Blog Tour: Sister Stardust by Jane Green

Claire grew up in a small town, far from the glitz and glamour of London. Ridiculed by her stepmother Linda, and harboring a painful crush on her brother’s best friend, she has begun to outgrow the life laid out before her. On the cusp of adulthood in the late 1960s, Claire yearns for the adventure and independence of a counter-culture taking root across the world.

One day a chance encounter leads to an unexpected opportunity. Whispers of a palace in Morocco. A getaway where famous artists, models, fashion designers and musicians – even the Rolling Stones – have been known to visit.

When Claire arrives in Marrakesh, she’s swept up in a heady world of music, drugs and communal living. But one magnetic young woman seems to hold sway over the entire scene. Talitha Getty, socialite wife of the famous oil heir, has pulled everyone from Yves Saint Laurent to Marianne Faithfull into her orbit. Yet when she meets Claire, the pair instantly connect. As they grow closer, and the inner circle tightens, the realities of Talitha’s precarious life set off a chain of dangerous events that could alter Claire’s life forever.

What I Thought:

I’m familiar with Jane Green from reading some of her early novels, so was really interested to see how she would approach a story that’s based in real-life. In Sister Stardust, Jane Green uses the eyes of a fictional character to evoke the atmosphere of swinging London and 1960’s Marrakesh, which allows a real depth of description as country-mouse Claire takes in all the experiences she is offered, thanks to her chance connection with the bold, beautiful and famous of the 1960s.

Although the book is primarily about Claire – by this time known as Cece – and her interactions with Talitha Getty, I felt that it was much more about that whole time in history, when the world was still recovering from a devastating war, the staid and repressed 1950s had passed and young people were discovering that they did not have to follow the same path as their parents and could remake themselves in any way they wanted.

Seeing this period through Cece’s eyes gives it a brightness and newness that is really fascinating and she, as a character is, a great device for viewing the world that the Gettys made for themselves in Marrakesh. Cece is able to sometimes participate in that way of living, but sometimes stand alongside what’s going on – she’s almost like a Greek chorus at times, providing a more innocent lens on what was a decadent way of living, unknown to most of us.

The Gettys themselves were really interesting, and this book is a great entry into their world, with an excellent list of further reading if you want to know more about them and the time.

Although the book, as described by Cece, is mostly upbeat it is easy to see the difficulties faced by Talitha Getty, her struggles with her mental health and dependence on drugs. Jane Green does touch on the trauma of her early life which must have inevitably taken its toll, and does an expert job in creating a real character out of Talitha – very often real-life characters in fiction can have a two-dimensional feel to them – but I felt that Talitha was fully fleshed-out here and, despite her riches and fame, you can’t help but feel sorry for the pain she experienced in her early life.

This book is very much a love letter to the 1960s, and Talitha Getty, and it will give you a really good feel for that era. The scenes in Marrakesh in particular are alive with the sights, sounds and smells of the souk and this is a welcome exploration from Jane Green of a style of novel that’s new to her.

Sister Stardust is published by Harper360.

About the Author:

Jane Green is the author of twenty-one novels, including eighteen New York Times Bestsellers, one cookbook and various short stories.

She is published in over 25 languages, and has over ten million books in print worldwide.

She has been part of the ABC News team covering royal weddings, has had her own radio show on BBC Radio London, and has made regular appearances on TV and radio.

She contributes to a number of newspapers and magazines, and is a graduate of the International Culinary Institute in New York. Green is an avid cook, amateur decorator, and passionate gardener. She is also a regular storyteller for The Moth. Her first story for The Moth, Greener Grass, was video taped and subsequently went viral on Facebook, with over three million views.

A resident of Westport, Connecticut, she lives there with her husband and a small menagerie of animals. Her children swear they have flown the nest, but she’s not sure she believes them. In her next life she wants to come back as Elin Hilderbrand.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of Sister Stardust by Jane Green – check out the participating blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Great American Boogaloo by Paul Flower

From his woodland bunker in Michigan, Bo ‘Big Bruddah’ Watts has assembled a scratch army of gun-toting militiamen, and he’s ready to use it. Rumours are circulating that the liberal, female President of the USA is going to fight climate change by banning beef, snatching the great American hamburger from the mouths of patriots.

Big Bruddah missed the last militia uprising. That one, sparked by a conspiracy theory about a deadly virus and stolen cheese recipes, ended in failure when his now ex-wife, Miky Spike, stopped the potentially bloody conflict at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Wisconsin.

He is determined to stop the president, with the help of eccentric octogenarian Wilbur Tuttle, who runs Silver Eagle Security, the private military enterprise owned by the hapless former governor of Michigan, Bill Hoeksma.

The plan is to launch a coup in Tampa, Florida by kidnapping the President’s daughter and then installing Hoeksma as a puppet President.. With the support of Silver Eagle’s best men, Big Bruddah and Tuttle hope to ignite the long-awaited insurrection militia members call the “boogaloo.” What could possibly go wrong?

What I Thought:

After the first few pages of The Great American Boogaloo, I really wondered what on earth I was reading! I’m so glad I stuck with it though, as it’s both black comedy genius and a timely warning about the power of conspiracy theories.

Although we all like to think that we can’t be easily swayed by outlandish stories in the press, we are all susceptible to believing stories that feed into our worldview, so when Big Bruddah Watts reads that the female President of the US – who he and his militia are determined to hate anyway – wants to ban beef, and snatch away the Great American Burger, his plans to stage a coup are put in motion.

The book flits between Big Bruddah and his group as they travel across the US to put their plan in action, and a number of other interested parties, including Wilbur Tuttle of Silver Eagle Security and Bill Hoeksma who is not overly blessed in the brain department, but thinks it would be kinda nice to be installed as the President. As we meet this characters and the narrative builds, it becomes more and more like a screwball comedy, capped off when all these folks who don’t believe in climate change are delayed in their efforts by that very thing – extreme weather events!

There not much more of the plot I can go into without giving things away, but this really was a rewarding book – it was hilarious in places and horrifying in others and went some way to explaining just why some of those folks that – for example – follow Trump do so, and how they are whipped up into a frenzy by any perceived assault on their ‘freedom’.

There is a book that comes before this one – The Great American Cheese War – and, while it might give you some valuable background, you don’t need to have read it first. I’m going to go back and grab it because I really enjoyed Paul Flower’s writing and his unique take on the culture war that’s currently going on in the US.

The Great American Boogaloo is published by Farrago Books.

About the Author:

Paul Flower was born and raised in Michigan and still resides there. He has been writing professionally for more than 40 years. While much of his career has been spent in advertising and marketing, he worked in broadcasting for a short time. Paul has one previously published novel to his credit, and his writing has appeared in national and regional magazines. He and his wife have four grown children and a rapidly evolving number of incredibly beautiful and intelligent grandchildren.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of The Great American Boogaloo – for more reviews and exclusive content, check out the participating blogs below:

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: An English Garden Murder by Katie Gayle

Meet Julia Bird: recently single, reluctantly retired, and… an amateur sleuth?

Julia Bird has left London for a fresh start in a picturesque Cotswolds village, and the rustic charm and cosy fireplaces of her little cottage are everything she’d hoped for. But when she tears down the old garden shed to make way for a chicken coop, she unearths much more than she’d bargained for… the body of a young woman, apparently buried for decades, thrusting Julia into a baffling mystery.

With only one copper on the case in Berrywick, Julia decides to solve the who and whodunnit herself, taking her wayward puppy Jake along for the ride. And so begins a whirlwind tour of the village – from the dotty 90-year-old to the delightful doctor and the village gardener, it seems everyone has something to hide.

Soon, Julia is convinced she has discovered the killer’s identity, until Jake, a true Labrador, finds a new love of the local lake’s waterfowl and instead ends up catching her chief suspect… drowned. Back at square one, with potential culprits galore, Julia – newly nicknamed the Grim Reaper – despairs at ever solving the murders.

But as Julia ruffles feathers village-wide, the clock is ticking. There is someone in the village who has killed twice already. Will they be prepared to make it third time lucky to keep their secret safe?

What I Thought:

I am very much in favour of the current trend that sees older people becoming a focus in fiction. In An English Garden Murder, Julia Bird is a recently retired, recently divorced townie, hoping to make a fresh start in a country village. Unluckily for her, her plans are derailed by the discovery of not one, but two bodies; is there a serial killer running amok in rural England?

Luckily for us, Julia is a smart, professional woman who, rather than being unnerved by this state of affairs, feels compelled to use her former professional connections and do a little bit of digging into things – why not give the police a helping hand, whether it’s wanted or not?

I liked Julia very much as a capable, professional woman who has been forced to make changes in her life due to things outside her control. The retirement she envisaged for herself over many years has been blown out of the water, but she is determined to face new challenges and carve a good place for herself. As so many women find themselves in this position in later life, it’s great to see her grasp the nettle and find a hopeful future, rather than live in doom and gloom.

The murder mystery itself is really creative and unravels at a great pace, giving nothing away until the right moment. Having one author keep track of all the twists and turns is surely hard enough, so for the co-authors here it must have been quite a feat!

I’ve enjoyed the Epiphany Bloom novels from these authors and, where that series has far more comedy in Pip’s adventures, Julia’s story has a more serious tone, but both of these series (I hope Julia’s story will continue into a series!) have a huge amount of heart and are skillfully written crime novels.

An English Garden Murder is published by Bookouture.

About the Author:

Katie Gayle is the writing partnership of best-selling South African writers, Kate Sidley and Gail Schimmel. Kate and Gail have, between them, written over ten books of various genres, but with Katie Gayle, they both make their debut in the cozy mystery genre. Both Gail and Kate live in Johannesburg, with husbands, children, dogs and cats. Unlike their sleuth Epiphany Bloom, neither of them have ever stolen a cat from the vet.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of An English Garden Murder. Keep an eye on the blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book, via Netgalley, for review. All opinons are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw

NEW ORLEANS FANG FEST, 1995. MINA’S HAVING A SUMMER TO DIE FOR.

17-year-old Mina, from England, arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. After growing up in Whitby, the town that inspired Dracula, Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie.

She can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…

And it gets even better when Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate, co-worker and fellow horror enthusiast.

But the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s…

Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.

What I Thought:

Mina and the Undead was the perfect horror book for me, as I am a bit of wimp! Yes, there are vampires, the macabre and spooky New Orleans, but the 90s nostalgia really came through for me and it was that that I was happy to focus on.

Mina was great as a stranger in New Orleans, as we were able to see all the touristy sights that she would have seen, but as she was also accompanied by Libby and her friends, who were already at home in the city, there was a sense of familiarity.

As someone who had their formative years in this period, the pop culture references were very welcome and Amy McCaw used them respectfully – there was nothing that was ‘just filler’ and every reference had a point to make!

The mystery plot was excellently put together and certainly had me guessing right until the big reveal. It was very skillfully done and it will be interesting to see what Mina gets up to next.

Luckily, you won’t have to wait that long for the second book in this series, as Mina and the Slayers is out in September.

Mina and the Undead is published by UCLan.

About the Author:

Amy McCaw is a YA writer and blogger. She’s the author of Mina and the Undead, a YA murder mystery set in 1995 New Orleans.

Her main interests are books, movies and the macabre, and her debut novel has elements of all of these. If Amy’s not at a book event or reading, she can usually be found scribbling away in her writing room, surrounded by movie memorabilia and an out-of-control signed books collection. Unsurprisingly, she’s a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and has gone to conventions to meet James Marsters more times than she cares to admit.

Amy also loves travelling and has a particular affinity for America. She’s visited 29 states, 13 Man Vs Food restaurants and many bookish locations, including the cities where Twilight, Interview with a Vampire and Vampire Diaries were set.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Belles of Waterloo by Alice Church

Maria, Georgy and Harriet navigate their first throes of passion, scandal, and love in the heady pre-war atmosphere of Brussels in 1815. Little do they know they will soon be waltzing their way to the battle of the century at a small village called Waterloo.

As the fight for Europe rages outside the city walls, Maria seeks to find herself – will she also find a husband along the way?

What I Thought:

The prevailing view of much of our military history is – inevitably – about fighting men and their experiences, so it’s refreshing to read an account (albeit fictionalised to some extent) of the women who also lived through periods of upheaval. The Belles of Waterloo are Maria, Georgy and Harriet who are aristocratic, with a family beset by financial troubles and find themselves living in Belgium (MUCH cheaper than London!) on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo.

Initially, their lives are dominated by parties, gossip and hair ribbons, but snatched kisses with potential suitors turn into a reality of assuming caring responsibilities for injured soldiers and realising that the men they may have been considering as a good match are now injured or dead.

While the book is excellent in its own right, and would be a great read if it was a purely fictional account, it is enhanced by the fact that the three ladies in question were real and living the life as described by author Alice Church. Church includes extracts from real-life letters between the girls, their mother (who was a Paget of Plas Newydd) and other family members at the start of each chapter which sets the scene and gives an insight into the feelings of these women.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this book for me was the fact that, after the battle, the family and others of their acquaintance visited the battlefield – even before the bodies had been taken away. I found this bizarre, but it seems to be a common enough practice at the time – I have also read accounts of the US Civil War, where families would picnic on the battlefield, to watch the battle!

This really is a fascinating book, clearly well-researched and, as I said, refreshing to read about the thoughts, feelings and actions of this group of women whose previous experiences would have been so far removed from the realities of battle and horrific injuries.

The Belles of Waterloo is published by Unicorn Publishing Group.

About the Author:

Alice Church has specialised in Wellington-era history since studying for her BA at University College London. After graduating in 2012 she worked as a researcher on the Wellington portrait catalogue ‘Wellington Portrayed’ (Unicorn, 2014). She has also published a biography of Lady Georgiana Lennox, daughter of the 4th Duke of Richmond (Universe, 2016). She lives in Dorset with her husband Charles and son Freddie. This is her first novel.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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