contemporary fiction

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Banned Books 2019 – AUGUST READ – Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

Published September 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

There’s bad news and good news about the Cutter High School swim team. The bad news is that they don’t have a pool. The good news is that only one of them can swim anyway. A group of misfits brought together by T. J. Jones (the J is redundant), the Cutter All Night Mermen struggle to find their places in a school that has no place for them. T.J. is convinced that a varsity letter jacket exclusive, revered, the symbol (as far as T.J. is concerned) of all that is screwed up at Cutter High will also be an effective tool. He’s right. He’s also wrong. Still, it’s always the quest that counts. And the bus on which the Mermen travel to swim meets soon becomes the space where they gradually allow themselves to talk, to fit, to grow. Together they’ll fight for dignity in a world where tragedy and comedy dance side by side, where a moment’s inattention can bring lifelong heartache, and where true acceptance is the only prescription for what ails us.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the eighth 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:

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….

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

First published: 2001

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2004 (source)

Reasons: racism, offensive language, 

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

BETH: It might be quite clear from our Banned Books Challenge so far that Chrissi and I are against banning or challenging books but we always enjoy checking out stories that have caused a bit of a riot and dissect whether they had good reason for a challenge. I can safely state that without exception, we have found no good reason to ban or challenge a book. Perhaps limit it’s availability in school libraries if there are very young children around – we agree on that but otherwise, we shouldn’t limit literature for anyone. Many reasons we’ve found for challenging a book can be quite exasperating and there’s been very few that we can see why some people may have had an issue. In Whale Talk, released in the early 2000’s, the reasons that they’ve given, I cannot really deny. Yes, there is racism in the book and it might offend people. Nevertheless, I think it’s still important to show different people’s attitudes (no matter how wrong we might personally find them) so we can carry on talking about an important, abhorrent issue.

CHRISSI: I think this is one of the rare books when we can actually get on board with the reasons for banning/challenging the book. There is pretty offensive language in the story- nothing which I’m sure teenagers/young adults haven’t heard before. However, it’s undeniable that it’s there. So would we want our young people to read it? Some may find it anyway and might not be offended by its content, compared to what else is around! It does also include racism. I don’t always think it’s a bad thing to educate young people on racism, but I’m not sure this is the right one to do that with.

How about now?

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous answer, it’s important to talk about racism in the past and in the present. It hasn’t gone away and sadly, some people’s views haven’t changed on the matter. The other reason for challenging is offensive language. Normally, when we get a reason like this I retort with something like: “Where was the offensive language in this book?!” In Whale Talk, I have to admit there was bad language. I wasn’t particularly offended by it but I understand why some people might be. However, it is a book marketed towards a specific audience of young adults and you aren’t going to be able to shelter them from bad language in the real world, as we’ve said many times on this feature before.

CHRISSI: Like I said, I can see why, but I don’t think it’s something that should be taken away from people. As Beth mentioned, it’s targeted towards YA and I’m sure there’s worse language within peer groups or on social media/films. Not necessarily a solid enough reason to prevent them from this book.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book was only okay for me unfortunately. I appreciated what Chris Crutcher was trying to do and I really liked the main character, T.J. but it wasn’t a narrative that really grabbed my attention or stuck in my mind as memorable. I thought it did raise some important issues though and I can understand why many readers would really connect with it.

CHRISSI: 

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: I thought I was really going to like this book, but for me I didn’t gel with the author’s writing style. I think it brings to light some important issues, so I believe it should be tried!

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

3 Star Rating Clip Art

 

COMING UP IN SEPTEMBER ON BANNED BOOKS: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Blog Tour – The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw

Published June 16, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

What did I think?:

Firstly, thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and Accent Press for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of The Space Between Time in exchange for an honest review. I very much enjoyed reading Charlie’s previous novel, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and jumped at the chance to read something else by him. I have a personal interest in the settings of Charlie’s books, being a Scottish lass myself and so each foray into his writing becomes almost like a nostalgic experience, taking me back to my own adolescence and childhood. The author also has a real talent and intuition for writing believable female characters and for myself as a reader, I have great admiration for any author who makes their female leads authentic and refreshingly non-stereotypical.

Charlie Laidlaw, author of The Space Between Time. 

In similarity to his previous novel, the author chooses to focus on a female protagonist, Emma Rossini. From the very beginning, we delve into her interesting upbringing with a famous Hollywood actor for her father and a (celebrated in certain circles) Italian astrophysicist for a grandfather – with his own infamous theorem and book in addition to his highly intelligent and enquiring mind. We follow Emma from a young girl as she sees her father for the first time in film at the local cinema, to her relationship with both her parents, the effect on her life when tragedy strikes and how the fractured moments of her past affect the decisions she makes in her present and potentially, her future.

Aside from our female lead Emma, I think one of my favourite things about The Space Between Time was the perceptive way in which Charlie Laidlaw explored the intricacies of relationships. It evidenced the cold, hard fact that no family or friendship is perfect and we all have our little quirks and foibles that we must muddle through to become a well-rounded person in our adult life. I enjoyed that it didn’t shy away from the darker side of life – it’s challenging, it’s unpredictable and it’s vital that we all have some kind of support network around us, whether that’s family or friends so that we can make it out the other side.

Image from: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/780101/Dark-matter-mystery-deepens-DROUGHT-universe

The author presents the murkier depths of Emma’s coming of age beautifully, with sensitivity and a light-hearted touch of humour that never feels forced or unnecessary. I thought it portrayed some difficult subjects in a sensible, thoughtful way that certainly had me thinking about the characters and their situations long after I had finished the final page. Furthermore (and very strangely), for someone who had to give up Physics at Standard Grade level (GCSE in England), I really connected with the more mathematical parts of the novel where black holes and the secrets of the universe are discussed. Anyone who knows me well might have their eyes popping out of their head right now as Maths and I do NOT get on. Somehow in this book, it worked for me and I found the ideas presented incredibly interesting and insightful.

The Space Between Time is a fascinating contemporary novel for anyone interested in family dynamics, the universe and female protagonists you can’t help but root for.

Would I recommend it?: 

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the
University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist
and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing
consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up
children.

Find Charlie on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16124556.Charlie_Laidlaw

on his website at: https://www.charlielaidlawauthor.com/

on Twitter at: @claidlawauthor

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater and Accent Press for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Space Between Time is due to be published on 20th June 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 The Space Between Time on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45448136-the-space-between-time

Link to The Space Between Time on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Space-Between-Time-Charlie-Laidlaw/dp/1786156946/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+space+between+time&qid=1560702038&s=gateway&sr=8-1

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

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

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):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Blog Tour/Social Media Blast – The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Published April 18, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
 

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

What did I think?:

This book comes with a little bit of a story behind it and if you’ve followed my blog for a little while now, you might be aware that I’m fond of a bit of a ramble, especially when it involves a book that surprises me beyond all expectations or that I feel passionately about. I first came across The Flatshare in a bloggers event late last year for Quercus where they were celebrating some of the fiction they were most excited to publish in 2019. Now, I am painfully honest about the fact that I tend to judge books pretty quickly – sometimes on the synopsis, sometimes on the cover and whilst I’m not completely adverse to a little bit of romance, it has to be done just right otherwise I can end up feeling rather nauseated. I saw The Flatshare and initially I have to admit, I thought this book wasn’t for me at all. As part of the sought after “uplit” genre, it looked slightly fluffy and I wasn’t certain about it at all.

Beth O’Leary, author of the debut novel, The Flatshare.

This is where publicists and marketing peeps are all kinds of wonderful. I had a lovely chat with Bethan Ferguson, Marketing Director at Quercus Books and she spoke about this book so passionately that I was completely sold. Thank you to her, Ella Patel for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Quercus Books for the complimentary copy which was provided to me in exchange for an honest review. And honestly? I was blown away. The Flatshare is one of the most extraordinary and incredibly memorable books I’ve read this year and I connected with it in ways that I would never have expected prior to picking it up. I’m heartily ashamed of myself that I even considered letting it pass me by and eternally grateful for the opportunity to discover such a touching, amusing and feel-good novel that I’d be delighted to re-read again and again in the future.

What made The Flatshare so special? A few different things actually. Instantly, I was utterly charmed by both the characters and the author’s wry sense of humour but as the story continued, I appreciated the smaller details of the narrative, including the darker side of relationships and the importance of a strong support network. Tiffy and Leon became instant favourite characters of mine and I adored how we got to see challenging aspects of each of their lives and how their personal struggles are affected when they choose to open up and become vulnerable. There is a romantic element – sure, but it’s written in such a way that it becomes impossible to resist, melting this heart of mine that before now, I was convinced was starting to resemble a large, rather cold piece of stone!

Tiffy answers an advert for a room/bed in London to be shared with Leon yet the two seem destined never to meet as they work opposing shifts i.e. days versus nights.

Personally, there were points of this novel that I found quite challenging, mainly due to my own individual experiences with a specific man in my past. However (if this doesn’t sound too odd), this is one of the additional reasons why I want to rave about it so much. Readers need to find something in a novel to connect with to pronounce it a worthwhile, unforgettable experience. Obviously, that might be different for each reader, some might connect with the characters, the humour, or events that have happened in the characters lives that they themselves have gone through and relate to on an emotional level. For me, it was all these things combined that made The Flatshare such an engrossing and mesmerising affair. I experienced such an automatic click with the writing style and the delightful Tiffy and Leon that I tore through this novel in a very short space of time, gobbling up each word and momentous event with a ridiculous kind of fervour that I normally reserve only for my very favourite authors.

As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but compare it in my head to Bridget Jones’ Diary for a new generation. Although the plot and topics covered are not totally comparable, I could see the same humour, endearing characters and pivotal events that made Bridget Jones such a classic, well-loved piece of literature. The Flatshare is one of those wonderful books that sticks in your head. It makes you smile and leaves such a satisfying lump in your throat that was truly surprising, ESPECIALLY for a cynical, suspicious soul like myself! Please, don’t do a “me,” and think you know what this book is going to be about. You’d be wrong and I’d love you to give it a shot.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being within reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
You’ll usually find her curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Find her on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13038484.Beth_O_Leary

on Instagram at: @betholearyauthor

on Twitter at: @olearybeth

Thank you so much once again to Ella Patel and Quercus Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Flatshare is published on 18th 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/social media blast for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Flatshare on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36478784-the-flatshare?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to The Flatshare on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flatshare-Beth-OLeary/dp/1787474402/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=325SMIVPR2L7K&keywords=the+flatshare+beth+oleary&qid=1555615002&s=gateway&sprefix=the+flatshare%2Caps%2C338&sr=8-1-fkmrnull