I’m finding it hard to hang up my Halloween hat and move on this year. It’s been such an awesome month. November will be just as cool – it’s birthday month! – but I don’t want to turn my back on spooky things just yet.
My first (and possibly only) Autumn book recommendation this year is this brilliant novel by one of my faves, Sarah Waters. I first read it on my honeymoon over seven years ago and vividly remember being frozen in fear in the middle of the night, having just read another chapter.
The Little Stranger focuses on the inhabitants of once grandiose Hundreds Hall, the Ayres family. Hundreds Hall is now crumbling, a shadow of its former self – and war-damaged Roderick and his sister Caroline are trying hard to keep the family afloat, and keep the truth of their dire situation a secret from their mother.
When local Doctor Faraday finds himself involved with the family, all manner of weirdness starts to spill into his life. What the heck is going on? I’m currently having a re-read in time for the movie adaptation coming later this month and it’s stunning.
It’s not just the truly spooky set up that leaves you wanting more, it’s the way Waters crafts a sentence. Her characters are so well written you really feel you know them after only a few moments and that makes you care what happens to them. Hundreds Hall is a vivid landmark in the mind thanks to the way she describes it – and I can’t wait to see what they’ve done with the film and the casting.
I recommend this because it’s perfect for an Autumn eve, once the sun’s gone down and the dinner plates have been cleared away. I love to read in the bath and this accompanies that well.
I’ll crack open a new bottle of bubble bath and light a candle too, why not?
The Little Stranger
Publisher: Virago (23 Aug. 2018)
Bought movie tie-in paperback (new)
What are you reading?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yep, Autumn reading season and I can’t wait to get stuck in.
Inspired by new podcast What Page Are You On, I’ve purchased some new books and added them to a few I already had queued up. Now I just need some chunky knitwear and some slightly cooler evenings, and I’ll be good to go.
Here’s what I’m planning on reading:
I added this to my pile because of a conversation had on WPAYO podcast. Alice and Bethany discuss how fat characters are/have been portrayed in literature, and the subject of Carrie came up.
Carrie White was apparently written as fat but has been represented in every screen adaptation as slim (because, Hollywood). I thought this was interesting, so I want to read it for myself.
You’ll notice a pattern within this post, as this is the second of three books I was influenced to buy by the above mentioned source. On Writing has been on my radar for years and is meant to be a great read – now is as good a time as any, right? (Definitely having a SK revival/love-in after It, which I loved).
This is a YA book but it sounds amazing and I’m looking forward to meeting Willowdean (AKA Dumplin’), a fat Texan teen who enters a beauty pageant to annoy her mother. Right? Break me off a piece of that.
I only learnt about this new release this week and snapped it up immediately. Another chance to spend time with Lisbeth? No brainer. Plus, Ms Salander’s currently in a prison situation, which sounds brilliant.
I enjoyed the film adaptation of this but the book is, as expected, much better. I have the last chapter to go but I’ve loved it so far. The story within a story framing is interesting, as we witness Susan Morrow reacting to her first reading of ex-husband Edward’s debut novel. The tale is dark, both in ‘real time’ and within Edward Sheffield’s book – and there’s something really pleasant about the writing.
This was on my Winter Reading List last year but I kept putting it off because I thought it would be too heavy and kind of dull. I was wrong.
What are you guys reading? Let me know!
I’m finally reading Stephen King’s IT. Yes, aged 39, I have finally decided to dip my toe in Pennywise the Clown’s rancid world.
Although, it should be said that I no longer have one foot poised precariously over the swamp that is the town of Derry. I am now fully submerged, head and all.
Stephen King’s novels were not part of my childhood. I’m quite sad about that, especially when I hear people I love talking excitedly about his stories and how they built a foundation for their love of horror during their formative years.
I was more of a Jackie Collins’ kind of girl, getting all my sex ed from Hollywood Wives. As I developed a love affair with books, my tastes became much darker and I read a lot of Dean Koontz, Shaun Hutson (Slugs, anyone?) – Stephen King style writers, basically. But not actual Stephen King. Where’s the sense in that?
I watched a lot of his films though (including 80’s IT) and maybe there’s a clue there. Maybe watching was easier for me, so I didn’t feel the need to pick up the paperbacks. I’ve corrected that in adulthood but I’ve still only read a handful. It was running joke in our house for years that Glynn would always ask me, “Have you read Pet Cemetary/Thinner/Dark Tower?” and I’d be all, “You know I’ve only read Needful Things.” Now I’ve added Rose Madder, The Shining, Doctor Sleep and almost IT to the list.
(So far I think IT is the most powerful, though I loved The Shining too. Oooweee!)
Back to this story though. IT is the tale of a maniacal clown sure, one who can manifest himself into anything horrifying that frightens a person (there’s even a shark in the novel, who swims serenely up the river past a terrified secondary character). It’s about a rotten to the core town where things turn evil and twisted, every 25 years or so.
But at its heart it is also about friendship, grief, letting your freak flag fly, overcoming fear and bullies – about getting out of an awful situation and then going back because you made a pact when you were twelve.
It’s about hope for a better day, one without evil. Man, sound familiar?
This is not a review. I haven’t finished the book yet, and I dread the day I do. I’m 800 pages in and there are nearly 1400. It’s a wild, detailed terror ride, for real. Like, who knew your own imagination could be churned into such a frenzy by a few words?
I’m beside myself for the new film adaptation and Pennywise but more importantly, I can’t wait to meet the kids. I’m getting major Stranger Things vibes from the trailers, not least because of Finn Wolfcastle’s involvement. And that can only be a very good thing.
I can’t wait to hang out with Ben, Stanley, Mike, Big Bill, Richie, Beverley and Eddie again, and I haven’t even left them yet.
So, please excuse me while I go back to my book and my new friends. Damn I wish I’d known them when I was a kid.
Remember the curfew 🤡🤡🤡
I failed miserably in my Summer Reading Challenge, unfortunately. I put it down to being too busy but I think we can safely say it was just a laziness issue.
I go through phases as a reader. I’m either reading everything in my path, or nothing at all. There’s no in between. But, as the light fades in the evenings and the temperature drops significantly, I’m lining up a list of reads to smash through.
Here’s a little peek at what I’m planning on reading beneath the covers:
Synopsis: Many years after their divorce, Susan Morrow receives a strange gift from her ex-husband. A manuscript that tells the story of a terrible crime: an ambush on the highway, a secluded cabin in the woods; a thrilling chiller of death and corruption. How could such a harrowing story be told by the man she once loved? And why, after so long, has he sent her such a disturbing and personal message…? Originally published as Tony and Susan.
Thoughts: This is the book the film is based on. I picked it up in a 2 for 1 type deal in a supermarket. I’ve so far not got to see Tom Ford‘s adaptation but I hear it’s good and I still hope I get to catch it. I love a thriller and this seems to have quite a dark premise. High hopes.
Synopsis: Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming. Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil. But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms. Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows…
Thoughts: Books like this are perfect Winter reads. They’re like tasty morsels of something that isn’t particularly ‘good’ for you but is so delicious you don’t give two fucks. I like mystery and expect this to deliver nicely. I am so over the lazy Gone Girl/The Girl on the Train comparisons though. Can we move on now? There are other great thrillers.
Synopsis: When Chris Kraus, an unsuccessful artist pushing 40, spends an evening with a rogue academic named Dick, she falls madly and inexplicably in love, enlisting her husband in her haunted pursuit. Dick proposes a kind of game between them, but when he fails to answer their letters Chris continues alone, transforming an adolescent infatuation into a new form of philosophy.
Thoughts: I recently saw the pilot of the TV adaptation of this book, starring the gorgeously talented Kathryn Hahn and became quite smitten with Chris. Although it only gave me a snapshot of the story, I know it’s something I want more of. Then somebody I follow on Twitter started raving about the book and I grabbed a copy immediately. It’s so easy to persuade me to part with my cash. I’m looking forward to this, plus it’s got a LOL-worthy title/cover, which never hurts.
Synopsis: In 2003, an independent film called The Room – starring and written, produced, and directed by a mysteriously wealthy social misfit named Tommy Wiseau – made its disastrous debut in Los Angeles. Over a decade later, The Room is an international cult phenomenon, whose legions of fans attend screenings featuring costumes, audience rituals, merchandising and thousands of plastic spoons.
Thoughts: I’ve already started reading this and it’s so much fun. I’ve just been giggling all the way along. Of course you do have to have seen The Room to have context for all this craziness, and particularly Tommy’s unique brand. It’s great to get a companion piece for a film that makes zero sense and to get behind Tommy’s personal philosophy, and Greg Sestero (although I doubt he’s actually written much of the book) gives us interesting nuggets of Hollywood life, through his own experiences on movie sets and via flashbacks to the acting class in which he fatefully met ‘The Pirate’. Both the film and the book are a must-see/read for any shit film lover, there’s nothing else even remotely like it.
Synopsis: When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH to escape a haunting trauma, they’re hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient…and hungry.
Thoughts: Ooooh sounds good, doesn’t it? And it’s a graphic novel. I picked this up on a whim while I was in a ‘witchy’ mood and I regret nothing. Ghost/horror is perfect for this time of the year.
Synopsis: Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one of the most important movements in rock history. Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to creator in experiencing the power and mystery of a live performance.
Thoughts: I know Carrie mainly from Portlandia but she’s also a member of Sleater Kinney, once pegged as ‘America’s best rock band’. This appeals to my massive love of the Riot Grrrl movement, something I will always been interested in learning more about. So I’ll be reading this in my Docs and stripey shirt with a snarl on my face. In a good way.
My Brilliant Friend – Book 1 (Neapolitan Novels)
Synopsis: A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.
The Story of a New Name – Book 2 (Neapolitan Novels)
Synopsis: Elena and Lila are now in their twenties. While marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the centre of their emotional lives, the two girls mature into women.
Thoughts: I was gifted these by my lovely mother last Christmas and still haven’t gotten round to them, which is unforgivable. Another Twitter recommendation and a double whammy of literary goodness I’m looking forward to. There are four books in the Neapolitan Series and these are the first two. I just hope my heart can take them.
You might be wondering why all the reads on this list are different to those in the Summer line up. Is it just me who carefully selects stories to suit the season?
What are you reading? ❤
Every single Summer I fantasise about lying in a beautiful park reading beneath a huge shady tree to my heart’s content. This more or less never happens but maybe this will be the year.
Since I’m enforcing a No Shopping ban upon myself for the next two months (have I mentioned that?), I’ll be looking for thrifty ways to entertain myself until August and this might just be it.
Thanks to Cathy of 746 Books for the idea, I am totally in. 20 books is an awful lot and they’re supposed to be done between 1 June and 5 September but I will try my damnedest to stick to the plan. For the record, that’s 20 books in three months or 7 books a month for 3 months (give or take)!
I’ve been a bit lame about my choices and simply picked from the ‘To Read’ side of my bookcase. Turns out there was a lot of good stuff chilling there. I’ve been buying books and then forgetting about them a lot. Which is frankly criminal and must stop.
Here are my 20 books:
In a Dark Dark Wood – Ruth Ware. I love crime and this ticks that box nicely. I’m also drawn to the fading friendship element, something I understand all to well. Let’s hope this really is the ‘Crime Novel of the Year’.
The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter. “Fairy tales reimagined for feminist times” – what’s not to like about that? Taking inspiration from some of my favourite fairy tales, including the sinister as all fuck Bluebeard, this is right up my street. I cannot wait.
Capital – John Lanchester. This tale was recently turned into a BBC series which I didn’t see but it caught my attention anyway. Plus, both my brother and mother recommended it. The residents of a London street all receive the same mysterious note through their doors: We Want What You Have. But who sent it and what does it mean?
Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood. I read The Wicked Girls, also by Marwood and enjoyed it, even though it’s very odd. I don’t even know what this one is about but I suspect that there’s a clue in the title.
The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton. This has been on my shelf for so long and I’m not sure why I haven’t yet picked it up. Sometimes I struggle with period pieces but this comes highly praised, so we’ll see, won’t we?
The Sisters – Claire Douglas. The tale of twin sisters, one dead and one alive following a tragic accident. I’m drawn to this because I find the whole twin thing naturally unsettling and how can I resist a deeply hidden family secret?
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks. I know it’s pretty bad that I haven’t read this one yet, given that it’s a bit of an oddball classic, but there we are. Glynn read it a few years back and raves about it so this is another one I can’t wait to dig into.
Feed: The Newsflesh Trilogy: Book 1 – Mira Grant. Zombie infection, two bloggers and a conspiracy theory, I’m into this concept and have had this waiting for me for over a year. Glad to be getting to it, finally.
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen. This is heralded as Austen’s Gothic parody and draws my interest because it promises lots of twists and turns, mystery and decrepit old castles. Count me in, boi.
The Hourglass Factory – Lucy Ribchester. This was recommended to me by my friend Helga. Set in 1912 against the backdrop of the Suffragette movement, Journalist Frankie is sent to interview a trapeze artist and becomes obsessed. Mystery and suspense entail – and I’m fully here for it.
The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith. I’ve already read the second Cormoran Strike novel, The Silkworm because I was given it and honestly, I really enjoyed myself. So I’m going back to the first. I think I might have a thing for Strike, ngl.
Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey. Dementia scares the living shit out of me so I think this will be a hard read, even though it’s won heaps of awards and will be great. It tells the story of Maud, who’s very forgetful. Yet, despite this fact she knows one thing: her friend Elizabeth is missing and somewhere deep inside her mind is the secret to an age old mystery. Oooooh.
Clown Girl – Monica Drake. I read somewhere that Kristen Wiig is attached to the film version of this novel and that can only mean one thing: I’m going to dig it. The heroine is Nita, a clown in the midst of a crisis as she navigates poverty, clown fetishism and heart ache.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler. You’ve gotta love a fucked up family and it sounds like Rosemary’s can give mine and yours a run for their money.
The Road – Cormac McCarthy. I asked Tom at work what his favourite book was and he said this. I haven’t seen the film adaptation so all I know is that the story contains cannibalism. I loved No Country for Old Men though so I’m hopeful I’ll enjoy this.
My Friend Leonard – James Frey. The follow on from A Million Little Pieces (which I’ve previously reviewed here), this focuses on the paternal relationship between James and former rehab buddy, Leonard. Leonard leads something of a criminal lifestyle – how will that impact James’ quest to rebuild his life?
Filth – Irvine Welsh. Another familiar story, as we’ve reviewed the film adaptation previously for the collab. However, I love Irvine Welsh (even though his language can be difficult to get into) and I’m intrigued to see what the book adds to my life. Probably quite a lot. The story of DS Bruce Robinson is peppered with sex, drugs, violence and anything else you can think of (not that you utter perv!) but at the core is a heartbreak that explains (almost) everything.
Me Before You – Jojo Moyes. Just about to be a film starring Emilia Clarke, this has been all over the place for a long time. I don’t know how I’ll enjoy it as I’m not a huuuge chick lit fan but I’m still curious. In short, everything changes when Lou Clark meets Will Traynor. A bit of popcorn never ever hurt anyone, right?
Luckiest Girl Alive – Jessica Knoll. I’m expecting this to be a difficult read given that Knoll has revealed she was gang raped during her teens. Not only that but she suffered horrific bullying afterwards. So to have written a work of fiction based on her own life experience seems incredibly brave to me. Dreading it but also keen to know what it’s like.
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve wanted to read Yanagihara’s ALL for ages, as Twitter seems to have been awash with appreciators. Then I saw it on Mum’s nightstand, so I’ve nabbed it for myself (relax ma, I bought my own copy). Amazon describes this as “an immensely powerful and heartbreaking novel of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance.” Which sounds pretty intense. I might treat myself to this as my last book.
So that’s what I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future. I reserve the right to change my mind about any of these books and replace them, although I’m not allowed to buy any new ones, so it will have to be a gift or a lend!
Anyone else up for joining me? ❤
UPDATE: My dear friend Lightle has signed up for a 10 book challenge and I’m stoked as shit for it!
I can’t recommend this thriller highly enough and have so far rammed it down the throat of at least three fellow readers and gifted it more than once.
It’s the kind of book that you recommend but then instantly regret doing in case it’s not received as well as you’d like. So far reports have been fantastic but it still makes me nervous.
This thriller is so good that in some ways it’s spoiled me for other books in the same genre. I mean, how can they possibly compete?
But to the book itself.
It’s just really well written. Pitch black and peppered with film and book references, we’re given great insight into the mind of fucked up, yet somehow likable protagonist, Joe Goldberg.
Joe is a young, moderately successful man living in New York. He runs a bookstore and one day spots beautiful Guinevere Beck browsing the shelves. He does what every modern man would do, Googles her name (which he gets from her credit card) and stalks her online.
What follows is a dark tale of obsession, competition, loss and good old fashioned horror. I’m reticent to give too much away because a lot happens and it’s intricate in its design. It’s also genuinely terrifying in places.
As Joe fights to win the heart of the woman he claims to love, it soon becomes apparent that he’ll stop at absolutely nothing. Will he get what he wants or is it more complicated than that? Can a man like Joe ever truly be sated, even happy?
The thing about this book to me is that Joe feels like a neurotic Woody Allen type (Hannah and Her Sisters is quoted/referenced a lot) which lends it a retro feel, while still keeping much of the action, particularly the stalking element very modern, leaning on the pitfalls of social media for support.
This only makes the tale seem more real and potentially scarier. If we were all as careless as cavalier Beck with our online security, could we expect the same fate?
Joe Goldberg is easily comparable to Patrick Bateman. Sure the former may be glossier, wealthier and bolder but Joe has certain Bateman qualities. Though Bateman kills for sport, it seems Goldberg justifies his blood lust as necessity and this is where they differ.
More often than not I just kept asking myself why Joe had to be this way. Surely he could just find a nice available girl and settle down? He’s obviously desirable, intelligent – but compulsion doesn’t work that way I guess and someone like that doesn’t just stop.
It’s harder to put your finger on why Joe isn’t completely repellent and that might have something to do with the fact that most of the other characters, including Beck and her best friend Peach, aren’t much better. They’re snobs and bitches and frankly, just not nice people. This doesn’t mean they deserve bad things but it’s easy to get it all twisted while reading this book!
I’ll park up here and just say what I’ve been saying for months: read this book. You can thank me later.
And you know the beauty of YOU, beyond everything mentioned above? There’s a sequel, and it’s good.
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (18 Jun. 2015)
- ISBN-10: 1471137376
- ISBN-13: 978-1471137372
- Bought paperback (new)