The Corset

I thoroughly enjoyed Purcell’s The Silent Companions and found it satisfyingly creepy, perfect for this time of year. So when The Corset came out in paperback I grabbed it quickly and couldn’t wait to dive in.

To a certain extent it’s as good as TSC but it isn’t without its issues and that main issue for me is the ending. Before I go into that though, a bit about the story. I think the premise itself is brilliant and quite unique.

There have been a few stories in the past about haunted clothing (not that I can name any of them beyond In Fabric, which hasn’t even had the decency to have a proper release yet) but the concept of vindictive embroidery really appeals to me. Imagine putting all your rage and hatred into your work and seeing very tangible results. It’s pure witchcraft and as you know, I’m all about the witch these days, even if it is dark magic.

That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it in my fiction though and I really love the character of Ruth, a young girl sentenced to death for the murder of her mistress. When high society do-gooder Dorothea Truelove takes it upon herself to start visiting Ruth is gaol while she awaits her trial, the whole story of how she came to be a murderess unravels – but is she really as bad as she believes or is she a victim herself?

Dorothea meanwhile has her own agenda, namely the study of phrenology and she really wants to get her hands on Ruth’s skull. She’s also being pressured by her ol’ dad to marry since she’s just turned five and twenty – and should probably get her skates on. Little does he know that she’s in love with a common or garden bobby!

Anyway, we’re here for the darkness, aren’t we? As Ruth embroiders a macabre picture for us we get plenty of that. Bullied and poor, things take a terrible turn when her beloved mother falls pregnant. Ruth is forced to leave school to help her seamstress mum with her workload, particularly a large order for a local dressmaker. When the baby arrives everything changes and Ruth realises she may have a secret power. Does she though or is she simply mad, after years of abuse?

Well, via flashback Ruth fills us in on her sewing skills and the horrible lifestyle to which she quickly becomes accustomed. As the terror grows so does her bitterness and rage – and all that has to go somewhere. I won’t go into it too much but it is a satisfying read.

Alongside Ruth’s woes we have the slightly less dramatic issues of Dorothea, whose beauty and class make her seem much less of a victim – but there’s something going on beneath the pristine surface – and maybe she and Ruth aren’t that different after all.

I really enjoyed myself but I did find the climax a little clumsy. It’s not that I didn’t understand it, it’s more that it wasn’t ironed out in quite the same way as the rest of the book and felt rushed. It’s an interesting ending and a good one but it comes at you fast – and it took the book from a solid five to a four in my eyes. Nevertheless, I’m excited for Bone China and I love Purcell’s Gothic hand.

Book details: The Corset
Publisher: Raven Books (2 May 2019)
ISBN-10: 1408889528
ISBN-13: 978-1408889527
Bought new paperback for myself

What are you reading?

No Big Deal

It would have been nice to have had a heroine like Emily growing up. Even if she is 75 times cooler than I’ve ever been. 

Navigating all your normal rites of passage in a fat body can be a minefield – friendship, school, the future, shagging, ROMANCE – but Emily doesn’t see why she should change. She’s well aware she’s one of the smartest in her year at school. She’s also cute, funny and ‘good at music’. While she still has all the normal teenage insecurities, she’s coming to realise it’s not her body holding her back, it’s the people around her and their attitudes toward it. 

RELATEABLE, MUCH?!

Emily worries about being left behind by her friendship group – and as the last to lose her virginity and get a boyfriend, she wonders if it’s the way she looks that’s the problem. Her mother is on a constant diet, imparting her own health wisdom on her daughter which kind of puts a dampener on their relationship. It also doesn’t help when she meets Joe, to whom she has an instant attraction. Could he possibly like her too?

Well of course he does because contrary to popular opinion, fat babes gets action to. But Joe’s not without his own problems and Emily has enough to contend with without wondering that she’s enough. Like where to go to university, a newly-slim best pal and general life stuff.

I read this in a day and mostly in the bath. Each chapter begins with a suitable song title which is cool. Given Emily is a some time DJ (and so is the author), it’s a nice touch. It also personalises it, reminding me of the feelings that went with the music I listened as I grew up.

Honestly, it’s refreshing to read about a fat protagonist, one that doesn’t have a makeover at the end. One that knows her worth despite societal pressure, one not willing to settle for anything less that the very best.

I enjoyed the last few chapters so much. As Emily works out Joe’s deal and subsequently refuses to accept it, I whooped. I also like the advice Emily gives to her friends. It’s completely balanced and wise beyond its years. There are flourishes that really suit the character and remind me too of all the reasons I’ve followed Bethany on Twitter for so long. Particularly the moment she asks her crush if he ever consumes art by women.

Emily is a role model for the age and I would love to spend more time in her world.

Book details:

No Big Deal
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books; Main Market edition (8 Aug. 2019)
ISBN-10: 1509870059
ISBN-13: 978-1509870059
Bought new paperback for myself

What are you reading?

 

Late Summer Reading List

I’ve spent the best part of the last two months trying to get through the first book in the Game of Thrones series – and although I’m enjoying it, there’s a lot to get to grips with. I love the story and many of the characters but I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fantasy girl. Thankfully, I’m coming to the end so I’ll be able to pick up something new soon. I have a couple of books waiting in the wings, hence this late Summer Reading List.

I’m only 28% through my Goodreads Reading Challenge and according to the app, will need to read two books a week for the rest of the year to hit my target of 50 books in 2019. Better get my skates on then, I guess.

What I’m Reading Next

The Corset by Laura Purcell

This book has been on my radar for a while. I loved The Silent Companions and found it genuinely eerie – so I have high hopes about the follow up. I’ve already spoken about it so I don’t want to repeat myself but I’m looking forward to dipping back into Purcell’s version of Gothic goodness.

Honestly, this is the kind of book I normally reserve for Autumn reading but fuck it. It’s windy enough out there to appeal to my nesting sensibilities, so bring it on.

My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

“So, this is me. Lily Allen.

I am a mother, and I was a wife. I’m also a singer and a songwriter. I have loved and been let down. I’ve been stalked and assaulted. I am a success and a failure. I’ve been broken and full of hope. I am all these things and more.

I’m telling my truth because when women share their stories, loudly and clearly and honestly, things begin to change – for the better.

So, this is my story. These are my thoughts exactly.”

I’ve got a soft spot for Lily, who hasn’t always got it right but has always been seemingly honest, which I admire. She also been through an awful lot in her career and personal life, so I suspect this autobiography is going to be pretty eye-opening stuff. I’m holding out for heaps of scandal and a healthy dollop of bitching about other celebrities.

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

I follow Laura on social media and find her quite endearing, so when I saw she’d written a novel, even though it’s not my usual kind of book, I wanted to check it out.

When I was grabbing dinner in Sainsbury’s at the weekend, I found it for the bargain price of £2.99. Well I’m a girl of limited means, so what was I going to do?

The premise is this:

“What if you almost missed the love of your life?

Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine.

Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died.

One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.”

Cute, huh?

No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter

Bethany is an internet staple for me, someone I’ve followed and admired for a long time. I’d go so far as to say she is one of the people most responsible for helping me change my way of thinking towards my own body. I’d definitely recommend you check her out on Twitter and beyond.

NBD is her debut fiction novel and I am so excited to meet her fat protagonist, Emily. I suspect this is a book I could really have done with back when I was a teen and I just really hope it gets the attention and acclaim it undoubtedly deserves.

A little outline:

“A warm, funny YA debut about a fat girl embarking on her first romance, female friendship, valuing herself and not settling, by one of the best body positive writers in the UK.”

So that’s me. Getting ready to hunker down with several good books and a duvet.

What are you reading?

Juliet, Naked

Our so-called fuck up this week is incredibly easy to relate to so I probably like this film more than I would normally because of that. Also, Rose Byrne is such a gifted comic actor, I want to be her.

Juliet, Naked is the story of Annie (the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan) and her unlikely transatlantic romance with once revered, now faded, singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who also happens to be the subject of Duncan’s musical obsession.

Chris O’DowdRose ByrneEthan Hawke

What if you met the man of your man’s dreams?

ABWGHOJRGVGVJGVAUVWRVHG7EU

*Minor spoilers*

Annie (Byrne) still lives in her hometown and is the curator at the local museum. She lives with her long-term boyfriend Duncan (O’Dowd), even though the relationship is pretty threadbare. It isn’t helped by Duncan’s all-consuming obsession with the music of singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe (Hawke). Crowe’s last work was released 25 years ago but this doesn’t stop him running a dedicated fan site.

When a surprise package arrives at the couple’s home, Annie opens it first and discovers a collection of acoustic covers of Crowe’s seminal masterpiece, “Juliet”. The new work is called “Juliet, Naked”. Duncan is none-to-pleased to arrive home and find his girlfriend has already listened to it. He’s even less thrilled when she tears it apart. This leads to a huge argument and Annie leaves a negative review of the demo on his website.

When Annie later receives a response to her critique from someone purporting to be Tucker Crowe, things start to get interesting. He thanks her for her honesty and it soon becomes clear that it really is the man himself. The pair quickly begin a regular correspondence, updating each other on the intimate details of their lives. Annie ends up being very candid about her sadness at not being a mother, while Crowe shares his regrets about being a bad father to five kids, by four different mothers.

Meanwhile, Duncan bangs a teacher at his school and his relationship with Annie conveniently comes to an end. Round about the same time, Crowe – who lives in America to be near his youngest son, Jackson – has to travel to London for his daughter Lizzie (Ayoola Smart) who’s about to give birth to her first child. Of course he arranges to meet Annie in London but stands her up.

She forgives him when she learns he’s had a heart attack and the pair finally manage to meet, though the small hospital room in which she finds him is soon full of ex-wives and children. She stays for a beat then excuses herself, never to be seen again. Kidding. Crowe invites himself and Jackson to Annie’s to recuperate and get to know her better.

Which is lovely and all but how will she explain the shrine to Tucker Crowe that still lives in the house? Indeed, how will Duncan take his first – and subsequent – meetings with his idol?

It’s all very idyllic but what will become of the new couple when reality comes a-knocking and Crowe has to return to the US?

Well, this is a slow burning quite lovely little lament on regret and new beginnings. It may please you to note that Annie does what she wants to do finally – and follows her own dreams, regardless of other people’s demands on her. I think in the hands of someone else I would have been bored but the small-town seaside setting feels authentic and both Byrne and Hawke put in good, low-key performances. I cannot abide Chris O’Dowd if we’re being honest but he brings the infuriating character if Duncan to life by default.

While I enjoyed this, I don’t have that much to say about it. Not that much happens. I do however understand the pressure of waking up in your forties and being nowhere near the person you thought you would be. There’s a sadness and some hope in there somewhere, depending on how you look at it.

Film details:

Juliet, Naked
Year: 2018
Director: Jesse Peretz
IMDB Rating: 6.6/10
My Rating: 4/5

What does my girl think of Juliet, Naked? Would she set up a very niche fan site for it or send it back to obscurity forever? Find out here.

Weekly Digest: Five Articles (#2)

A couple of articles I’ve enjoyed recently.

Photo by Fred Mouniguet on Unsplash

What I Learned From Dating Someone Totally Wrong For Me

I know what it’s like to be with the wrong person. I did it for 6 years, so this speaks to me on a deep level.

Particularly this bit:

The internal whisper that it was time to focus on my health and happiness became louder every time I chose to listen, and eventually it was the loudest voice in my mind.

I couldn’t act against myself and in favor of myself at the same time. I had to choose.


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8 Books Out In July In The UK That Will Make The Perfect Summer Reading Companion

I’m always down for a new book recommendation and some of these look bloody good. If I can be bothered to leave the house this Summer, I’ll be under a tree with a pile of books.


How to Have a Great Summer (According to Horror Movies)

This one definitely speaks for itself.


John Hughes Lied to Me

I love this essay, by author and journalist Caren Lissner. John Hughes most definitely has a lot to answer for (even though I love him still).


Pinhead-Hellraiser1

Pinhead Also Being Resurrected in a ‘Hellraiser’ TV Series!

We have such sights to show you

I am so stoked that this is soon to be a thing. Could there be anything more heavenly than more time with the Godfather of Pleasure & Pain, Pinhead himself? At this stage it’s not known if Doug Bradley will be reprising his legendary role but I do hope so.

Meanwhile, any Hellraiser endeavor that doesn’t include Julia (Clare Higgins) is a travesty.

What are you loving this week?

Cujo

I’ve spend most of this week feeling slightly bummed out and I swear to god it’s Stephen King’s fault. I know I’m way behind on Cujo’s story but I did not expect to end in such a devastating way – I guess that’s why it’s so effective. While you’ve got your eye firmly planted on Cujo, you don’t think about anything else.

Most readers (and their dogs LOL) will know the story of Cujo – and obviously I always had a rough idea of the plot, not least because it seems to be referenced all the time in other King books. It is good finally to have the details for myself. My husband said he never liked it because he felt too sorry for Cujo – and boy do I agree with that.

*Spoilers*

If you don’t know, Cujo is a massive, lovable Saint Bernard – the beloved pet of ten-year-old Brett Camber, a mechanics son. His father Joe is a dominating influence who beats his wife Charity and drinks with his neighbour Gary in his down time.

Across town (the story is set in SK staple, Castle Rock, Maine) the Trentons, Donna and Vic live with their little son Tad. They’ve got their own shit going on – Tad is haunted by the ‘monster in the closet’, while Donna is dealing with the aftermath of a pre-marital fling. Vic’s ad business is crumbling and he has to leave town just as he finds out about the affair – none of them are doing that great, what will a fateful meeting with a rabid Saint Bernard throw into the mix?

Alternative film poster for the 1983 Cujo adaptation

Well, one day of course Cuj goes for a run in the fields around the Camber home and ends up chasing a rabbit into a deep burrow. Alas, within the burrow live a family of rabies infected bats – and they’re not cool with the intrusion. Cujo gets bitten and so begins his tragic demise, via a horrific swansong of death and destruction. Bad doggie!

As events bring Donna and Tad directly into the path of Cujo’s fury, I was on the edge of my seat. It’s so effective and the final, agonising stand-off between (wo)man and beast is incredible. Donna is a brilliant character, flawed and fiesty, and hard as fuck. I love her. As Vic realises something is not okay at home and has to haul ass back to the Rock to rescue his family, Donna is taking care of business herself.

Meanwhile, Brett and Charity are miles away visiting family, clueless about the carnage they’ve left behind. Charity is secretly worrying about her son turning out like her abusive husband and contemplating divorce, while Brett can’t stop worrying about Cujo back home.

This book was very good and I enjoyed myself but I hated the thought of Cuj in pain. And I was in no way prepared for the Trenton family’s own tragedy. I don’t know why I was so invested in a perfect, happy ending. I must have forgotten who I was reading for a second.

Book details:

Cujo
Publisher: Cornerstone
ISBN-10: 0099975009
ISBN-13: 978-0099975007
Bought secondhand paperback for myself

What are you reading?

Cool Things on the Internet #1

Welcome to my new series of cool things I have recently found/seen/read on the internet. I don’t suppose we need anymore introduction than that, do we? Continue reading Cool Things on the Internet #1

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2019 and a New Reads List

The best thing about the new year is signing up to a new Goodreads Reading Challenge. So far, over the last few, I have failed to complete a single year – or if I’ve got anywhere near I wouldn’t know as I’ve failed to log the books I’ve read.

There’s not much to the rules of the challenge to be honest. You input how many books you want to read that year and then, as you complete each one, you check them off on the GR app. It’s quite addictive, at least in the first couple of months as you rack ’em up and see you percentage achieved rise (I’m currently on 12% with six out of 50 books done).

Anyway, I love to read and I love to buy books even though I shouldn’t and I’ve got some real peaches in the immediate pile (anyone else got piles in order of importance?). Here are some of the ones I’m most excited for:

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

I mean, what a title. It’s also meant to be an absolute belter so bring it on!

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

I’m obsessed with this cover and even more intrigued by the subject matter. I think this is definitely next in line for me.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I’ve recently read Eileen by the same author (reviewed here) and it was gorgeous so this is a no-brainer. It sounds awesome:

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature.

Men without Women: Stories by Haruki Murakami

I’ve always been a big fan of Murakami but somewhere along the line I read too much of his work and needed to take a long break. I’m back in the game now after I read his little short Birthday Girl. There’s just something about his prose.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

A classic I’ve not yet read though I’ve devoured the film many times and adore it (boo Polanski). Cannot wait to dip into this deeply unsettling world again.

Help by Simon Amstell

I love Simon Amstell and find him very clever and funny. Darren and I have seen him a couple of times doing stand-up and that’s was enough to make me snatch this up as soon as I saw it.

From a complicated childhood in Essex to an Ayahuasca-led epiphany in the Amazon rainforest, this story will make you laugh, cry and then feel happier than you’ve ever been.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

I’m currently reading this bad boy and it’s started well with a definite The Woman in Black flavour (which is mentioned on the cover with a bi-line by Susan Hill). As far as I’m concerned you can’t lose with Gothic literature but I just hope this is good as I suspect it’s going to be.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel

I got the movie tie-in novel after seeing the very, very good movie adaptation on Monday night (review to follow). I loved Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel and frankly, I wanted more as soon as the credits rolled. So this is going to be a lot of fun. What an ingenious idea for a scam though.

Lee Israel’s hilarious and shocking memoir of the astonishing caper she carried on for almost two years when she forged and sold more than three hundred letters by such literary notables as Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, Noel Coward, and many others.

Adèle by Leïla Slimani

Slimani’s Lullaby (know as The Perfect Nanny in some countries) was dynamite. In turn beautiful, odd and shocking, it tells the story of how the perfect nanny came to murder the young children in her care. Adèle centers around a seemingly perfect wife, mother and career woman (of the same name) who leads a very secret double life.

~

I might have to cancel the rest of the month so I can get fully immersed. I will be reviewing as I go too so watch this space.

What are you reading?

Write the Book

“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” ~ Christopher Hitchens

There’s an old adage that suggests that every person has at least one book ‘in them’. I don’t know if this is true but I often think about whether or not I might be someone who does. My gut tells me no, absolutely not, that the fiction I love to read is way beyond me. I like dark and intricate plots – and I know I’d never have the attention to detail required to produce anything in this league. I struggle with timelines at the best of times (everything was the other day to me, even 1996) but I can’t imagine skilfully being able to foreshadow or call back to the exact moment a character turned from ordinary person to arch nemesis of the world.

For as long as I can remember my mother has been on at me to just “Write the book”. I believe I can write competently, it isn’t that I doubt that – I just don’t know if I have that something extra that she thinks I have. Writers are the most extraordinary people in the world to me. Take Stephen King, the man who wakes up every morning and writes a set number of words (1000) no matter what. Come rain or shine he throws his words on the page and something usually sticks. The man has produced some of the most memorable horror characters of all time. He’s built worlds that might look just like ours but are actually more horrible/magical/strange that we could ever imagine. Whether you’re a fan or not, this commitment is incredible – and it seems healthy and cathartic to me too. Perhaps I should try it, just open a Word doc every day and GO.

But if fiction is out of the question, then what? I haven’t enough true story in me for a memoir (I know that’s never stopped a lot of people) plus I’m way too young (LOL). Self help seems like a bit of cheek – who am I to believe I have wisdom to share with the world? This morning I had a Cadbury’s Crème egg for breakfast because “I’m ill”. I know about love, heartache and grief but so do most people. What on earth is my USP?

This is one of the million dollar questions that keeps me awake at night – what was I put on this earth to do, really? Perhaps that’s my pitch: ordinary 40 year old woman goes out into society to figure out her true purpose? Hey it could work. Failing that I’ll just whip up a book of my favourite filthy jokes, none of which are suitable for this blog post.

Happy Wednesday all!

UPDATE: I wrote this for my work blog and thought I’d share it here too.