Bitter Orange – Claire Fuller

Published May 8, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘A compulsive page-turner. Fuller creates an atmosphere of simmering menace with all the assurance of a latter-day Daphne du Maurier’ The Times

Frances Jellico is dying. A man who calls himself the vicar visits, hoping to extract a deathbed confession. He wants to know what really happened that fateful summer of 1969, when Frances – tasked with surveying a dilapidated country house – first set eyes on the glamorous bohemian couple, Cara and Peter. She recalls the relationship they forged through sweltering days, lavish dinners and elaborate lies, and the Judas hole through which she would spy on the couple.

Were the signs there right from the beginning?

Or was it impossible to avoid the crime that split their lives open like rotten fruit?

What did I think?:

I first came across Claire Fuller’s remarkable writing in Our Endless Numbered Days which remains one of my favourite books of all time and a signed copy sits with pride of place on my favourites shelf. After being quite frankly astounded by her debut novel, it was a very easy decision to read her second novel, Swimming Lessons which I also thoroughly enjoyed and hence to make sure I got my hands on the beautiful hardback copy of her third offering, Bitter Orange. Shamefully, it has been sat on my shelves for months now as I just haven’t been able to get my act together and prioritise it before now. Thank you so much to Jane Gentle from Penguin UK for letting me know that the paperback had been recently released and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to finally settle down with my copy and disappear into the author’s delicious writing style once more.

If I had to describe this novel in three words I’d probably choose the phrases sumptuous, evocative and captivating which I have now realised appears to be a pattern whenever I lose myself in a Claire Fuller story. She has a beautiful way of capturing characters, atmosphere and settings which pull the reader in immediately and makes them feel instantly part of the world that they are reading about. In Bitter Orange, we follow three characters staying in the same country house for research purposes. They are Peter and Cara, who are romantically involved with each other and Frances who arrives on her own after the death of her mother to survey some historical aspects of the building.

When the novel first opens, we encounter Frances close to death and the local vicar is trying to unlock the secrets of what really happened back in 1969 between the three main protagonists. We are immediately thrust into a world of secrets, mistrust, unreliable characters and a compelling mystery as the reader slowly begins to unravel not only what happened to Cara, Peter and Frances in the end, but what particular events unfolded to lead them there in the first place.

Bitter Orange is a incredibly rich and compelling narrative, gloriously packed with quiet moments with our characters, slow teasers and tasters of the personality of each one of our protagonists and the constant intrigue throughout that makes you want to keep turning the pages. Cara, Peter and Frances are all unique and fascinating in their own right and I adored the fact that they all oozed imperfection. At no point did I find any one of these individuals reliable but oh my goodness, that just made for an even more bewitching reading experience! It’s the sort of book I can’t tell you anymore about for fear of spoilers but it’s also the sort of book that once you finish it, you immediately want to go back to the beginning and read it again, fresh with the knowledge you possess by the end.

Everything is gorgeous in Bitter Orange, from the intricate characterisation to the way the orange was used to represent particular parts of the relationships and the way the setting felt so alive and vibrant that you could almost imagine yourself there. Through Claire Fuller, I walked through a building where parts of it were dilapidated and crumbling and other parts were filled with magnificence, I spied with Frances on Peter and Cara in the bathroom, I listened (or read!) with rapt attention when Cara told us some of her tragic back story and I wondered at Peter’s intentions. It’s very easy to become enraptured with a story like this if you allow yourself to sink in and enjoy it and I’ll certainly be remaining an avid fan of Claire Fuller’s work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Blog Tour – Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald

Published May 7, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A delicious dark, relentless and chilling psychological thriller by the international bestselling author of The Cry

‘The harrowing plot keeps you gripped until the final, devastating revelation’ Sunday Mirror

Mary Shields is a moody, acerbic probation officer, dealing with some of Glasgow’s worst cases, and her job is on the line.
Liam Macdowall was imprisoned for murdering his wife, and he’s published a series of letters to the dead woman, in a book that makes him an unlikely hero – and a poster boy for Men’s Rights activists.
Liam is released on licence into Mary’s care, but things are far from simple. Mary develops a poisonous obsession with Liam and his world, and when her son and Liam’s daughter form a relationship, Mary will stop at nothing to impose her own brand of justice … with devastating consequences.
A heart-pounding, relentless and chilling psychological thriller, rich with deliciously dark and unapologetic humour, Worst Case Scenario is also a perceptive, tragic and hugely relevant book by one of the most exciting names in crime fiction.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me on this blog tour and to Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of Worst Case Scenario in exchange for an honest review. What can I say? I wasn’t expecting this at all! I haven’t read any of the author’s previous books so had no expectations in term of style or substance and she delivered on both counts with such a unique piece of work and a different, interesting female protagonist that I was instantly hooked. It probably helped that the novel begins with such an intriguing first line that I challenge anyone not to want to read on further:

“Every time Mary tried to relax in a bath, a paedophile ruined it.”

I have no words. I just needed to read on after that!

Helen Fitzgerald, author of Worst Case Scenario.

Worst Case Scenario was a novel for me that encompassed so many different genres. It combined contemporary Scottish life with a psychological thriller and crime element but there there were wry moments of humour too which I very much appreciated. It felt much more to me like a character study of one woman, our female protagonist Mary Shields who is at a very frustrating and difficult moment in her life. She is struggling with the menopause and all the symptoms that accompany it including mood swings, hot flushes, night sweats and weight gain. Additionally, she has an incredibly stressful job as a probation officer and often has to deal with quite harrowing cases involving children and the individuals she monitors are often sex offenders, hardened criminals or drug addicts that have heart-breaking back stories of their own.

When we first meet Mary in Worst Case Scenario she is at the height of her emotional and personal struggles and is starting to get to the point where she just doesn’t care anymore. She has informed her superiors that she is planning to resign so feels a new freedom of being able to do and say whatever she wants to her clients – after all, she’s leaving, what’s the worst that could happen? Then she encounters a new client, Liam Macdowell, who has just been released from prison who causes her all kinds of new problems. The decisions that Mary ends up making now, in this uneasy and stressful part of her life have the potential to cause repercussions not only for herself but for those closest to her.

Glasgow, Scotland where Worst Case Scenario is set.

What made Worst Case Scenario such a different read for me? I think it was a combination of multiple elements. Mainly, it was our protagonist, Mary. I loved reading about an older woman going through the menopause which is often a subject you don’t see explored in fiction and should definitely be highlighted a bit more. She was grumpy, she was irrational, she made some hideously bad decisions and at some points, I just wanted to scream at the book: “No Mary, don’t!” but she was such an authentic and believable character because of these things. It was also touching to read about her vulnerabilities, her worries about her husband and her own sexuality and her caring nature towards the troubled individuals that she has to monitor. As a reader, it made you want to root for her even if at times you just wanted to cringe and cover your eyes a little bit!

Additionally, being Scottish I’m always a huge fan of a Scottish setting and Helen Fitzgerald has captured this beautifully in the novel. I felt instantly back at home and as I read this just after a short trip back to Edinburgh, it made the experience strangely comforting, despite the often dark subject matter of the story. Finally, the author has written a fantastic narrative that really makes you want to keep reading with moments that may not necessarily be conventionally “thriller-like,” but are truly gasp-worthy all the same. After this particular ending…. well, I NEED to know what happened next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers,
including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the
Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama
for BBC1. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen
years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia. She now lives in Glasgow with her
husband.

Find Helen on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4341584.Helen_Fitzgerald

on Twitter at: @fitzhelen

or on her website at: http://www.helenfitzgerald.net/

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Worst Case Scenario will be published on 16th May 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Worst Case Scenario on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45014364-worst-case-scenario

Link to Worst Case Scenario on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Worst-Case-Scenario-Helen-FitzGerald-ebook/dp/B07KGNC7VF/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=34XUU2B4I5FCE&keywords=worst+case+scenario+helen+fitzgerald&qid=1557146054&s=gateway&sprefix=worst+case%2Caps%2C204&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – APRIL READ – Demon Dentist by David Walliams

Published May 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Darkness had come to the town. Strange things were happening in the dead of night. Children would put a tooth under their pillow for the tooth fairy, but in the morning they would wake up to find… a dead slug; a live spider; hundreds of earwigs creeping and crawling beneath their pillow.

Evil was at work. But who or what was behind it…?

What did I think?:

First of all, apologies (especially to my sister!) for getting this post out so late. Chrissi and I usually try to get our kid-lit posts out at the end of the month but this past week, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather and have only got round to doing it now. It’s always a pleasure to pick up a David Walliams book and even though I only discovered him a few years ago and was slightly sceptical, I can really see why he’s so beloved, particularly amongst children. You always know what you’re getting when you pick up one of his books. He has such a wonderful sense of humour, brilliant characterisation and an edge of reality that make his books such a joy to read.

David Walliams, author of Demon Dentist.

I say you always know what to expect when picking up a Walliams books but to be perfectly honest, Demon Dentist completely surprised me. I found it much darker than the author’s previous books with a villainous character that was nothing short of terrifying. However, I loved that he wasn’t afraid to explore some more difficult aspects of life. For example, our young protagonist Alfie’s father is chronically ill in a wheelchair and as a result, some parts of the narrative make for a very emotional and hard-hitting reading experience. Despite his father’s health issues, Alfie still has a wonderful relationship with him and it was heart-warming to read about their interactions. I can only applaud the author for choosing to write about a father-son relationship that is not conventional or expected so as to illustrate that not all families have the luxury of having parents who are healthy and well.

Alfie’s dad, beautifully illustrated by Tony Ross.

Image from: https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/book/demon-dentist/

In Demon Dentist, Alfie hasn’t been to the dentist for a long, long time after a bad experience when he was younger and his teeth are now rotten. Then when a new dentist, Ms Root comes to town and starts taking a rather obsessive interest in all the children’s teeth, Alfie begins to realise that something is seriously wrong and vows to get to the bottom of it. The villain of the piece who is of course, Ms Root as you may have guessed, is a fantastic villain in every sense of the word. She looks a bit strange, she definitely acts a bit strange and, as with all good baddies, she has an evil plot afoot that involves all the children of the town and their teeth.

As I mentioned earlier, things get quite frightening in Demon Dentist but it’s all done with Walliams’ trademark wit and style accompanied by the most glorious illustrations by Tony Ross. The action never lets up for a second and I whizzed through this book in less than a day very easily as I found it very difficult to put down. Just when I thought there may have been a resolution, there was another crescendo of tension and terror that our poor hero Alfie was subjected to! Eventually it does end – not particularly in a satisfying way I have to say, there is quite a bit of heart-break but it is also accompanied by hope for the future which as it turns out, is a far more realistic ending to a fantastical story.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN MAY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1) – Enid Blyton.

Banned Books 2019 – APRIL READ – We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier

Published April 29, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

They entered the house at 9:02 P.M. and trashed their way through the Cape Cod cottage. At 9:46 P.M. Karen Jerome made the mistake of arriving home early. Thrown down the basement stairs, Karen slips into a coma. The trashers slip away.
But The Avenger has seen it all.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the fourth banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier

First published: 1991

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)

Reasons: offensive language, sexual content.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I never usually understand any reason for a book being challenged/banned, no matter what year it was raised in. I can think of occasional books where access should perhaps be restricted in a school library setting for very young children but generally, I think people should be free to read whatever they like, particularly if there’s not a solid reason for the challenging or banning. This book was published in the early nineties and although it’s slightly dated, I feel that it could still be read right now without any difficulty. As always, I get a bit dumbfounded about the issues that were raised. I think this is meant to be a work of young adult fiction, so for the age group it’s aimed at, I do think there shouldn’t be too many problems. I don’t think there’s too many incidences of offensive language – certainly nothing I found offensive anyway but I do appreciate that people are different and may be more sensitive to those aspects.

CHRISSI: I didn’t think the language in this book was overly offensive. When it’s aimed at young adults, we really need to stop thinking that they can’t handle offensive language. I’m pretty sure most young adults use offensive language. It’s everywhere! Film, TV, books, family members and peers… why should we challenge a book due to offensive language? I do think there are some moments in the book that is quite heavy going, so I think if this book was in a school library, it should have an age range on it. It’s really down to individual discretion, I think and guidance from teachers/librarians if it’s in a school.

How about now?

BETH: The fact that this book was still on the list for 2003 blows my mind a little bit. There is a bit of sexual content (although it isn’t graphic) but could still upset readers so they should perhaps be aware of that. I find it very strange though that I always try and guess the reasons for challenging a book and more often than not, I’m usually wrong. I anticipated that people would have problems with the level of violence that is used in this novel and that isn’t mentioned at all. However, I do stand by what I said in my previous answer – it’s meant to be young adult fiction and I think it is probably okay to be read by that particular age group.

CHRISSI: I have definitely read more explicit books in the YA genre than this. Like Beth, I thought the violence would be a bit of an issue, but it’s not mentioned in the reasons for challenging this book. I don’t see why it was challenged in 2003. There’s definitely more to be worried about than a book like this. As I mentioned in my previous answer, it should be restricted access to the YA age range.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book left me a bit surprised, to be honest. It’s only 200 pages so didn’t take me that long to read and I fairly flew through it as it was quite action-packed. I was intrigued by the story-line, the devastation that a family go through after their property is violated, leaving one of their daughters in hospital. I was also curious about the part of the plot that involved The Avenger and how that ended up being resolved, which was very much “heart in the mouth,” kind of stuff. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did!

CHRISSI: I flew through this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It does seem a little bit dated having being published in the 90s, but it was still highly enjoyable and so easy to read. There was a great amount of intrigue that kept me turning the pages!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN MAY ON BANNED BOOKS: Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conley.

Talking About Now You See Her by Heidi Perks with Chrissi Reads

Published April 26, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Charlotte is looking after her best friend’s daughter the day she disappears. She thought the little girl was playing with her own children. She swears she only took her eyes off them for a second.

Now, Charlotte must do the unthinkable: tell her best friend Harriet that her only child is missing. The child she was meant to be watching.

Devastated, Harriet can no longer bear to see Charlotte. No one could expect her to trust her friend again.
Only now she needs to. Because two weeks later Harriet and Charlotte are both being questioned separately by the police. And secrets are about to surface.

Someone is hiding the truth about what really happened to Alice. 

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions before you went into reading this book?

BETH: No, not really. I had read some excellent reviews from my fellow book bloggers and because it was on the Richard and Judy book club list for Spring, I had high hopes that we were going to be getting a great psychological thriller. However, because I feel like I’ve read a lot of books in that genre recently, I was a little bit concerned that it was going to be a bit too similar. Keeping an open mind was the best idea though because I really ended up enjoying it!

BETH: Charlotte has a really tough time in this novel when a child she is looking after goes missing. Did you sympathise with her?

CHRISSI: Oh my goodness. It is my WORST fear. As you know, I teach and I’m responsible for 31 children every week day and it would seriously be my worst nightmare. I can’t imagine the guilt you would feel if a child in your care went missing, so yes. I TOTALLY sympathised with Charlotte. I know some people would think that Charlotte should have been paying much more attention to the child, but something can happen in an instant. You can’t possibly be watching every second.

CHRISSI: The thriller genre is very populated. Do you think this book stands out enough?

BETH: It most definitely is. As I mentioned in the previous answer, there is a risk that the market has become a bit over-saturated with books that explore all the same themes and as a result, that can make them less exciting to read – especially if you can predict what’s going to happen within the story. I haven’t read any books by this author before but I do think it stands out. It was a very quick, fast-paced story that was enjoyable with some interesting characterisation and even more intriguing, tense moments.

BETH: The story illustrates the importance of a good friendship support network. Do you think if Harriet had this things might have been different?

CHRISSI: I think things would have been very different if Harriet had a good friendship support network. I also wish she had a stronger friendship with Charlotte. I feel that if she was closer to Charlotte she could have explained more to her about her life. I wish her friendship circle had been larger so she would’ve had more people to turn to and talk to. I felt like Harriet isolated herself from others.

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, did you predict where this story was going to go?

BETH: I don’t think I did, which was a relief! I love to be surprised, particularly in this genre and do get a bit disappointed if I can predict what’s going to happen. This book did surprise me with the direction that it took and I particularly loved the darker aspects of the plot (which I couldn’t possibly discuss for fear of spoilers) but added something a little extra to the story in general.

BETH: This novel has also been marketed under the title Her One Mistake. What title do you prefer?

CHRISSI: Ooh, this is a tricky one because I get the reasons behind the two titles. Hmmm… I guess I do prefer Now You See Her because it makes me think ‘now you see her, now you don’t…’ and I think that’s quite a creepy feel which fits with the novel. I feel like there were more mistakes made in this novel than just one and not all by females…

CHRISSI: Discuss the pacing of this novel.

BETH: The pacing of this novel was excellent. It was fast-paced but not so fast-paced that you find yourself struggling to keep up with everything that’s going on. I also appreciated that it was slow enough where you got a real sense of the characters i.e. their personalities, their past experiences and their motives and in that way, it made me feel a deeper connection and care about them a bit more individually.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I definitely would. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I read so many books like this that it takes quite a lot to impress me.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Published April 25, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

To new nanny Amanda, the Temple family seem to have it all: the former actress; the famous professor; their three successful grown-up children. But like any family, beneath the smiles and hugs there lurks far darker emotions.

Sixteen years earlier, little Niamh Temple died while they were on holiday in Portugal. Now, as Amanda joins the family for a reunion at their seaside villa, she begins to suspect one of them might be hiding something terrible…

And suspicion is a dangerous thing.

What did I think?:

I’ve been familiar with the name Chris Brookmyre for a little while as one of my good friends has been doggedly persuading me to try some of his fiction for months. With previous works entitled: Quite Ugly One Morning and All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye I really don’t know why I’ve waited so long to read the author’s work – who could resist with intriguing titles like that? Yet still I wavered until the lovely people at Little Brown publishers asked if I’d like to be on the blog tour for Chris’s new stand-alone novel, Fallen Angel. Of course I thought it was a perfect opportunity to sample his work so I jumped at the chance. Thank you so much to Caolinn Douglas and Grace Vincent for inviting me onto this tour and providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Chris Brookmyre, author of Fallen Angel and the Jack Parlabane series.

Well I’m so happy to report that my friend was absolutely right when it came to Chris Brookmyre. He is a fantastic author with such a talent for characterisation and timing that this novel was truly a delight to read. Being Scottish myself, I loved the subtle Scottish references throughout, especially to certain words familiar to the Scots language i.e. “wean,” and for me, this brought an extra something special to the entire reading experience as I instantly felt so comforted by the writing style. I have to admit at the beginning, I wasn’t sure where the author was going to be taking the story. It’s very much a slow burner that initially sets the scene following the lives of multiple characters both within and close to a specific family.

I’ve mentioned in recent reviews how much I love intricate character development in crime fiction and although I may have hesitated for a chapter or so at the start, unsure of how the crime element related to the narrative, I soon realised that this is part of the beauty of Fallen Angel. This is one of the reasons why I love crime so much that focuses specifically on individuals rather than plot. We learn so much about each our protagonists, in fact we get to know some of them incredibly intimately and this only bodes for a more explosive release as the tension begins to build and the secrets are finally unearthed.

A large proportion of Fallen Angel is set in Portugal where the families we follow have holiday villas.

This is a work of crime fiction so as a result, I don’t want to tell you very much at all about the plot. This is the kind of book you need to savour and discover all the shocks and surprises yourself without it being spoiled. All I can say is that if you’re a fan of family drama, deceit and scandalous events, you’re in for a treat with Fallen Angel. There are not many likeable characters to be found and occasionally there are some where you can’t understand their motives or thought processes at all, but to be honest, that’s my favourite kind of characters. It felt like Chris Brookmyre was writing very candidly about a family where many of the members have multiple, very difficult emotional issues or skeletons in their closets just waiting to burst out. It was a pleasure to be a reader along on the journey, eagerly awaiting the next dramatic event or twist in the tail. As a result, ALL of Chris Brookmyre’s books have now gone on my wish-list and I hope I’ll be reviewing another one for you very soon.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Christopher Brookmyre is a Scottish novelist whose novels mix politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author. His debut novel was Quite Ugly One Morning, and subsequent works have included One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, which he said “was just the sort of book he needed to write before he turned 30”, and All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye (2005).

Find Chris on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/167572.Christopher_Brookmyre

on his website at: http://www.brookmyre.co.uk/

on Twitter at: @cbrookmyre

Thank you so much once again to Caolinn Douglas, Grace Vincent and Little Brown for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Fallen Angel is published on 25th April 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Fallen Angel on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43063636-fallen-angel

Link to Fallen Angel on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fallen-Angel-Chris-Brookmyre/dp/1408710838/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_3?crid=3RZ7UEV65XWV1&keywords=fallen+angel+chris+brookmyre&qid=1556133445&s=gateway&sprefix=fallen+angel%2Caps%2C327&sr=8-3-fkmrnull

Call Me Star Girl – Louise Beech

Published April 22, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Tonight is the night for secrets…

Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

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 twelve 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 Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

With echoes of the chilling Play Misty for Me, Call Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…

What did I think?:

I first came across the wonderful Louise Beech’s writing in her last novel, The Lion Tamer Who Lost which was published last year and completely captured my heart from the the first page to the very last. When I heard she was writing a new book and that it was a psychological thriller, I was thrilled to be able to get my hands on it so a huge thank you to Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. Having only read one other book by this author, I’m no expert on her style but personally, I felt Call Me Star Girl was quite a departure from the genre she usually commands and only confirms how beautifully versatile she is a an author. Once again, I was delighted by the gritty nature of the narrative which was only amplified by the specific plot-line of the story and the fact that it involves the unsolved murder of a young, pregnant woman.

Louise Beech, author of Call Me Star Girl. 

Louise Beech has a fantastic knack for twisting the reader round her little finger in the way she creates her characters, develops an enthralling plot and manages to keep us hooked with tantalising little surprises here and there. I was instantly intrigued by the character of Stella and how we see her life as flashes of memories from her distant past and her fractured relationship with her mother, the most recent past regarding her intense relationship with her boyfriend, Tom and her present situation during her last ever shift as a late night presenter on a local radio station. As with all brilliant psychological thrillers, I’m afraid I simply cannot tell you a thing for fear of spoiling it, but I adored how the author used her natural literary flair to portray the intricate characters and their relationships between each other which only served to drive the narrative and ensure it became something very special indeed.

Our main protagonist, Stella McKeever works at a radio station and through the novel, is participating in her final work shift.

If you’ve been following my blog for a little while, you might know that I have the greatest respect for both genre and literary fiction. Sometimes I want a novel with a fast-paced, action-filled plot with short, snappy chapters and where it doesn’t really matter what the characters have for breakfast or not (joke!). Then at other times, I live for that literary crime fiction with all the intricate character details that I’ve been craving. I love when an author creates characters that you can really see, feel and hear and that you actually feel closer to purely because you understand every aspect of their daily existence and emotional well-being. This is exactly what Louise Beech has done with Call Me Star Girl. I was fascinated with Stella, her boyfriend Tom and her mother, Elizabeth and as it is told from dual perspectives and across different time-lines, you start to KNOW these characters intimately rather than just feeling merely acquainted with them.

Even then, the author has the power to pull the rug out from under your feet and completely turn the tables on what you might have been thinking or hoping. As I’ve mentioned in countless other reviews, I admire when an author can do that so effortlessly, like Louise does. This is probably because as a regular reader of crime fiction and literary crime fiction, I can’t help but try to work out what might be going on before the official reveal. As a result, the book climbs exponentially higher for me when that element of surprise is maintained and I don’t guess what may be going on.

As a psychological thriller, the author has surpassed all of my expectations with Call Me Star Girl and even though it’s a few days since I’ve finished it now, I’m still thinking about the final outcome of this novel. Perhaps more importantly, I’m also thinking about their characters and the relationships they had, which is definitely a clearer sign that the book managed to get under my skin.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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