Our Stop

What if you almost missed the love of your life?

Romantic books aren’t really my go to but I should probably give them more of a chance if Our Stop is anything to go by.

Nadia is a bright, dazzling woman who just can’t seem to get herself together in the morning, vowing every week to start afresh (How hard do we all feel that?). One Monday on the 7.30 from Angel, ragged but on time, Nadia’s BFF texts a copy of the paper’s Missed Connections page which seemingly has a message in it – meant for her:

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

Is she the cute girl? And if so, then who is the guy?

The guy as it happens is sensitive (and fit) Daniel, whose dad has just died. Daniel finds himself seeking comfort in the idea of Nadia and, at the suggestion of his flatmate, decides one day to do something about it. So begins a back and forth of epic proportion as the pair communicate via Missed Connections.

But when they try to meet IRL, they seem to keep missing each other. Is it really meant to be after all? Well, you’ll have to read to find out but… I think you have an inkling.

Our Stop really is delightful. Sure, it’s corny but as Iris is The Holiday says, and I often quote:

I like corny. I’m looking for corny in my life.

The central characters are likeable and I’ve a lot of time for the detail and ‘padding’ out that Williams’ has done with the supporting acts. I’ve a real soft spot for Daniel’s recently widowed mother, who has a meltdown over a stolen Henry the hoover – and Daniel’s new best friend, security guard Romeo. In addition to the will-they-won’t-they, we examine grief, the idea that we’re not grown up enough, new same-sex love, consent and toxic masculinity. You can tell it’s written by an intelligent and socially engaged author – and in places I really recognised her writing style from the posts I enjoy on Instagram.

There a couple of sections that stand out to me – Daniel comforting his mum when the hoover disappears (though we all know it’s not about the hoover), a chat about grief between two dudes at a Romeo & Juliet Secret Cinema event – Nadia educating Eddie on the brilliance of Nora Efron.

There’s a lot to like here and it’s a lovely Saturday afternoon, back in bed read.
Sure, as with most romance you have to suspend a little disbelief but isn’t that the point? Sometimes you have to be open to the idea of hope and that is what this is. Open your heart, put yourself out there and great things can happen.

I’m very much looking forward to the next novel from the same author.

Book details:

Our Stop
Publisher: Avon (8 Aug. 2019)
ISBN-10: 0008320527
ISBN-13: 978-0008320522
Bought new paperback for myself

What are you reading?

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?

The Girl Before You

She was his. She was perfect. And then, she was gone.

Alice Bell has always had a bee in her bonnet about her husband’s past. She doesn’t know it all but catches snippets here and there, about his reputation at University where they met and the few extra-marital dalliances he’s had since they married. Ones she has so far chosen to overlook.

On a train one evening from Edinburgh back to London, Alice swears she locks eyes with a girl from their past – Ruth, who went missing, presumed drowned at university over fifteen years previously. When she mentions it to George, he brushes it off and she’s not convinced he didn’t know her better than he’s claiming. Subsequently, she has no choice but to keep digging for the truth. Wouldn’t we all?

Is it possible that beautiful, vibrant Ruth is still alive and not dead as everyone assumed? 

The Girl Before You unpacks the truth bit by bit, focusing on newly pregnant Alice as she becomes a super sleuth, reaching out to Ruth’s younger sister Naomi, who has never stopped hoping that her sister will one day return. As Alice gets warmer on the case of Ruth, she’s left cold by the things she’s learning about her own husband. Will life ever be the same again? 

‘The new GIRL ON THE TRAIN’ Observer

This book is right up my street and I devoured it in one day. It’s like crack, actually impossible to stop dipping into whenever you can get away with it. It was the perfect Bank Holiday read and I feel a little bit closer to it somehow because Nicola Rayner is a good friend’s sister in law. The writing flows wonderfully and the back and forth between female perspectives, all women who knew Ruth, doesn’t grate as much as it has in other books. I sometimes feel cheated by this device when I love one or two of the characters and don’t care about another, but all three are sympathetic and fleshed out enough to feel real.

It also looks at some very real and very relevant subject matter, including gas lighting and sexual coercion/assault which isn’t easy to read but opens up some interesting dialogue between some of the characters. In my opinion it’s better than GOTT and is definitely on par with Apple Tree Yard. If you liked either of those I think you’ll be very much into this little banger. 

I can’t wait for Nicola’s next book.

Book details:

The Girl Before You
Publisher: Avon (22 Aug. 2019)
ISBN-10: 0008332738
ISBN-13: 978-0008332730
Bought new paperback for myself

What are you reading?

 

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?

Autumn Book Recommendation: The Little Stranger

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?

Book details:

The Little Stranger
Publisher: Virago (23 Aug. 2018)
ISBN-10: 0349011435
ISBN-13: 978-0349011431
Bought movie tie-in paperback (new)

What are you reading?

Rebecca (Book) Review

I know, I know, it’s criminal in some respects that I hadn’t read this before last month. It boasts everything I hold dear in literature (Gothic landscapes, strong women, drama, murder, suspense) and yet somehow I just never got round to it. It’s the same with Jane Austen, I feel close to the subject matter but I’ve never actually read any of it (sue me). But when I saw this cover I was sold immediately and a lot of friends weighed in to confirm that this is their favourite book of all time. Well, it was clearly time to pick it up and give it a go.

And?

Well! It’s one of the best books of all time, isn’t it? While I thought I might be predicting quite a lot of what happened, I can’t be sure I haven’t seen an adaptation and forgotten about it in my 40 year life. But it was magnificent and delicious – and above all, relatable. In the sense that haven’t we all, particularly as women in a patriarchal world compared ourselves unfavourably to others a thousand times?

That our heroine, the unnamed narrator and new Mrs de Winter is living in the shadow of a perfect and lovable ghost is heartbreaking, who could possibly compete? Thankfully there is always more to the story than meets the eye and the tale that unravels is classic and cool as fuck.

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Vintage Rebecca cover

In case you’re like me and have been happily chilling under a rock all your life, a cheeky little synopsis for Rebecca:

Our narrator, a naive 20 something companion to a rich American lady meets wealthy widower Maximilian de Winter in Monte Carlo. Despite her lack of life experience, the two embark on a swift courtship that results in marriage. Our nameless heroine soon finds herself back in England, living on Maxim’s sprawling West Country estate Manderley and the phrase fish out of water has never rung truer. Haunted by the ghost (figuratively) of Maxim’s first wife, the breathtakingly beautiful Rebecca, the new Mrs de Winter spends her time wandering the estate, wondering if she’s made a massive mistake.

While Maxim isn’t cruel per se, he is often aloof and Mrs de Winter puts this down to him still being in love with his late wife, who drowned in a tragic boating accident only a year before. She might even be able to get on with it if i wasn’t for the deliberate cruelty of bitchy housekeeper Mrs Danvers (surely stiff competition for Nurse Ratched as baddest villainess of all time), who adored Rebecca and relishes every tiny dig.

But as mentioned above, things are not always as cut and dry as they seem and there is plenty more drama before the book is over. Rebecca is an impeccably crafted, paranoid love story that will make you furious on one hand and desperately sad on the other.

What I enjoyed most is that it gives us a heroine who is cut from a different cloth. She’s mousey, angsty and nothing special as far as she’s concerned and yet she has the steel to stay and fight for what she wants and women like that don’t get enough airtime. Her scenes with Mrs Danvers are stressful and every time Rebecca is mentioned by a staff member I wanted to scream – let it go people, she’s dead!

I think this is a book that will just keep giving, an annual revisit sounds like the most comforting thing I can think of and honestly, I enjoyed every word Daphne has set down for me. And lucky me, our local Picturehouse Cinema is showing Hitchcock’s adaptation on the big screen in a couple of months so I’ll be all over that like a rash.

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Various covers for Rebecca, including the copy I have (middle)

Book details:

Rebecca
Publisher: Virago (16 July 2015)
ISBN-10: 0349006571
ISBN-13: 978-0349006574
Gifted paperback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Girl Gang: Stephen King Character Edition

Inspired as always by the brilliant Meghan Lightle and her Avengers Girl Gang, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the mighty female characters of Stephen King’s books. While some of his books are decidedly female-ccentric, it isn’t always the girls that get the glory. I’m here to round them up for my own personal girl gang needs.

Beverly Marsh

“I’m not afraid of you!”

Our Bev is a fighter and no mistake. A victim of childhood abuse at the hands of her father, she grows up to fulfill her creative dreams but still has to deal with the weak bullshit of men throughout her life. The only girl in the Losers Club, I feel like Bev could do with some girl power in her life, not that there’s anything wrong with the dynamic of that original squad (icky adolescent orgy aside).

Bev isn’t afraid to get stuck in when it comes to bullies nor stick up for what is right at all costs, and these are qualities you need in a friendship circle. Plus, she’s a ginger like me (in the book and most recent adaptation).

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Timothy Hutton and Amy Madigan (as Elizabeth Beaumont) in George A. Romero‘s The Dark Half (1993)

Elizabeth Beaumont

In The Dark Half, Elizabeth is a plucky and resourceful character who has to deal with an awful lot of upheaval when her author husband Thaddeus takes on his supernatural killer twin, George Stark. Stark is best described as other-wordly and not altogether human, born of the page created by Thad himself. When she finds herself caught in all the drama of Stark’s ‘birth’ (read the book), Elizabeth remains level-headed and pragmatic. She’s a mother lion ferociously protecting her twin cubs (twins run the family, what can I say) and she doesn’t suffer fools.

In all of Thad’s scenes I wanted to read more about Elizabeth, who deserves more than just a supporting role. More female central protagonists please, Mr King!

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Chloë Grace Moretz (2013) ~ Carrie cover ~ Sissy Spacek (1976)

Carrie White

“It was time to teach them All a lesson, time to show them… a thing or two!”

Okay, so Carrie is a little bit freaky deaky but she’s a talented telekinetic and how fun would that be? You could have her tip cups of coffee over mansplainers all day long with no come back.

Plus, how much did Carrie just need a damn good friend to stand beside her and say, You’re fine babe just as you are and these high school days, they mean nothing in the end? I’d take her under my wing and I’d just have to be sure I never upset her.

(Admittedly, the movie version of Carrie White seemed a little fluffier than the book version).

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Shelley Duvall (1980) ~ Rebecca De Mornay (1997) ~ Wendy Torrance fan art

Wendy Torrance

Mrs T is slightly irritating but she’s also a damn survivor and that makes her okay in my book. She’s quick to pick fault in her husband Jack but to be fair he’s not the nicest dude (in the book more so – he breaks his son’s arm even before he goes insane in The Overlook).

I think we’d get on because I know what it’s like to be in a relationship that has you walking on eggshells (past, don’t worry) and I kind of dig her kooky wardrobe. She seems like fun when she’s not stressed out.

Who’s in your gang?

UPDATE: A friend on Twitter pointed out that she’d choose Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne for not putting up with any shit from men and I realised I’d forgotten to add Rose to my list.

Dolores I’m sure is a worthy contender but I haven’t read her story yet, and can barely remember the film. So shout out to these two women who are welcome to join the gang anytime!

Weekly Digest

This week I am seriously digging:

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Atlanta, Season 2

The first season of Atlanta was so good, I feel like I’ve been waiting a life time for it to return. And now Donald Glover and friends (including the amazing Lakeith Stanfield) are back and it’s just as good as ever. Not only is deeply observational, it also has a lot to say about the state of the world, from the point of view of its mainly black cast.

It’s also funny as hell with some of the most off the wall scenarios (particularly episodes 1 (“Alligator Man“) and 6 (“Teddy Perkins“)). One of my favourites so far is episode 5, “Barbershop” which is pure perfection in its simplicity but is written so well and made me cackle all the way through.

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Killing Eve

I’m two episodes into this Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-written thriller and I’m frankly OBSESSED. Starring Sandra Oh, Fiona Shaw and always-flawless Jodie Comer as super-assassin Villanelle it’s already been pretty explosive.

Currently playing on BBC America it’s one of my most favourite current shows and I can’t wait to see how Oh’s Eve Polastri fares in her mission to uncover the identity of the woman knocking off several of the world’s most prolific people. What’s more this all feels very female and while we do meet your usual bullshit male bureaucrats, it’s very much the women who shine here.

Jillian, I think you will LOVE.

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This Jumpsuit (Above)

Look at this total babe in her orange kimono sleeved jumpsuit.

I can’t imagine myself looking half as good as this in it, however I still want to swan around in this in the warmer months, a straw bag swinging from one arm and my own statement earrings embellishing my ear lobes.

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Penguin Modern Collection

There are 50 books in the Penguin Modern collection and are only £1 a pop, so you can grab yourself some classics from the greats without breaking a sweat. So far I’ve got:

Fame by Andy Warhol
New York City in 1979 by Kathy Acker
Food by Gertrude Stein
The End by Samuel Beckett
Investigations of a Dog by Franz Kafka
Three Japanese Short Stories by Akutagawa and Others
The Breakthrough by Daphne Du Maurier
The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson
and The Custard Heart by Dorothy Parker

Not bad for under a tenner, eh? And they look amazing on the bookshelf or in my case, dotted around the flat.

What are you digging this week?

The Woman in the Window (Book) Review

I read this book in tandem with my friend Heather and it was so much fun. We both raced through it in a couple of days and compared notes as we went. This book is impossible to put down, something authors are always quoted as saying for the cover of novels but in this case it’s true.

Anna Fox is a shut in who hasn’t left her home for ten solid months. Currently living alone, Anna moves dreamily from room to room within her own safe haven, only stopping to overdose on old Hollywood movies and to watch her neighbours through the window.

When she’s feeling up to it, she also offers her support to people like her on an online forum for agoraphobics. As a former child psychologist, she knows what she’s talking about. Sadly Anna is too haunted by her own past and mistakes to be any good at taking her own advice.

When a new family moves in across the way, Anna becomes infatuated with their day-to-day movements. But when she witnesses something earth-shattering her life is tipped all the way over and she must fight to prove she’s not a crazy bitch making shit up.

I really enjoyed the character of Anna and felt desperately sorry for her at times. Trapped in her own home there’s not a lot of freedom for our protagonist but she’s a goddamn fighter. The concept of the bat shit woman imagining things is not a new one but I feel as though the pace and plotting of this novel lifts it above the rest. The prose is beautiful and the characterisation well padded.

My sympathy is with Anna and her family and even though I thought I could see it all coming, it kept me guessing until the end. As an avid curtain twitcher myself, I really appreciated the Rear Window-esque snooper in Anna and her love of black and white noir doesn’t hurt either. It’s incredibly Hitchcockian and that can only ever be a good thing.

I strongly recommend this to anyone who loves a thriller.

Book details:

The Woman in the Window
Publisher: HarperCollins (25 Jan. 2018)
ISBN-10: 0008234159
ISBN-13: 978-0008234157
Gifted hardback (new)

What are you currently reading?