed Blog Tour

 

During a communion service at a village church, the teenage son of a vicar brutally attacks his father with an axe. The horrified congregation watch the son esape and during a frantic police search rumours arise that the boy was involved in devil worship. Professor Matt Hunter, an atheist ex-minister and expert on religion, is brought in to advise, yet he quickly suspects the church attack may have a far more complex cause.

Meanwhile, a ten-year-old boy called Ever grows up in a small Christian cult. The group believe they are the only true humans left and that the world is filled with demons called Hollows, but they’re working on a bizarre ritual that will bring peace and paradise to the world. Soon, the worlds of Matt and Ever will collide in one awful, terrifying night where Matt is thrown into the frightening and murderous world of religious mania.

As soon as I discovered that the detective in this novel was called Jill – I was sold  I was delighted to be invited on the blog tour for this book by Anne Cater as I’m always happy to trust her judgement about my next read. It sounded really intriguing and after finishing it the first thing I did was go in search of everything else Peter Laws has written. It really was that good! Be warned though, if you like darkness, the macabre and an unsettling read then you’ve come to the right place…

Unleashed (Matt Hunter)Severed (Matt Hunter)

I love Matt Hunter’s character: his family life and relationships are incredibly well drawn and really make you feel like you are being allowed into his world. His relationship with DS Jill Bowland is also very well done and their team dynamic is described in such a way as to make the story feel truly ‘real’ and make us root for them as they navigate some pretty macabre goings-on.  I love that this book defies being pigeonholed into merely one genre – it manages to be a book that people who don’t love ‘straight’ crime novels would also love at the same time. This is largely down to Peter Laws’ skill in characterisation and ability to really keep you on the edge of your seat as things get dark and mysterious very quickly.

This is definitely a mystery to get your teeth into. The religious element brought something very unique to this mystery and the fact that religion is very much Peter Laws’ background gave this a really authentic and credible air. The taut and narrow timeline certainly adds to the tension as Matt and Jill battle to get to the bottom of these terrifying and disturbing events that unfold around them.  Matt’s religious background gives him a unique insight into the world that Ever has grown up in and the very real dangers that he is exposed to. The darkness rising is nicely balanced with domestic detail and some genuinely – albeit darkly funny – scenes and the variety of light and shade was something else about the novel that really worked for me.

Image result for peter laws severed

 

This book drew me in and kept me there. It was a satisfying blend of horror, crime and mystery with a really original voice that I really fell for.  It was definitely one of those books that you pick up and then lift your eyes from to find out that three hours have passed and you’re still reading. That was what made me want to get his other two books as quickly as I can – and they are going to be a reward for when I finally finish my exam marking. Peter Laws’ skilful plate spinning means that Severed holds your attention in a vice-like grip and you will definitely not be able to put it down until you find out the truth behind what both Micah and Ever have been drawn into and what dark forces may be responsible. If you are squeamish or easily disturbed then this might not be the book for you – it certainly does not shy away from the macabre and you might need to sleep with the light on if you are up too late finishing it!

If you haven’t read any of Peter Laws’ books yet, you should begin straight away with this amazing trilogy and I guarantee that you’ll be drawn in as fast as I was and race through them. Browse all three of them here – and treat yourself to all three to get through the dark winter nights. Only thing is, you might need a stiff whisky to accompany you!

Writer On The Shelf

Peter Laws is an ordained Baptist minister with a taste for the macabre. He regularly speaks and preaches at churches and events. He lives with his family
in Bedfordshire.

Links https://www.peterlaws.co.uk/

Twitter @revpeterlaws

 

 

 

 

17 Degrees Magazine – Jill’s Winter Reads

WINTER COLLAGE.jpg

 

It’s January and I hope that your 2019 has got off to a great beginning. It’s been so exciting to see my latest 17 Degrees column in print and share my reviews of these great books.  January and February are full of fabulous new books too and it’s definitely going to be so hard to keep my 2019 TBR under control and whittle down my next set of books for my Spring Column in March

 

Image result for winter garland

Brutally Honest – Melanie Brown (Quadrille £13.99)

 

919GtTRxOTL.jpg

If you love a memoir, then this ‘Scary’ new release could be perfect for you. Mel B is certainly not known for keeping things to herself and in her autobiography, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in her dramatic life – and get to the truth behind the headlines. Mel B has spent her entire career flying high, whether being part of the world’s biggest girl band, acting as a judge on X Factor or telling it like it is on America’s Got Talent.  Brutally Honest is her no-holds-barred account of the struggles that went on behind the scenes and the tears that lay behind the surface glitter. With rare candour and a slice of her infamous northern humour, the book allows us a real insight into life as a Spice Girl, as well as the trauma and struggle to extricate herself from her most recent marriage and her desire to carve a new future for herself and her family. Mel has a charm all of her own and I know many people will be pleasantly surprised by her honesty, bravery and insight. A really great read with a warm heart and positive message too.Image result for winter garland

Poverty Safari – Darren McGarvey (Pan Macmillan £6.99)

 

9781529006346

Whatever your political opinions, Darren McGarvey aka Scottish rapper and social commentator, Loki is determined to make you sit up and take notice with his unflinching look at the people whose lives have fallen through the cracks in our modern social landscape.  He really wants to make people think harder about their assumptions about people living alongside us whose lives are so different to ours that they couldn’t even be imagined. Winner of this year’s Orwell Prize for non-fiction, this is part memoir, part social history and will shock even the most streetwise reader by its determination to tell the truth about poverty and hardship in the communities that we live in. The hidden poor are all around us and Loki feels that we don’t see them precisely because so many of us are determined not to. McGarvey wants us to think about the systems which have caused and maintain these inequalities in our society and consider whether we have done enough to ensure that this changes in the future. This is a non preachy, shocking and important read that everyone is talking about.  You should definitely join in the conversation this winter!
Image result for winter garland

Becoming – Michelle Obama (Penguin £16.99)

 

91qysq3zx0l

It’s great to start the year with a really inspiring read, and they don’t come much more inspiring than this one.  As the first African-American in her role as FLOTUS she and her husband redefined what it meant to serve in the White House. A strong and inspiring advocate for women’s education and opportunities, Michelle made thousands of people believe that they too could achieve their ambitions and the fact that she did it all with such grace, charm and humour meant that she wo n’t fail to win you over in this compelling read. Michelle talks candidly about her upbringing, her struggles and her personal successes as well as her insights into the juggling required to bring up your family as normally as you possibly can with the world watching your every move. Whether busting moves on primetime TV, wowing us with her skills at Carpool Karaoke or touching people with her natural compassion and dignity, Michelle’s book tells us her own story, in her own words and really makes you feel like you’ve met her in person. This is a warm, compelling and inspirational read that I can’t recommend highly enough.

Image result for winter garland

The Choice – Edith Eger (Ebury Publishing £6.99)

 

9781846045127.jpg

Being sent to Auschwitz at only 16 years old was a harrowing and unimaginable experience for 16-year-old Edith Enger. The things that she endured there are brought vividly to life for us in this memoir as we see them through her eyes – including being forced to perform at Auschwitz for the infamous ‘butcher’ Joseph Mengele himself. Edith’s determination to survive, in spite of everything she went through even led to her surviving a brutal death march. When the camp was liberated at last, Edith had to be pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive after everything that she’d endured. In The Choice, Dr Edith Eger shares her experience of the suffering she endured at Auschwitz with us, as well as telling us all about the people she has worked with and helped since. Today, she uses her skills to support survivors of abuse and soldiers suffering from PTSD, turning the worst of human experiences into something both positive and life-affirming. The Choice is an absolute must-read. It is both a lesson in humanity and a heart-warming insight into the way that the most wonderful things can grow out of adversity and suffering. Read it for a moving and inspiring start to 2019.
Image result for winter garland

 

The Hunting Party  – Lucy Foley( Harper Collins £12.99)

 

71BQMc1vkPL.jpg

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year. The beautiful one. The golden couple. The volatile one. The new parents. The quiet one. The city boy. The Outsider. The victim.  And then it begins… This was such a fantastic read, I can’t stop talking about it! I love a book with that ‘locked in’ feeling where you are constantly kept guessing as to who might be guilty- as everyone has a motive and nobody can be trusted. It had me hooked from the get-go and it’s a perfect winter read for a chilly afternoon by the fire as you’ll definitely get lost in its pages.. Anyone who has ever had to endure a dreadful reunion with people from their past will find much to relate to here as the remote location adds to the tension and unease of these characters. Their idyllic hideaway is rapidly torn apart by tensions, conflict and division and you’ll be left guessing as everyone’s motives are called into question in such a deft way that it would put Agatha Christie herself to shame.  Lucy Foley has crafted an immersive and claustrophobic novel that will have you holding your breath as you race towards the final page. This is definitely one of my reads of the year. Pick yourself up a copy as soon as you can!Image result for winter garland

Roar – Cecilia Aherne (Harper Collins £10.99)

 

71KDgCy+JZL.jpg

Have you ever imagined a different life? Have you ever been paralysed by indecision? Have you ever had a moment when you needed to find your voice?

Then I might have found the perfect book for you. Cecilia Ahern is one of those writers. The ones we all turn to when we want a story that will make us laugh, make us cry and make us think about our lives in a different way. My mum is a huge fan of her novels and so I was delighted to be able to review something a little different from her this winter: This is a selection of short stories about women who all discover the inner strength to stand up for something that matters passionately to them. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, you’ll discover thirty touching, hilarious stories and meet thirty totally different women. Each one finds a moment that defines them as they realise that they themselves hold the power to make a change. This book is a wonderful and inspiring antidote to the January Blues – treat yourself.

Image result for winter garland

One Day in December – Josie Silver (Penguin £5.99)

 

9780241982273.jpg

I love getting recommendations from other people for the column, and this book came from my very best book-twin in the world – my sister Cara. Like me, Cara loves a read that you can really lose yourself in and we both absolutely loved ‘One Day’ so I was delighted when she told me that she’d found a book that reminded her of it. I’m choosing this as a winter read for all you romantics out there – you’re going to absolutely love it. Laurie is pretty sure love, at first sight, doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away. Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. Until her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus. Laurie’s a good friend so she’s determined to let him go and get on with her life. But what if destiny has other plans? I hope you like this fabulous winter love story as much as we did.

Image result for winter garland

A Keeper – Graham Norton ( Hodder & Stoughton  £7.99)

 

akeeper_cover.jpg

Yes, it absolutely is that Graham Norton – and if you haven’t been introduced to Graham Norton the novelist, then you’re in for a treat. This wonderful Irish novel tells the story of Elizabeth Keane, who has returned to Ireland after her mother’s death, desperate to be done with that miserable episode of her life. There is nothing for her in Ireland now and she wonders if there ever was. The house of her childhood is not filled with happy memories and she’d happily have left it without a backwards glance, if she hadn’t found a stack of old letters.40 years earlier, a lonely young woman rushes through the darkness by the cliffs and the sea. She has idea where she might be headed, only that she has to keep going, and not look backwards. To where and for what reason will be revealed as the novel unfolds.  Both of these stories combine to draw you in and find out what will be the fate of both women and how their lives collide in the most unexpected way. If you where a Maeve Binchy fan, you’ll be won over by Graham Norton’s writing style and his evocative picture of both rural Ireland and human nature.

Image result for winter garland

 

A House of Ghosts W.C. Ryan (Zaffre £9.99)

 

71dt6fifesl

If you love a gothic read on wintery afternoons, then you’ll be as enchanted as I was by this original, dark and gripping story. It’s Winter 1917. The First World War is entering its most brutal phase and all around the nation, people are trying to find answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives. At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to try and make a connection with his two sons who have been killed in action. The intriguing aspect of this novel is that we gradually realise, as the guests start to arrive, that they are all hiding something important that lurks beneath the surface. The tension increases when a storm descends on the island and the guests find themselves trapped in the Abbey as the darkness becomes even more menacing.The question is, will there be the same number of guests ready to leave at the end of this gathering or will the promise of violence which has mounted throughout the storm lead to one of their unfortunate demise? You will love this unusual and gripping mystery if you like a tale of the unexpected. Curl up with A House of Ghosts for the perfect mystery to absorb you this winter.
Image result for winter garland

Snap – Belinda Bauer (Transworld £6. 99)

 

71C-oC51PcL.jpg

I am a real admirer of an original take on a genre – and if you haven’t read Belinda Bauer’s smart and psychological thriller yet, then you don’t just have to take my word for it – this book comes with the stamp of approval from none other than Queen of Crime, Val McDermid!  Snap tells the tale of eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters who are stuck in their broken-down car on a roasting hot summer’s day. waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she told them – I won’t be long. Fatal last words indeed – for she doesn’t come back. Ever. And life as the children know it is has totally been turned on its head in the most traumatic way imaginable. Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, working hard to look after them all whilst making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house. Coping well, until the truth about what happened to his mother emerges in a way that nobody could have anticipated.  Jack is a great character and you’ll be drawn in tighter and tighter to this twisty tale as more begins to emerge about their past than you might have anticipated. If you like a book that throws you right into the heart of a story and makes sure that you never quite entirely know where you are then this is the book for you. Watch out for its incredible twists and turns!
Image result for winter garland

The Innocent Wife  – Amy LLoyd (Cornerstone £7.99)

 

a1jt79llawl

If you are a fan of Making a Murderer or Manhunter on Netflix then this twisted and clever thriller might be right up your street. I got this book fjust before going on holiday and I read it from cover to cover in two days! Just imagine the situation –  you’re in love with a man on Death Row in Florida, convicted of a brutal murder twenty years ago. You’re convinced he didn’t do it, and you’re determined to prove that he didn’t. You spearhead a vast online army of people also determined to prove his innocence and manage to uncover evidence of police incompetence whilst successfully lobbying for this awful miscarriage of justice to be overturned. Now you’re married to him, and he’s a free man, his conviction thrown out. You are free to spend the rest of your lives together in wedded bliss After all, he’s innocent. Or is it as simple as that…I don’t want to give any spoilers so all I’m going to say is that you should definitely read it for yourself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about not being able to get to sleep until you’ve finished this rollercoaster of a book!

 

Image result for winter garland

Changeling – Matt Wesolowski (Orenda £8.99)

 

dgtk21yxkamp4t0

Orenda Books are one of my absolute favourites, and I can safely say that Matt Wesolowski’s ‘Six Stories’ series are definitely some of the most original and enjoyable books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing.  This series is cleverly based on a podcast and takes on a new ‘case’ for each book. Changeling begins on Christmas Eve 1988, when seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995. Famously reclusive Scott King, whose `Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates Alfie’s disappearance, interviewing six witnesses – hence the ‘six stories’ –  to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes the readers deep into the mysterious Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of the shadowy figures who dwell there including a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…This is such a wintery read – it’s dark, chilling and extremely atmospheric – you’ll be checking what’s behind the couch after you’ve finished reading it. Changeling is an unforgettable read that I cannot recommend highly enough.
Image result for winter garland

I absolutely loved the job of choosing these 12 books and hope that you enjoy reading the ones that appeal to you over these first few months of the year  I always try to choose books that will appeal to a wide range of readers – whether you like a true story, an inspiring autobiography, a romantic read or something a bit more spinetingling to get you through these dreich winter months.

Happy New Reading Year to you all and I hope you have a wonderful 2019 in books 
Jill

 

 

 

 

Billy Binns Blog Tour

 

 

unnamed (3)

THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is a deeply moving and honest debut set in London against the backdrop of the changing 20th century.

It is reading group fiction perfect for those who loved the quirky pathos of Gail Honeyman’s ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE and the humour of Rachel Joyce’s THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY

I remember my dreams but not where they start.
Further back, I recall some of yesterday and the day before that. Then everything goes into a haze.
Fragments of memories come looming back like red London buses in a pea-souper.
Time plays funny tricks these days.
I wait for the next memory. I wait and I wait.

At 117 years old, Billy Binns is the oldest man in Europe and he knows his time is almost up. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time. Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and I’m delighted to rave about another fantastic book so early in the year!

As he looks back at the relationships that have shaped his flawed life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a life full of hope, mistakes, heartbreak and, above all, love.

Image result for billy binns

Billy Binns is my new favourite character. I was so gutted to miss the #NewVoices event in Edinburgh this week and miss out on meeting the lovely @headlinepg team too! It sounds like my blogging girls had a wonderful time and I really really hope that I get the opportunity to go next year. I’m so excited for more of my friends and fellow bloggers to move #BillyBinns up their #TBR list so that I can chat at length about this wonderful read and analyse how Billy’s entire long life is skilfully conjured through Richard Lumsden’s deft description and totally believable characters.

Billy’s long and wonderful life story is very vividly described and I was soon immersed in his dramatic past. It explored periods that I didn’t know as much about as well as episodes in history that I thought I knew well and I was soon wholly engrossed by Billy’s life story as we travelled back in time with him and discovered the true nature of his role in these historic events. I really enjoyed the way that Richard Lumsden wears his learning lightly and skilfully manages to teach you a lot about these varied eras through Billy and his eclectic adventures. I absolutely loved his wartime experiences and felt like they sprang off the page and really allowed us to witness this era right alongside Billy, which I absolutely loved.

Image result for billy binns

Billy Binns’ story explores the power of the past to affect our present and the past’s hold over us which Richard Lumsden conveys so skilfully in this wonderful novel. Even though  Billy’s life spans an entire century, my overwhelming feeling when I finished reading this thought-provoking read was that even though people nowadays lead lives very different to Billy and his friends, we are connected by far more than divides us.

The pain and suffering endured by the men of the Great War and the after effect of it on their lives was a wonderful ‘crucible’ to explore how the past haunts us and Richard Lumsden really makes us feel like we are there with them, experiencing the pain of the past and the pain that we’ve all struggled with on our journeys as human beings.

I absolutely recommend this read for people who really like to get their teeth into a story and those readers who enjoy a novel that is as far from formulaic and predictable as it is possible to be. In the present reading climate, many books can seem very same-y and this was a real palate cleanser for me. I loved the characterisation as much as I enjoyed the narrative style and I will definitely be recommending Billy Binns to friends of mine who enjoy a thought-provoking and engrossing read. Bravo, Richard Lumsden – it’s only January but #BillyBinns is really looking like a contender for my ‘Best of 2019’ list already and might even earn a place on my ‘Best of the Year’ #OnTheShelfie

Treat yourself to a copy here

 

Image result for billy binns

 

Writer On The Shelf

richard lumsden

Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include DownhillSightseersSense and Sensibility and The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions. The Six Loves of Billy Binns is his first novel.

You can follow Richard on Twitter @lumsdenrich and visit his website for more information.

 

Billy Binns Cover

The Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

unnamed (2)On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…

Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.

‘Bold, clever and genuinely chilling with a terrific twist that provides an explosive final punch’ Deidre O’Brien, Sunday Mirror

‘A genuine genre-bending debut’ Carla McKay, Daily Mail

‘Impeccably crafted and gripping from start to finish’ Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue

‘With a unique structure, an ingenious plot and so much suspense you can’t put it down, this is the very epitome of a must-read’ Heat

I loved Changeling so much that I featured it as one of my #WinterReads in 17 Degrees Magazine this month too!

dpy_aimwsaazpsk

dxep0u4x0aednhx

If I were to tell you that I was excited to receive Changeling, it’d seriously be one of the hugest understatements of my life. I absolutely loved Six Stories and Hydra and I could not wait to ‘tune in’ to the next episode of my favourite ‘True Crime Podcast‘ of a book. Matt Wesolowski has an amazing talent for grabbing you by the lapels and pulling you right into his story and I literally barely looked up until I’d turned the final page.

I love the way that Matt’s books give us a diverse range of voices so that we build up a steady accumulation of detail, just like you would in real life. I’m a real true-crime junkie and this definitely filled the gap that Serial, S-Town and Making a Murderer have left in my life. Alfie’s disappearance is another  fantastic tale that you really feel comes alive as you uncover more and more details about this ‘podcast’ In the same way that I felt a strong connection with Adnan after reading Serial, I really felt like I’d come to know this family by the final page and although I’m firmly committed to my ‘No Spoilers’ rule, I can’t wait to have a good chat with someone else who’s read Changeling so that we can mull over it together and talk about what a fantastic creation it is.

It’s even the kind of book that is a physical pleasure to read – the gorgeous cover and the hypnotically beautiful design mean that Changeling appeals to all of your senses at once – it’s not just the story that made me love it so much but the book as an actual physical object. Just look how beautiful it is. That butterfly made out of leaf skeletons is just stunning!

44cee-change12444.png

 

The fact that it was described as another ‘Episode’ of Six Stories also got me really excited as I thought about the fact that hopefully there are another three more where this came from to look forward to as I really can’t emphasise how much I loved this dark and delicious read.

Scott King is a fantastic character – even though on a conscious level I know that he is a device to keep the story going and to stitch all of the interviewees’ perspectives together I absolutely love the way that his questions coax the truth/s out of his interviewees. I am a huge fan of podcasts in general and particularly true crime and murder podcasts. Six Stories feels absolutely real in every way and I almost feel like I am ‘hearing’ the book that I’m reading like a podcast in the night – it really is so evocative and skillfully realised.

I also liked the way that like the very best True Crime podcasts – Wesolowski allows space for our own feelings and responses. The circumstances around Alfie’s disappearance are not tied up in a neat little package with the ‘why’ on top tied up with a pretty pink bow. There is enough room for us to ask ourselves questions about who we believe and why that makes Changeling such an involving and ultimately rewarding experience.  I found myself genuinely being convinced to see things from a constantly shifting perspective as the novel bore me towards the conclusion and this was a rollercoaster ride that I definitely didn’t want to get off…

7012b-change12444end

This book has a little bit of everything – mystery, a ‘true crime’ feel, a fresh and interesting narrative structure, credible characters and a real sense of chill and menace. As you can probably tell, I loved Changeling and felt like sleeping with the light on for about four days after reading it. It is a book that you’ll want to pass on to other people so that they’ll have had the same experience you did, reading it for the first time. Matt Wesolowski could be your favourite new writer. Buy a copy here so that you can find out how brilliant it is for yourself

I’d like to thank the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, it was such a privilege to spread the book love for a book that I loved reading so much. Karen from Orenda told me herself about hearing Matt’s pitch for the first time and yet again, her unerring feel for writing talent hits the bullseye. I bloody love this book and cannot recommend it enough. Get out there and experience it for yourself as soon as you can!

 

Changeling Blog Tour Poster.jpg

Writer on the Shelf

matt-w-picture-1

Matt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015.

His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio.

You can follow Matt on Twitter here

Why don’t you check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour?