Posted in Publisher Proof

Sunday Spotlight! Whatever Happened to Evie Del Rio by Sarah Watts

Evie Del Rio was the one, as far as Ed Nash was concerned.

Their teenage love was the inspiration for his song ‘Used to Be’ and helped Ed’s indie band, The Mountaineers, to international fame.But when Evie and her family suddenly up sticks and leave their London home without a forwarding address, she leaves a heartbroken Ed behind too.

Over thirty years later, washed up rocker Ed is suddenly back in the limelight when Evie’s love song is used as the theme tune for a new TV drama. Once the song is later featured on TV documentary ‘Musical Muses: The Girl in the Song’ it’s suddenly not just Ed who’s asking…

What happened to Evie Del Rio?

As a child of the 90’s I loved how this book opened with teenager Cassie finding out her mum is the inspiration behind one of the songs of the decade. Thanks to the 90’s becoming all the rage and an inspiration for TV, ‘Mum’s Song’ as Cassie and her brother now call it, is having a resurgence. Written back when her mum and musician Ed Nash were dating in the 1980’s, it wasn’t released until his band The Mountaineers produced their debut album ten years later. Now it’s one of the most downloaded songs of 2018. Cassie thinks the song isn’t bad, but the lyrics that have graced many a wedding become a bit cringe when you realise they’re about your Mum. As a teen I dreamed of meeting Damon Albany, who of course would fall madly in love with me and I would become his muse. So there was an element of nostalgia and wish fulfilment drawing me in from the first page.

Then we see the same situation from Genie’s point of view. Genie is Cassie’s mum and was once Evie Del Rio. Now she’s Genie, mum of two and with ‘a lovely big hunk of a husband’ called Gray. I was intrigued by what had made Evie’s family leave London all those years ago. Along with the change of name, there seemed to be something more going on than avoiding embarrassment over a song and a long ago romance with a rock star. Son Will is really taking the brunt of his mum’s newfound notoriety. Even adults think Genie was some sort of sex kitten and teenage boys don’t hold back. They chant about how many pop stars his mum has shagged on the football field, well they did until he broke someone’s nose. Yet Ed keeps blithely on, talking about his relationship with Evie and the origin of the song. Genie says he’s embellishing, but something about that time clearly gets under her skin. As we travel back and forth to Genie’s teens, when she’s still Evie, we slowly see more of their story revealed and secrets emerge that have been kept for a long time.

I thought this was an interesting idea for a book and as a middle aged stepmum to teenage girls I loved the idea of them getting an insight into the past. Imagine suddenly finding out that the person they see every day was once as exciting and full of promise as they are now. The multiple perspectives kept my interest, because it showed how the situation affects different members of the family. I loved Genie’s husband Gray, a lovely, solid and reliable anchor in a difficult time for his family. There are sensitive issues, but they are handled with care and empathy. I would recommend this nostalgic read, full of endearing characters and with a central mystery that unfolds slowly and with sensitivity.

Published by Cahill Davies 8th July 2022

Meet the Author

I’ve always enjoyed the written word and I have a great passion for music so I decided to put the two together and the result is my debut novel ‘What Happened to Evie Del Rio?’

I like to think I’m enjoying my ‘middle youth’ rather than my ‘middle age’. I’m married and Mum to two sons and a black rescue cat called Hector.

I enjoy going to gigs and discovering new music. I also love reading women’s fiction but I do have a bit of a penchant for crime and psychological thrillers! If I’m not on social media, reading or listening to music then you will probably find me on a football pitch cheering on my youngest son and his team.

Posted in Random Things Tours

Nothing Else by Louise Beech.

Louise Beech’s new novel, pulls us into the emotional and traumatic life of Heather, a pianist who lives in Hull. She teaches and plays in local bars, then relaxes in her harbour front flat looking out to the Humber Estuary and the North Sea. Heather has a quiet life and quite a solitary one too. She has no family and relies more on her strong connections with friends. In fact it is one of them that encourages her to try out for a job on a cruise ship, something she would never have imagined doing. She would be scheduled to play in different bars on the ship through the day, but as her friend says, she can enjoy the facilities and gets to travel. This particular cruise is stopping in New York then on to the Caribbean before doing it all again in reverse. There’s something lonely and a bit melancholy about her and we learn that Heather and her sister have grown up in the care system, after their parents were killed. Music was the girl’s escape, once their mother had convinced their father it wouldn’t hurt for them to learn on the piano they were given. They both had an aptitude for music, but it was Heather’s salvation, the only place she could fully express her emotions. With their father unwilling to pay for lessons, their mother secretly sent them to piano teacher Mr Hibbard who lived a few doors away. When their parents died, both girls were taken into a children’s home together, but one morning her sister Harriet was taken to see the staff in the office and Heather never saw her again. She could only hope that a kind family had adopted Harriet, but for some reason hadn’t been able to take her too. When the girls had most needed to express themselves they would play a duet they had composed called Nothing Else. It was this piece of music that stayed with Heather all her life, instantly taking her back to the piano and her little sister.

Heather’s chapters follow her current life and the piano job she applies for on a cruise ship. Here and there the author takes us back in time to her childhood, where their father was a controlling and violent man and Heather felt responsible for keeping her little sister Harriet safe. Like all children who have traumatic home lives, Heather had become attuned to the slightest hint of tension. She knew when her father was going to explode and on those nights where the sounds downstairs were terrifying, Heather would keep Harriet out of earshot and they felt safe when they were tucked up in just one bed. She was also aware that their father preferred cute and cheeky Harriet, so knew to stay quiet and keep her head down. These sections from the past are traumatic and very moving. The author maintains the tension in these flashbacks, until we too are on edge, always waiting for something to happen. The author moves deftly between the experiences of Heather as a child in the middle of this situation, and a grown up Heather commenting on what happened with the clarity and insight of an adult. There were brilliant present day sections onboard the cruise ship where Heather befriends a writer who is also working aboard, teaching sessions in creative writing. Heather joins her morning sessions and finds them much deeper than she expected. I could recognise this from the writing therapy sessions I’ve facilitated – the prompt is always just a starting point and eventually you start writing what you need to write about. This definitely happens to Heather and is one way of processing the care records she applied for before the trip, dipping into them little by little, like a reluctant bather dipping her toe into the cold, deep water. She doesn’t want to be overwhelmed.

Harriet has her own section of the book, again split into her current life and the past she doesn’t fully understand. Now living in America, Harriet has a daughter whose left home and case of empty nest syndrome. Her flashbacks into the past remind us that Heather’s story is only part of this family’s history and Harriet may have a very different tale to tell. We learn most when their narratives overlap and we see a subtly different side of the events Heather describes, like two sides of the same coin. Again, it’s psychologically very clever and gives the perspective of the younger sibling, the one who is cared for and shown love by her big sister. I was longing to know what had happened at the children’s home. Where did Harriet go and how was she persuaded to go without her sister? Thanks to all of these questions and my curiosity over whether the sisters would ever meet again, I was totally gripped by the story and immersed into the worlds of these sisters. I enjoyed their different characters, developed by their separate upbringings, as well as their different experiences with their parents due to their ages. There are secrets that neither child was aware of, so there are some rewarding revelations to be found. I was eager to know if the sisters were somehow able to find each other. Mainly though, I was moved to read their tales of childhood trauma and wanted to understand the adults they became in light of that experience. Which of their characteristics could be explained by the past? There’s a cautiousness in Heather, because her ability to trust others is affected, leading to a quiet and lonely life. It was lovely to watch the cruise atmosphere, and proximity to others, forcing her into being sociable and to make friends. There’s a sense that she’s coming alive in these moments, which felt hopeful and uplifting. This was an addictive read that beautifully captured how childhood trauma and it’s effects can follow us into adulthood. The author showed, so beautifully, that it’s only by sharing and in this case, playing out that experience that we begin to heal.

Published by Orenda Books 23rd June 2022

Meet The Author

All six of Louise Beech’s books have been digital bestsellers. Her novels have been a Guardian Readers’ Choice, shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull. Follow her on Twitter @louisewriter

Posted in Publisher Proof

Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie.

Today I’m spotlighting a wonderful book from author Emma Brodie, the perfect antidote to the Glastonbury blues. This is one of a few proofs I’ve received recently that are based in the world of music. It had me thinking about the best gigs I’ve gone to and how much I’ve missed seeing live music. My last gig before lockdown was Manic Street Preachers in Manchester. I hadn’t seen them since the nineties so it was like revisiting my teenage years and they were just as incredible. However, the gig I remember most as one of those ‘where were you when…’ moments was in 1994 at Alexandra Palace. The main act was my favourite nineties band, Blur and just around the same time as the big Blur V Oasis battle. Just as exciting, the support act was Pulp, only months before they released Common People and became huge. This really was a zeitgeist moment in Britpop and I was there.

The Blurb

THE SUMMER OF 1969

From the moment Jane Quinn steps barefoot onto the main stage at Island Folk festival, her golden hair glinting, her voice soaring into the summer dusk, a star is born – and so is a passionate love story.

Jane’s band hits the road with none other than Jesse Reid, the musician whose bright blue eyes are setting hearts alight everywhere. And as the summer streaks by in a haze of crowds, wild nights and magenta sunsets, Jane is pulled into the orbit of Jesse’s star.
 
But Jesse’s rise could mean Jane’s fall. And when she discovers a dark secret beneath his music, she picks up her guitar and writes her heartache into the album that could make or break her: Songs in Ursa Major.

Set against the heady haze of the 70s and alive with music, sex and sun-soaked hedonism, SONGS IN URSA MAJOR is an unforgettable debut and the soundtrack to a love story like no other.

I would like to thank Zaffre and Bonnier Books for my proof copy and I look forward to telling you all about it.

Posted in Random Things Tours

The Other Times of Caroline Tangent by Ivan D. Wainewright.

This book had a premise that was so attractive for someone like me who loves going to gigs and has missed it so much over the last eighteen months. My gig-going best friend and me often talk about which were our favourites, those breakthrough gigs that made your favourite band or those gigs that just captured the zeitgeist. The gig I went to that was a real cultural moment was at Alexandra Palace in 1994; Blur with Pulp as supporting artists. It was a real Britpop landmark and during Song 2, being pummelled and pushed about in the pit at the front I fainted and had to be carried out of the crowd. I’ve been lucky enough to see most of my favourites – Muse, Manic Street Preachers, The Killers, Depeche Mode, U2, Florence and the Machine- but if I did invent a time machine and could go back in time to any gig, it would be The Stone Roses 1989/90. They’re my band that got away. Everyone has one and sometimes we only see their importance in hindsight and simply wish we could have been there.

This is what happens to Caroline Tangent. Her music loving husband Jon, builds a time machine in his basement workshop. One surprising day he whisks her away to a controversial music performance – Kanye West at Glastonbury, 2015. She has on her gardening clothes, so luckily she’s pretty much dressed for a muddy field in Somerset. He didn’t choose the gig because they were huge fans of Kanye, but because it’s an important moment in music history, when there was an outcry over the direction Glastonbury was taking, considering it had always been dominated by more rock or indie groups than anything else. Their second trip is more complicated. Greenwich Village NYC, 1966. The preparation almost heightens their anticipation for the gig. Jon keeps the artist a secret, but they have to scour eBay for vintage clothing and work out how to get round the need for 1960s currency. Although, as Jon jokes, the exchange rate is pretty good. As they settle in a café, Caroline doesn’t recognise the musician playing, but they soon finish their set and on walks a young man with a guitar. It takes a moment because his name is different, but as soon as she realises who it is her excitement bubbles over. That’s Jimi Hendrix!

I found the way the writer created Jon and Caroline’s world really different for such a sci-fi concept. He didn’t treat it like sci-fi, but more like an exploration of long term relationships, friendship and all human life. We get to know their long term friends who they meet for dinner once a month. These people are relatable, and not perfect by any means. He creates tension between Jon and Andrew, who were producing copies of old concert tickets and posters to sell online as the real thing. They’re three dimensional and we see all their good and bad points. Caroline and Jon have managed to keep their time travel a secret so far. She wanted to tell their friends and share his incredible invention, but Jon is adamant it has to be just the two of them. He explains that the secret is just too big, look at how much trouble Caroline is having keeping it to herself? He knows their friends and one of them would be bound to tell someone outside their circle. However adamant he is, there are moments when they’re all together that he sails close to the wind.

I felt unsure about Jon early on, the fact that he’s in this seemingly fractious relationship with Andrew and has produced false memorabilia before made me question his character. I thought their reasons for continuing to visit the past might be different and I didn’t always like the way he treated Caroline. At first I just thought he was very controlled – I know my other half and if he’d developed the capability to build a time machine in his workshop he wouldn’t have been able to keep it to himself. Jon seemed to like having the secret, being superior and even where there were clashes he’d caused, holding himself above the argument. As time went on I noted he was gaslighting Caroline too, letting things go wrong and insinuating she was to blame, or that something she knew had happened, hadn’t happened at all. I was so glad she had such a strong friendship with Bree for support. I felt sad for her, because although she is an emotionally intelligent woman, her love for her husband has made her blind to who he really is.

Of course we all know that the cardinal rule of time travel is not to change anything. Jon goes into great detail about the about chaos theory – the idea that events are interlinked so intricately that it might only take a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world to cause a tsunami somewhere else. No matter how small the change in the past, it could have a seismic effect on their future. As much as they want it to be fun and all about the music, past traumas do start to haunt them. Their world could be about to turn upside down because one of them makes a terrible decision. I don’t want to reveal any more, just that this is a time travel novel that is more about the emotional journey of the people involved, than it is about the destinations. I did love the destinations though, and how the author made me feel I was there in 1960s NYC, or 1930s Paris. I think it would be great to create a Spotify playlist alongside the book so readers can fully immerse themselves in the music. The best way I can describe the novel is to say it’s sci-fi with a very big heart. Sometimes the most important and life changing places we travel are within ourselves.

Meet The Author

Ivan D Wainewright lives in Kent (England) with his partner, Sarah and their slightly neurotic rescue Staffie, Remi. Before moving to Kent, he lived in North London, Leeds and Singapore. When not writing, he can be found watching (and occasionally) playing football, running, listening to music from Chumbawamba to Led Zeppelin, arguing over politics and trying to cook. He has been an independent IT consultant for many years, working solely with charities and not-for-profit organisations.

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