What I’m Listening To: Podcasts #3

I love me a podcast as you know. I love making them and I love listening to them.

Say It Five Times podcast has been quiet for a while now. In fact, we have decided to stop doing it for now and probably forever. Not for any reason other than I had too much on at the time and I started to not enjoy it, which was the opposite of its purpose.

On reflection, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted either so I very much hope to be looking into refining and picking it up again in the New Year. Right now I’m thinking this will be with a fresh new name, outlook and mission statement. I’ll go into this in way more detail when I know more but for now watch this space, ‘cos I’ll be back and so will at least one of my co-hosts – and yes, we will still be more or less horror themed.

Eek!

In the meantime, here’s a little run down of what I’m listening to on my travels to and from work.

The Black Tapes

The Black Tapes Podcast is a serialized docudrama about one journalist’s search for truth, her subject’s mysterious past, and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both. Do you believe?

There’s something really likeable about host Alex Reagan and honestly, this podcast has brought me a lot of joy over the last couple of weeks. It is seriously spooky and there have been times I’ve been listening in the dark and then really wished I wasn’t.

Currently focused on the “black tapes” of paranormal investigator Dr. Richard Strand, which contain supposedly unsolved supernatural (or not) phenomena – and the personal life of the enigmatic man himself, whose wife went missing under mysterious circumstances – it’s seriously addictive.

You can learn more about the fictional series here.

Homecoming

Homecoming centres on a caseworker at an experimental facility, her ambitious supervisor, and a soldier eager to re-join civilian life — presented in an enigmatic collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions, and overheard conversations.

I accidentally stumbled across this one and stayed for Catherine Keener’s wonderfully familiar voice. I’m only one episode or so in so far but it’s a compelling story.

Heidi Bergman is a full-time waitress who has returned home to care for her mother whose health is failing. She used to be a caseworker for Homecoming though, a program designed to help soldiers who have returned from tour re-acclimatise back into their former lives. When she is approached at her new place of work, it all kicks off again – or so I’m expecting. Other voice talent includes Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer – and this six part radio series has also since been made into an Prime Original TV show starring Julia Roberts.

You can learn more about the fictional series here.

The Losers’ Club

The Losers’ Club is a weekly podcast for Constant Readers of Stephen King to dig deep into his oeuvre and the myriad TV, film, print, and stage adaptations of his work.

Gee, I wonder what this one has to offer me, a horror geek and Stephen King obsessive (but not purist)? LOL.

Again I haven’t listened to all the episodes but the ones I have I have thoroughly enjoyed. The most recent episode for me was an examination of Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep and was very detailed. Although my recent review was mostly positive, having had time to let the dust settle and listen to a couple of other opinions, I agree with a lot of what the hosts here say about what does and doesn’t work well.

So I Got to Thinking

A hilarious new podcast from bestselling author and journalist Juno Dawson and the editor of QX Magazine Dylan B Jones. Each week, the friends (and sexperts) rewatch the classic HBO sitcom Sex and the City and then attempt to answer Carrie Bradshaw’s soul-searching, and occasionally ridiculous, questions for the modern day.

Juno Dawson lives in Brighton and I really want to meet her. I love that this podcast re-examines beloved episodes of SATC from the start, pondering the earnest questions Miss Bradshaw herself is considering in each. With questions such as “Can woman have sex like men?” and “Is there a war between Singles and Couples?”, do they stand up in 2019?

Well the answer so far is sort of yes and kind of no, exactly as you’d expect. The episodes are really fun to revisit, particularly as an avid SATC fan and in the hands of these two brilliant hosts, it’s one of my current favourites. The good news is that there are tonnes of episodes still to be explored so this should go on for a long time. I also really appreciate the LGBT lens in which the hosts examine certain scenarios given their own life experiences.

No Sleep Podcast

The No Sleep Podcast is an anthology horror fiction podcast. WARNING: This is a horror fiction podcast. It is intended for mature adults, not the faint of heart. Join us at your own risk…

One of the things I love to do the most but have had to stop as my nightmares got a bit too much is to read No Sleep stories on Reddit. This is the audio version of doing just that and I am treading very lightly for the aforementioned reason.

There are too many episodes to go through by name but there’s bound to be something that taps into your personal fears and keeps you awake at night, why not give it a go?

There’s a helpful guide to getting started with No Sleep here.


And in addition to the five new blogs mentioned above, I am still finding time to slot in the regulars. I can’t let those slip for every new young buck that comes into view.

Also listening to: My Dad Wrote a PornoThe Guilty FeministCriminalHow Did This Get Made?The Evolution of Horror

What are your favourite podcasts?

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

I introduced you to my new favourite protagonist last week but I still want to talk about the full novel because I really loved it and devoured it in two days. For a Stephen King book it’s like a tasty snack rather than a main meal – and sometimes, that’s just enough to satisfy.

Tricia is lost in the woods. But she’s not alone . . .

The world has teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted. Trisha McFarland discovered this when she was nine years old. Lost in the woods.

Trisha McFarland is just nine years old when, on a hike with her mum and brother, she wanders off the beaten track and gets lost in the forest. Her family, too busy bitterly arguing to notice, don’t discover her gone until it’s too late. In mere hours, Trish is so lost that it doesn’t feel like she’ll ever see or hear another human being again. Although, judging from the creeping feeling she has, she’s definitely not alone out there.

While Trish stumbles through the woods, determined to find her way back to her old life, she imagines she is joined by her favourite baseball player, Tom Gordon and sometimes her best friend Pepsi. At night she grabs a few moments with her Walkman, catching up on the ball games and sometimes, news reports about her own disappearance. By day she eeks out the small packed lunch in her backpack but little by little she must rely on the basic survival techniques her mother has taught her.

As the clock ticks and the authorities fail to retrieve her, she believes she is being gained on by something not altogether human. If her fever dreams are anything to go by she has something new to fear besides starvation and eating the wrong berries: The God of the Lost in all his wasp-faced goodness.

Can Trish make it to the end of this horrible journey, despite all the bites, the sickness, the hunger and her mystery stalker? You bet your arse she can.

The book is incredible vivid and King, as usual gives us a very well-rounded central character to root for. He plays with reality a lot and again with the concept of self-preservation via an inner fantasy world.

While I couldn’t 100% be sure we’d get a happy ending – King has absolutely left me floored with the unexpected more than once – I was so satisfied by this ending. A definite recommendation from me if you fancy a quick but impactful read.

Book details:

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (19 Sept. 2019)
ISBN-10: 1529311128
ISBN-13: 978-1529311129
Bought Halloween edition paperback for myself

What are you reading?

I Wish I Knew How To Quit Boo – Stephen King Edition

I’ve decided to leave the rest of my year (and then some) open for Stephen King. Books, that is but if the man himself wanted to stop by and take me on a couple of dates I probably wouldn’t say no. Imagine the chat.

Anyway, the UK is a rainy grey place right now so what better environment in which to get cosy with The King? Loose jersey lounge wear, blankets and lashings of horror – it’s the only medicine I need. I’ve made a loose plan to read in tandem with my horror partner Matt but he’s already speeding ahead on our first book so we might have to go our own ways eventually.

Here’s what’s on my reading list:

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: Halloween Edition

Tricia is lost in the woods. But she’s not alone . . .

‘The world has teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted. Trisha McFarland discovered this when she was nine years old. Lost in the woods.’

Trisha has only veered a little way off the trail. But in her panic to get back to the path, Trisha takes a turning that leads into the tangled undergrowth. Deeper and deeper in the terrifying woods.

This is first on the list mostly because it’s considerably shorter than the others. I’m about 50 pages in and it’s a real page turner. Trisha is nine years old and sick of the arguing between her mum and brother, following her parents’ divorce. On a hiking trip, she takes just a second to have a pee and gets lost. Alas the woods is a big place for a small girl – and it seems she isn’t the only one out there…

TGWLTG is so far wonderfully (horribly) visual and real – and Trisha really feels like a girl her age, albeit a wise one. I like her a lot and I’m looking forward to the rest of her story. Please let her be okay!

Christine: Halloween Edition

Jealousy isn’t a green-eyed monster. She’s a red Plymouth Fury.

Christine, blood-red, fat, and finned, is twenty. Her promise lies all in her past. Greedy and big, she is Arnie’s obsession, a ’58 Plymouth Fury. Broken down but not finished.

There is still power in her – a frightening power that leaks like sump oil, staining and corrupting. A malign power that corrodes the mind and turns ownership into Possession.

‘This is the story of a lover’s triangle…’

Matt got me this last year for my birthday and I’ve been waiting for the best time to crack her open ever since. I love John Carpenter’s 1983 adaptation with the fire of a thousand suns so I know what I’m in for, though I’ve no doubt the book is going to pad it out wonderfully.

I love stories about inanimate objects coming to life and Christine is no exception. Plus, she’s pretty much my namesake, right?

The Stand

First come the days of the plague. Then come the dreams.

One of King’s bulkiest tomes and considered one of his all-time classics, I’m kind of nervous about starting it since I can barely lift it! My reading place of choice is in the bath so maybe I’ll be forced to rethink that.

I have a suspicion my plan to read Stephen King novels for the rest of the year is going to stretch well into 2020 thanks to this bad boy – but if Brex-shit does go ahead this Halloween, maybe a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel will be fitting. Bring it, Uncle Stephen.

Bag of Bones: Halloween Edition

He went to Dark Score Lake to confront his past. Now he might drown in it . . .

When Mike Noonan’s wife dies unexpectedly, the bestselling author suffers from writer’s block. Until he is drawn to his summer home, the beautiful lakeside retreat called Sara Laughs.

Here Mike finds the once familiar town in the tyrannical grip of millionaire Max Devore.

I know very little about this one but the premise sounds great. I’m excited to start digging in and might make this my next one. Like The Stand and Christine, it’s not a tiny book so will take some commitment.

Lucky for me I’m planning on dialing down the social side of things as we roll up to Halloween and beyond, so I have time. Lots of lovely nesting time.


Can we also take a moment to shout out the incredible 2019 Halloween Edition covers? Rose Madder in particular is a beauty. Even though I’ve read it quite recently, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to display this print on my shelf. Carrie and Misery are both on my birthday/Christmas wish list.

The Bag of Bones and Christine editions were realeased in Halloween 2018 and are just as beautiful. I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings!

What are you reading?

It Chapter Two

Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is back to terrorize Derry and there’s only one thing for our gang to do – come back and kill the fucking clown. A promise is a promise after all…

It Chapter Two

Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

You’ll Float Again

*Spoilers*

My Review

27 years after the events of the first film, we catch up with Bev, Stanley, Richie, Bill, Ben, Mike and Eddie as full grown adults, all doing their own thing outside Derry. Well, all but Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) who stayed to keep an eye on the small town and the unspeakable evil that lurks beneath it. When it becomes apparent that It – despite their victory against it last time – has not disappeared forever as they’d hoped, Mike is forced to call The Losers back together for a new fight.

None of the gang remember much except Mike, something has happened to their memories of the town they grew up in and the childhoods they knew. Most of all their summer of friendship is a blur. As they settle back into their roles within the group, these memories start to come back – and it’s not all roses. Mike must convince them to keep their vow to do what it takes to defeat It once and for all.

Unfortunately Stanley (Andy Bean) can’t join his friends – and in addition to the killer clown, the relentless pest Pennywise – the Losers also have to contend with their old bully Henry Bowers (Teach Grant), who’s just escaped the mental institution that has held him since he brutally murdered his own father. Can our pals evade a stab-happy Bowers, clear their minds and beat the shit out of the third creepiest clown in cinematic history before going back to their respective lives?

My Comments

I can’t go too far into the play by play, there’s just too much ground to cover. It is an epic story and it spans a lot of time. At 2 hours 49 it’s a beast of a movie and I loved it. I’ve seen in twice now and it’s full of all the wonder and magic and terror and nostalgia I needed. The film is imperfect and not all of it works but I’m delighted with the adaptation of a book that means a lot to me and I have no doubt that will grow with every viewing.

The effects are amazing if a little much in some places – looking at you naked hag – and the casting of the adult versions of the Losers is spot on. Particularly Eddie (James Ransone) and Richie (Hader) who steal the show with their chemistry (much as they did as kids). James McAvoy is obviously very easy on the eye and brings a solidity to Bill Denbrough, the unofficial leader of the gang. And Uncle Stephen‘s cameo was brilliant too.

Main man Bill Skarsgård nails PW perfectly. He’s really grown into the role – I particularly enjoyed the scene in which he manipulates a little girl by way of her physical insecurities (and then eats her). The scene in which the gang come together for the first time in a Chinese restaurant is also glorious – and hideous, in equal measure. I love how the film flashes between past and present day, perfectly morphing the adults back into children, pulling at our heartstrings as it goes. I can’t look at baby Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) without wanting to smoosh the shit out of him, he’s so vulnerable and precious.

“Your hair is winter fire
January embers
My heart burns there, too.”

I have beef too – mainly the way they used Bowers and his crew. In the book the human terror was just as prolific as the supernatural and Henry posed a massive threat to the gang. In Chapter Two he’s reduced to a secondary character and framed as the light comedy relief which is just wrong. His story line never really goes anywhere. Likewise, Bill’s wife Audra and Beverly’s husband are underused and the emphasis on Bev’s lifelong cycle of abuse is not very clear. I think it’s a key element of who she is and how she defeats her demons. As a result adult Bev isn’t very well-developed and Chastain is quite overshadowed by her adolescent counterpart.

It needs to mentioned that the movie opens with a horrendous homophobic attack. It is obviously incredibly difficult to watch – but I’m glad they didn’t shy away from including it in the film. It goes some way towards making the point that Derry is bad because of an inherent evil that dwells there (or are people just bad?). The image of Pennywise putting out a hand to help a drowning man is chilling to the core and the scene looks exactly as I imagined it in my mind.

There’s a lot of fat phobia – Eddie’s ma in particular is not treated very respectfully, while Ben was only hot once he got skinny and did some crunches (true the source material) but how good would it be for the fat dude to get the girl, no questions asked?

It is a mammoth book and it would be very hard to cover everything across two films, so I shouldn’t be too sore about the missed bits. I’m still delighted with what I got and I’m sad it’s over. It may be about fear and the birth of evil but it’s also the perfect ode of the kind of friendship you’ll always hold near, even if you lose touch. I cried my eyes out as the credits rolled (both times).

Now, what I wouldn’t give for a Pennywise backstory spin off!

Film details:

Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader
Director: Andy Muschietti
Year: 2019
IMDB Rating: 7/10
My Rating: 5/5

What are you watching? Have you seen It? What did you think?

Horror Remakes I Can Get Behind

Remakes seldom live up to the originals, that’s always been a given. Obviously there are exceptions. Not everybody would agree with me but I would say Evil Dead (2013) is a good example of that. Not better that its 1982/1987 parents by any stretch but as good and with enough of its own individuality to make it feel fresh.

I have high hopes for some horror movies coming up soon and regardless of how they turn out, I will be front of the queue for the following:

It Chapter Two (2019)

Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

Jessica ChastainJames McAvoyBill SkarsgårdBill Hader

I learned my lesson with Chapter One. Don’t go and watch horror films at peak times or your entire experience will be ruined. Regardless, I enjoyed the first movie and am super pumped for the second, especially given the casting. The adult Loser Club are back, exactly 27 years after the first movie, united by one awful telephone call.

Will they keep their collective promise to finish off Pennywise once and for all? Well, you may be familiar with the story and the Tim Curry adaptation so the ending might not surprise you all that much – unless the creators throw something new into the mix. I think the story is perfect as it is but I’m looking forward to being seriously creeped out.

The teaser trailer has really whet my appetite – and it captures Beverly Marsh’s (Chastain) visit to her childhood home perfectly.

Black Christmas (2019)

A group of students are stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break. A remake of the 1974 horror film ‘Black Christmas’.

Imogen PootsCary Elwes • Aleyse Shannon

I adore the original so I am in two minds about this remake. It doesn’t really need to be made, however a modern look at the subject matter could be very interesting (not that the original wasn’t progressive in its thinking in the first place). I just can’t forget that we’ve been here before and it wasn’t great.

There’s not much more I can add at this stage as I don’t know anything about it – but it’s coming this December and I’m all in. With fairy lights on.

Child’s Play (2019)

A mother gives her son a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its more sinister nature.

Aubrey Plaza • Mark Hamill • Gabriel Bateman

Chucky has forever been my homeboy so this is another one I approach with trepidation. I have high hopes that my boy is in good hands though – he joins a great cast, including Brian Tyree Henry, Plaza –  and of course, is voiced by Mark Hamill. It seems that Chucky has had a techno upgrade for 2019 which is kind of exciting and we do know he’s a Buddi doll, rather than the classic Good Guy.

Apart from that I’ve avoided the second trailer so as not to spoil anything. Recent horror movie trailers have really fucked with my experiences/desire to watch them (looking at you Pet Sematary/Brightburn).

Child’s Play opens tomorrow and I’ve got a ticket for Tuesday night. AKA learning my lesson and not going on opening night. Nice try, teenagers!

Grudge (2020)

A house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death.

Betty Gilpin • Andrea Riseborough • William SadlerJohn ChoLin Shaye

Again, I don’t know much about the 2020 remake and I didn’t even know there was going to be one until recently. The original is incredibly freaky with several truly terrifying (and often replicated) scenes so it never really needed a re-do – and yet, horror sweetheart Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s The Grudge 1 and 2 weren’t all bad.

Maybe this could be decent. I am always a sucker for haunted house horror and Andrea Riseborough is really good (hello, Mandy best movie ever made). We shall see.

Are there any horror movies you’re looking forward to?

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?

Pet Sematary

Sometimes Dead Is Better.

Pet Sematary (2019)

Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.

Starring: Jason Clarke • Amy Seimetz • John Lithgow

*Minor spoilers*

Which way to certain doom?

She won’t come back the same ~ Jud

Hmmm. I waited a long time for this updated adaptation and now it’s here, I’m not sure.

I mean, it looks good – let’s start there. There are a couple of really sweet SK nods that I appreciate. The house and the setting of the cemetery itself is spot on. I love the Wicker Man aesthetic of the local children in masks (even though they aren’t used at all, which is a shame).

John Lithgow‘s Jud is magnificent – but there’s a lot of character development missing for me. While they go in quite hard on the Zelda/Rachel story arc (which pays tribute subtly to another SK classic), they don’t pad out the family enough for me to give much of a damn.

Louis: loving life

Jason Clarke (good-looking Piers Morgan) is Louis, the tormented father with the power to bring his dead child back from the dead. He’s alright but I do feel the character could have been played by any slightly hot dude of a similar age. Rachel (Amy Seimetz) is actually quite good at times as she deals with the PTSD of her sister’s illness – but as with a lot of female characters in King’s stories, she isn’t given that much to do beyond look stressed out. A modern adaptation could of had her kicking more arse? (Just me?).

I also have issue with how easily Louis resurrects his daughter, Ellie (played by Jeté Laurence). In the book there’s much more examination of his moral quandary – and how much the decision plays on him. The film is only 101 minutes so we don’t have the luxury of spending too much time with the to and fro but still. I think perhaps having the book so clearly in my mind (I read it in the last year and loved it) hasn’t helped but slightly hindered my enjoyment.

There he is

I have to mention the trailer too! It gives so much of the film away that it really damaged things for me. Yes, I get that this is a story that most people know, either from the book or from the 1989 film but this version offers a different take on the story (sort of) by choosing to kill off a different kid. Had we not known that this was the case then ‘the scene’ would have packed quite the punch. While keeping our eye on Gage, we would have completely dropped the ball on Ellie.

I suppose the ending is different and it deserves a nod for that. It’s pretty dark and maybe I would have liked a bit more time to sit with that rather than just have it end. I can’t help think how good this might have been had they made it into a series instead.

All of the above said, Glynn and Matt enjoyed it much more and for some of the reasons I didn’t – so it really is down to a matter of taste. My verdict is: not terrible but ultimately, what was the point?

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

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.

Weekly Digest – TV Special

Yes, I watch a lot of television, what of it? There’s so much good stuff at the moment, how can I not be regularly getting my fix, it would be rude. Plus, I hate to miss out.

Here’s what I’ve been watching…

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1

I know, I know – I am criminally behind on this fantastic show but better late then never, right? My friend Helen has been vocal about her love for the show ever since I met her and thankfully, I have finally been able to set aside some time to rinse the first series. (And then text her at every available opportunity to report my thoughts).

Hello June Osborne! For the uninitiated, the IMDB synopsis:

Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.

Elisabeth Moss plays our titular handmaid, currently living with Fred and Serena Joy Waterford, otherwise known as The Commander and wife (Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski). There’s a revolution going on behind closed doors but on the surface, women no longer have any power, whatever their social standing – and it’s an incredibly difficult and though-provoking watch.

I’m not going into it too much because I’m only on episode 6 as we speak, and so much has happened. So many shocking and tragic things, and I need to sit with my thoughts for a while. But it is excellent, truly powerful and wonderfully crafted. The cinematography is mind blowing, with such subtle symbolism in even the smallest detail.

And the performances, well they’re all top notch but with stand-outs from Moss, Strahovski, Hereditary’s Ann Dowd, Alexis Bledel and beautiful Samira Wiley. No one character is truly good, nor truly bad – just human and trying to survive. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

HMT_101_GK_0912_0159rtcopy

Sharp Objects

A reporter confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder.

The HBO adaptation of Gillian Flynn‘s INCREDIBLE novel. I’ve been waiting for this for so long and it is fantastic of course, with really quite brilliant casting, in the form of Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson – and it’s made me revisit the book again, which I’m reading in tandem.

Exploring the topics of grief, motherly love, self-harm and mental illness, it’s a brutal but compelling tale of small-town mystery and I am loving every minute, frankly.

Sharp Objects’ central voice, Camille Preaker is a flawed heroine with many mental (and yes, physical) scars and even when she’s not pleasant (which is a lot), you’re on her side. Something Flynn does is write great flawed female characters and she does it damn well (maybe better than anyone).

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Castle Rock

Based on the stories of Stephen King, the series will intertwine characters and themes from the fictional town of Castle Rock.

This is another show I’ve been looking forward to ever since it was announced but I have to say, although the first two episodes opened well (if a little slow), I’m starting to struggle.

I will try to see it through though because there are elements I’m enjoying, not least all the references to some of my favourite Stephen King novels (SK also holds writer credits on the show).

PLUS, it boasts not one but two of my favourite actresses, I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore alumni, Melanie Lynskey and Jane Levy. Also It’s Bill Skarsgård and Moonlight’s André Holland. With a cast like that it can’t be rubbish, can it?

I guess only time with tell…

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And a special mention to this next one, which I’ve been going through the motions with for the last few seasons (the last one of which I can barely recall that much about) – but JUST GOT GOOD AGAIN!

*Spoilers for past seasons*

Orange is the New Black – Season 6

I genuinely feel sometimes that I will never forgive the OITNB makers for the way they played Poussey (who I’m currently watching as Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale, above). And although the last, mostly forgettable series used her death as the catalyst for the prison riot and a larger conversation about the treatment of prisoners within the system, it wasn’t quite as impactful as I’d have liked. I’m not even sure why because looking back there was a lot of action.

Certain characters are always great – looking at you Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) and Red (Kate Mulgrew) but then there are others that are criminally underused. Looking at you Dyanara (Dascha Polanco) and Sophia (Laverne Cox) (IMHO) and I guess it must be hard to give all characters the airtime they deserve but my god can we move away from boring Piper Chapman (admittedly always going to be central since the series is based on her memoirs). But still.

This season, however introduces two great new characters, sisters from Hell Carol and Barb who each run their own wing. While their story is dark as shit, there is joy to be had in two such deliciously bad and bitter rivals as they dominate their environments and promote bloody, petty violence.

*Spoilers*

Stand out strands for me are Taystee’s trial (with devastating results) and the kick ball head to head – while I’ve still got nothing but love for Gloria, Blanca and Suzanne (Uzo Aduba). Can we also give Laura Prepon‘s Vause more to do – because she could be GREAT.

Oh, and Daddy (Vicci Martinez) is very cute indeed.

Orange Is the New Black

What are you watching?

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.

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Emily Perkins (1990) ~ Sophia Lillis (2017) ~ Annette O’Toole (1990)

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!