I'm here today to talk books at you. I know, quelle surprise.
I am though, because that's what I do, and I want to chat a little bit about the brilliant Breaking the Lore, which was published in April, and is so much fun. It's part mystery, part fantasy and has been described as the perfect read for fans of Terry Pratchett, which, if that's you (oh hello best friend of mine, that's totally you) then you should totally be giving this book a go.
Guess what though, you don't just have to go with what I say today, because I've got an exclusive extract to share with you, which I reckon will totally whet your whistle and have you heading right out to your closest bookshop.
I'll give you a teeny bit of the blurb shall, I and then go smack bank into the extract...
Inspector Nick Paris is a man of logic and whisky. So staring down at the crucified form of a murder victim who is fifteen centimetres tall leaves the seasoned detective at a loss...and the dead fairy is only the beginning.
You're intrigued already, am I right?
Let's see how you feel after I've introduced you to Malbus, the talking crow...
Paris plonked his empty glass on the coffee table as he let out a long, slow sigh.
‘Needed that,’ he said. His living room’s only reply was the ticking of the clock. Quarter past eight, fourteen hours since he’d been called out this morning. Doesn’t time fly, he thought. And it hasn’t even got wings. He poured himself a refill and considered it for a moment. A cop on his own with a bottle of whisky was hardly an unusual occurrence. Some of them drank due to stress, or depression, or failed marriages. Paris drank because he got paid to. Years ago he’d hit upon a novel way of cracking cases. He would go home, gather his thoughts, study the evidence, analyse the problem – then lubricate his renowned logical brain to work everything out. This method had helped him to solve numerous complicated investigations successfully. So successfully, in fact, that these days his superiors not only knew his technique, they also supplied the alcohol. Of course, the more confusing the assignment, the more working out it required. Paris mulled over the current case. He reflected on the peculiar crime scene, the astonishing corpse. He sighed once more.
‘Looks like I’m going to need another bottle.’ The current one stood on the coffee table in front of him, half empty from previous nights. It occupied pride of place between the ashtray and the screwed-up takeaway wrappings. When she came to clean tomorrow, Mrs Doherty would tell him off. Again.
He plucked his cigarette from the edge of the ashtray. One deep inhale, one slow breath out, then sit back on the sofa. All day long, through mountains of paperwork plus interminable meetings, the mystery had gnawed away at him like a hyperactive beaver. Now, finally, some quiet time. Time to think.
It winked at him. ‘Right,’ said Paris, not fully comprehending what he was agreeing to. ‘Are you okay flying in the dark?’ A tapping sound interrupted the tranquillity. Paris turned his head towards the French windows. Long evening shadows of trees spilled in from the garden, with no sign of a person. The inspector got up and walked to the back of the room. He leant against the window to examine the gathering darkness. Nothing. The tapping came again, down by his feet. Paris peered at the ground outside. He could just about make out something moving in the gloom. Crouching down, he pressed his face to the glass. Two black eyes squinted back at him ‘What the hell?’ said Paris. ‘A bloody crow?’ He banged on the window. ‘Shoo! Clear off!’ The crow remained in exactly the same place, indifferent to the protests. Paris stood up to unlock the door. He opened it and waved his foot at the feathered nuisance. ‘Get out of here!’ The bird glared up at him. ‘That’s not very friendly, is it?’ Paris lowered his leg and stared at the creature. Had it really talked to him? In a broad cockney accent? ‘Did – did you just speak?’ ‘Course I spoke,’ replied the crow. ‘Do I look like a ventriloquist?’ It tilted its head to one side, peeking around him. ‘You letting me in then?’ Paris moved out of the way, holding onto the window handle to stop himself from falling over. The crow hopped past him, then jumped up and flew onto the coffee table. It appraised the lounge from its new position. ‘Not bad,’ it said, as it strutted around. ‘Even if the place does stink of curry. Bit boring, though. Bit functional. No cushions or photos or stuff. Never settled down, eh? Too busy with your career, I suppose. Know the feeling.’ It circled to face Paris, nodding its head towards his left hand. ‘Gizza fag.’ ‘What?’ ‘One of them you’re holding. Fag. Tab. Stick of death. Go on. Pretty please.’ Paris let go of the handle and stepped slowly across the room. He fumbled in his shirt pocket for another cigarette. Lighting it with his own one, he bent down, extending his arm so the bird could reach. It closed its beak over the filter tip and began to smoke. ‘Cheers.’ Paris moved round the table to his seat. He lowered himself onto the chair carefully, not taking his gaze off the strange entity in front of him. It appeared the same as every crow he’d ever seen; maybe half a metre long, with glossy black plumage and intense beady eyes. It smelt the way he imagined they would too; of grass and trees and eating from bins. But it sounded like an East End gangster. At least the damn thing had stopped talking, presumably while it concentrated on getting the cigarette going. Whatever the reason, Paris wasn’t about to complain. They studied each other warily for a few moments, neither of them speaking. Eventually the visitor broke the silence. ‘You seem kinda shocked.’ Paris blinked and shook his head. ‘Really?’ he said. ‘I’m talking to a crow who’s smoking a fag. So yeah, I’m a little surprised. This isn’t a conversation I ever planned on having.’ ‘Me neither. But you know how it is. Times change. Someone gets killed. You’re Inspector Nick Paris, right?’ ‘Think so. Unless I’ve become Doctor Dolittle.’ ‘Nah,’ replied the bird. ‘You’re still you. I’m Malbus. Saw you this morning, from up in the trees. Heard one of the uniform bods say Inspector Paris is in charge. Course, he didn’t say which detective he’s on about. I had to work it out. Your scientist man hadn’t turned up yet, so there’s a choice between two of you. And there’s a younger bloke, like mid-thirties, big and strong but dopey-looking. I figure it can’t be him. You gotta be the other guy.’
‘The one who isn’t dopey-looking?’ ‘The one who’s starting to go grey and getting a bit podgy. Couldn’t talk to you there, though, not with all those other folks around. And it took a while to find you afterwards. Had to do a bit of detective work myself.’ Malbus puffed away, blowing out smoke rings. Paris shook his head again, trying to take everything in. A talking bird. Smoking a cigarette. While criticising his appearance. Gradually his policeman’s logic overcame his confusion. And his indignation. ‘Someone gets killed,’ he repeated. ‘You said “someone”.’ ‘I’m using your language. What do you want me to call her? Anyhow, what do you think she is?’ ‘We’re still investigating.’ The crow leant towards him. ‘Yeah, yeah. What do you reckon? You personally.’ Paris evaluated the question. He knew how he was supposed to respond, even if he couldn’t accept it himself. In the current circumstances, however, the answer didn’t sound quite so mad. ‘I reckon,’ he said, ‘she’s a fairy.’ Malbus stood up straight. ‘You’d be right. Well done. Her name’s Daffodil.’ ‘You knew her?’ The bird ruffled his feathers in what looked like an approximation of a shrug. ‘Friend of a friend.’ Paris frowned. ‘I see. You acquainted with many fairies?’ ‘A few. They keep themselves to themselves. Now me, I’ll talk to anyone. Only not normally humans.’ ‘So why are you talking to one now?’ The crow hopped closer to him. ‘Because you need my help,’ said Malbus. ‘And we need yours.’ ‘We?’ ‘Yup. See, young Daffodil being put there on them two chunks of wood: it’s a warning.’
‘A warning?’ said Paris. ‘You mean like a reprisal for being an informant?’ ‘Not exactly. If they wanted her for talking, they would’ve stuck her head on a pole. This is much worse. It’s sending a message.’ ‘A message to the fairies?’ asked Paris, still struggling to believe this discussion was happening. ‘Not only them. To the goblins, the trolls – to all magic creatures.’ ‘How do you know this?’ Malbus looked at him. ‘I’m a talking crow,’ he said. ‘How magical do you want?’ Paris didn’t reply. The bird moved the cigarette round in his beak. ‘Your scientist bloke did brilliant this morning,’ he said. ‘Swiping a doll from the next garden, sticking some tissue paper on the back. Weird enough to make it worth calling you in, rubbish enough to be clearly bogus. Very clever way of keeping things under wraps. Course, me and you understand she ain’t a fake. So who do you think killed her?’ Paris hesitated. Discussing an active case was absolutely not part of normal procedure. This, however, was not a normal case. ‘I told you,’ he said, ‘we’re investigating. I presume we’re after one of those perverts who torture small animals.’ The crow nodded his head. Flakes of ash dropped onto the table. ‘Knew you would. This is why I’m here. You can stop hunting for anybody like that. Matter of fact, you can stop looking for anyone. Well, anyone human.’ Paris almost felt his eyes growing wider. ‘Not human?’ ‘This is what the message means. They’re called the Vanethria. And they’ve come to get us.’ Malbus paused. Whether for dramatic effect or simply to have another suck on the stick of death, Paris had no idea. Then again, he had no idea about a lot of things right now. His famously rational mind battled to cope with the current irrational situation. Questions flashed around his head, fighting to come out. ‘Y’see,’ said Malbus, before Paris managed to ask any of them, ‘we’ve been hearing rumours for a couple of weeks now. Things going on which got us a bit concerned, but you lot wouldn’t ever notice. Course, we wanted to check ’em out before we said anything. We were trying to keep things under wraps too. All out in the open now, though, innit? So this is where you come in.’ ‘Me?’ asked Paris. ‘What do you mean?’ The crow said nothing, and seemed distracted. He swivelled his head towards the French windows. Paris followed his gaze, peering out into the garden. He could see nothing except darkness. ‘What’s the matter?’ he asked. ‘Heard something,’ replied Malbus, without moving. Paris faced the bird again. ‘Never mind hearing things. You’re supposed to be telling me what’s going on.’ The crow turned back towards him. He took a long, deep drag on the cigarette. Then he exhaled slowly, as if savouring the taste. ‘’Fraid not,’ he said. ‘Didn’t have as long as I thought. Bugger.’ He leant forward, dropping the fag into the ashtray. ‘You better do some more detective work,’ Malbus said quietly. ‘Get on your interweb thingy. Find out about magical creatures. Everything you can.’ ‘That’s it? That’s all you’re telling me?’ ‘Yeah. I’ve got to go out there.’ He glanced through the open doorway into the garden. ‘Right,’ said Paris, not fully comprehending what he was agreeing to. ‘Are you okay flying in the dark?’ Malbus cawed. ‘I’m magic, remember? Night-time’s the least of my problems.’ He jumped off the table and flew out the way he had entered. Paris tried to watch him go, but the crow vanished into the blackness as soon as he left the room. Paris walked over and closed the door. He shook his head. ‘I am definitely going to need another bottle.’
April was cute. I liked it. It was also crazy busy and full of all the fun stuff.
What I did:
· The start of the month was the end of our ski season. I think we were in Cambridge which was lovely if cold. Not skiing, obviously, but travelling home. We basically just walked on the river, found a nice pub, got drunk and then marvelled at all the pretty old buildings. It was a nice time.
· My Mum and I hung out with Helen and Molly at the park. Molly taught us how to feed the ducks and then we had lunch. It was lovely. And then the day after that I caught up with another friend for brunch. We had kippers. They were so delicious but why are there always so many bones?
· I spent a lot of the month in physio. I thought I'd just hurt my knee but actually it turns out the whole right side of my body is a wreck. It's been so painful. So very very painful. However, whilst I do keep telling him he's torturing me, my physio is actually rather good at his job and I am feeling so much better so hurrah for that - although I fear it will take a while for my bank balance to forgive me. I added up the costs so far last week and made myself really sad.
· My friend Sue who I actually don't think I've seen for five years came up with her husband and children to Leeds to visit family (she lives in Norfolk) so one day I drove over after work. We all got food from Pizza Express and I got to meet her two children who are a delight, then Sue and I headed to a little bar where we had a much needed catch up. I love the friends who you can not see for years and then catch up with and feel like you've put the world to rights. It was like picking up where we left off and it was so so so nice.
· MBG and I went to Hebden Bridge for dinner and drinks. It's one of our favourite places and we had the loveliest times. I drank mango cider which was far too tasty and we laughed at the stupidest things and both wished we'd worn warmer clothes because let me tell you this: that was a cold Saturday night.
· Easter AKA 4 days off work and all the Mini Eggs. My bro was home for the weekend so Easter Monday was a family meal out which was nice. Easter also meant a beer garden Good Friday lunch, drinks with friends, physio on the Saturday morning (at 8.45am what even is my life...), fruity cider and a catch up with MBG's best pals, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday driving with the roof down, tapas, and more drinks with friends. It was a glorious weekend and I loved every second.
Helen, Dan and I saw Take That which was obviously most excellent. Forever and always a fan of that middle-aged boyband.
· MBG and I had a night in a hotel in Ramsbottom so we could eat birthday curry with my friend Jane and her husband. We ate too much and drank too much and there was a sauna at the hotel so that was a lovely time.
I went with my Mum to Ilkley, we did a bit of shopping and had lunch at Betty's and then watched The King and I at llkley Cinema which is my new favourite place to watch a film, especially when the film is one of my Mum's favourites. I love spending one on one time like that with my Mum. It was such a brilliant day. Also Betty's: lush. We took Fat Rascal's home for MBG and my Dad because we're kind like that.
Then, it was my birthday. I didn't work because I never ever do and basically just had a really lovely chilled out day which ended with cheese pie and gin & tonic and cuddles from MBG. 36 though: so not a fan.
April in 3 photos:
Bank Holiday sunshine fun times
your monthly Tango and Cash
I listened to:
Line of Duty. Bridget Jones' Diary, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, This is Us (I am so addicted to This Is Us, you don't even know.
Bookish plans for May:
I didn't get to Flambards, last month, so that, i thin. I also want to read Text Me When You Get home and I've got a proof copy of Goulash to read which I'm super excited about. I'm on my fifth book of the month already actually so if I manage these three also that will be an 8 book month which will be amazing. Also, I have Becoming on audio which I have started listening to at the gym.
Guys, it's my birthday today! Happy birthday me! I felt like I should celebrate my own self with a little Things That I Have Seen and Liked because, well, I haven't done one of these posts in an age have I, which is crazy, because trust me: there are always things that I am seeing and liking.
Let me share some of them with you now.
I am in love withthis Paris print. Partly because it has hot air balloons and partly because I am a little obsessed with all things Paris ever since our trip there earlier this year. I thought no city would ever top New York for me. I was wrong. Anyway, this would look super above my bed and I am so so tempted to order it in a giant size and just be happy about it forever. I love it.
Oh my goodness would you look at this. I have been after a cat cave for Tango and Cash for a while; I read that there's something about the lanolin in the wool that cats love and this is so gorgeous. I love it. I would put it in my living room and it would make me happy and make them happy and isn't that a win-win? Although I wonder if it matches my sofa. And my rug. Whatever, I'd make it work.
No, you have too many bookmarks and insist on using a scrap of paper to mark your place. These, though, are the prettiest I've seen in a while and if I'm honest I want one in every colour way. Absolutely lush. Also, they're like £7 including delivery. I have the tan animal print one already and it's gorgeous. Also, they will personalise them free of charge which is fabulous.
I'm a little crazy when it comes to bedding. I'm pretty sure it should be one set on and one in the wash. I have about 8 sets and always want more. At the moment I am drawn to this set, from Joe Browns. Isn't it excellent?
If you spend any time at all on bookstagram then you will be familiar with the TBR cart. They are everywhere and I have serious FOMO. I want one. I need one. I shall not be happy without one. I feel like it is vital to my reading life and isn't this one lovely? It would look brill in my reading room although I worry how the cats would treat it.....
I have, because I am that kind of girl, piles of books in my bedroom. It never looks tidy. I need a bedroom bookcase. I really like this one, and it's not too expensive and I think it would look cute at the end of my bed in-between my wardrobes I'm going to measure up and see if it will fit...
Those shelves, or some similar, would look fabulous with these bookends which I have been lusting after for ages. Although truth be told, I have so many books that bookends aren't really I thing I need. But still: cute.
Isn't this pretty? I rather like rings, but I don't really have many of them (I had a gorgeous mood ring but I think I lost it in a bar one night and I am sad) and I think this would be nice on my thumb. It's from a small English business too which makes it that bit sweeter.
Now there's every chance thatthis skirtis going to be way too long for me to ever wear but that doesn't mean I love it any less. How perfect is it for those summer days?! Love it.
I like Louise O'Neill; her Only Ever Yours blew me away and The Surface Breaks, her retelling of The Little Mermaid is really really excellent, so this book, which I got for Christmas, is a book I was looking forward to. Although looking forward to feels like the wrong phrase somehow because I knew what this book was about and I knew it was going to be unflinchingly brutal and I knew it was going to make me feel things, but I knew I wanted to read it anyway because I knew it would be good and I honestly genuinely feel like books like this one are important. Pop this on the curriculum alongside To Kill A Mockingbird please.
Seriously though: so unsettling.
Unsettling I think, because it's so horrifyingly believable. This isn't a book you like reading, that you enjoy, or actually get any pleasure out of reading, although please don't take that to mean O'Neill can't write because she absolutely can; this book wouldn't be what it is if she couldn't, and it has a kind of stream of consciousness feel to it which I absolutely loved but it's a book you kind of power through knowing even as it makes your skin crawl that you are reading something profoundly important.
At its core, it's a really fascinating and horribly real look at victim blaming and consent and rape culture and social media, telling the story of an 18 year old girl who gets horribly horribly drunk at a party and has no idea that she's had sex with several of the guys she knows until videos and photos are put on social media and go viral.
It's clever, because Emma, the main character, is not likeable. I mean seriously: 18 year old me would have thought she was a total bitch. The first part of the book, the set up, shows her as bitchy and entitled and hostile. She's pretty, she's the popular girl, i n fact she's the ultimate mean girl, cruel even to her best friends - and interestingly it turns out that one of her friends had non-consensual sex and Emma told her to keep quiet about it. Which, wow.
It's hard to relate to Emma and I loved that that's who O'Neill chose to tell this story - not some quiet lovely adorable girl with a heart of gold who never did anything bad to anybody ever, but this hostile cruel beautiful girl who gets drunk and goes to bed with strangers, who wants to be the girl all the boys notice, the girl all the boys (including her friend's boyfriend or the boy her other friend has a crush on) want. She has casual sex, she drinks a lot, she treats most people in her life like shit, and the thing about it that sure she;s fictional but also, Emma exists. There are people like Emma everywhere and that's what makes this book so terrifyingly, heartbreakingly fascinating: would Emma have been treated differently if she'd been a nicer person; would people still have said she was asking for it if she hadn't been the one to instigate sex with one of her perpetrators previously; would people have been more willing to accept it was rape if she'd been sober enough to say no?
That's the point of this book: just because you wear a short skirt, because you like to have sex, because you make the first move, because you go out every weekend and get blind drunk and go home with a guy you just met, that doesn't mean you've given up your agency, that your right to say no has been revoked, that a load of guys can take turns whilst you lie there barely conscious and put the evidence on Facebook, that you were asking for it.
How many times have we heard that phrase though, she was asking for it.
When I was at school the word slut was thrown about lightly, you were a slut if you dressed provocatively - you were asking for it; you were a slut if you slept around, and whilst boys would give each other high fives in the corridors for the number of girls they'd slept with, girls were called slags in black marker pen in the toilets. Reading this book just made me hopelessly sad - it made me sad because this happens. It has happened, it is happening, it will continue to happen and it's so easy for me to sit here as an almost 36 year old woman and be angry but that doesn't change the fact that these are the attitudes of our society - you're not going out dressed like that - these are attitudes that are so ingrained that it scares me that they might never ever fully go away.
We, as women, can't go out and get as drunk as men do, we can't have no-strings sex and not be judged for it, we can't dress how we want, look good, flash the guys a smile, flirt a little maybe. We should be able to, we like to pretend that we can but we can't. I mean, for crying out loud, upskirting only became a criminal offence this month.
It's testament to Louise O'Neill's ability as a writer that she creates this character that you do not like and that she makes you sympathise with her - and oh my gracious did I sympathise with her. At times this book made me so angry, made me hurt so much it made me queasy. Emma's parents in particular made me so cross I wanted to throw thingsand I kept trying to find a way to see things from their point of view and I just couldn't. As for the ending. Oh my God the ending. Also, if you want to talk about things in this book that made me so sad then we should talk about the ending. Oh, the ending. Except we won't talk about it because spoilers, but know this: it's so believable it hurts.
This book, basically, that is beautifully written and more honest probably than any of us are comfortable reading, is a triumph.
Happy Thursday. & happy beginning of the Easter break. It's been a week hasn't it, this one? Everyone in my office has had some weird kind of not-quite-ill bt also not-quite-fine kind of lurgy so we've all been pretty miserable, and I've been at physio / the chamber of torture twice and generally it's just felt a tiny little bit gloomy. I'm so so ready for a long weekend you don't even know.
However, that's not why I'm here. I want to talk about The Carer which is the shiny new novel by Deborah Moggach, out this summer.
This book read itself. Clever book is clever.
By which I mean, it was so easy to read that it didn't feel like reading at all, and I just kept turning the pages until eventually I had to force myself to put in a bookmark and go to sleep. Not a page-turner in the traditional 'oh this story is so gripping and so exciting I must keep reading' sense of the word but a page-turner in that I honestly didn't realise how much I'd read because reading it was so easy and it felt so familiar and I got in bed at half past nine to read til ten and suddenly it was quarter past eleven and if that's not a mark of good writing then I don't know what is.
I had high expectations going in, I'm not going to lie; I mean, Deborah Moggach is the genius behind The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel so this book had to be good, right? (She also wrote, among others, Heartbreak Hotel and Changing Babies both of which I read in my late teens and early twenties and both of which I also loved, FYI.) It had to be funny and clever and subtle and full of characters that make your heart hurt, right?
Fear not pals, it absolutely is all of those things.
I loved it.
The story is that, primarily, of Robert and Phoebe - their Dad is rocking on a bit and struggling to fend for himself since their Mum died. They both have lives of their own - Robert, in the city, with a famous wife and two children and a novel to write, and Phoebe, in Wales,with a not-boyfriend in a cabin in the woods and art that isn't selling, so they employ Mandy, the carer of the title.
Mandy is wonderful and Robert and Phoebe love her - more importantly so does their Dad, suddenly finding joy in the simple things his particle physics loving former self never would - until, as it happens they feel like perhaps they don't love her all - their Dad seems to be slipping away, becoming old and unrecognisable before their eyes and Mandy 'says it as she finds it' (and we all know the truth hurts like toothache) and little things just don't seem to add up. Something, it seems, is afoot. Their mutual mistrust of Mandy brings the two of them closer than they've been in years but also causes old resentments to resurface, the likes of which you might expect them to have moved past by the age of 50 but hey apparently not and it's just this lovely, intelligent, warm look at families and sibling rivalry and aging and how all children - even the grown ups - still need to grow up (and still need their parents).
It didn't go where I thought it would actually which was most excellent, because about halfway through I was thinking all of these things and thought I had everybody all figured out and was sort of sighing along, because oh Mandy, oh Robert, oh Phoebe, oh heck, but OH NO I WAS WRONG AND YOU SHOULD NOT ASSUME JOSEPHINE because the story is turned entirely on its head.
I liked that, though, because this is a character driven story rather than a plot driven one and yet Moggach still managed to make me gasp with her plot twist even though I thought I knew these characters so well already. Masterful, actually, is the word I'm going to throw around here and trust me when I say I don't do that casually. (Using words like masterful also makes me feel like a proper book reviewer so you know, there's that.)
I loved the structure, how the book was split into 4 parts, with a split narrative also. Always here for a split narrative as long as it doesn't lose itself (it doesn't) and I loved getting to explore Phoebe and Robert so thoroughly, getting to see how they tick and why they were the way they were. There are time jumps also which mean we get to see Robert and Phoebe's Dad in his prime which is really important to the novel as a whole, and then, just when you think it an't get much better, a letter is uncovered and we all know how I feel about an epistolary story.
Basically, this book is just so well done. It's clever and sensitive and a really lovely look at familial expectation.
It's a gorgeous read, and if you've got a sibling, and parents, or indeed any experience of ageing and / or relationships then this book is for you.
It's out in July - I was lucky enough to be sent a proof for review - but you can preorder now and honestly, if you have a holiday planned for this summer (and even if you don't) then you totally should.
Quickfire Reviews is a thing I do very sporadically when there are books to talk about that I should have reviewed but haven’t. I don't think I've done a post like this since January, so I figured I'd pour a gin and have a little chat with you about some books I've been reading lately.
What’s it About?It’s about Catwoman. Ha. This is one of the DC: Icons series, it;s a Catwoman origin story by Sarah J Maas (others in the series are by Leigh Bardugo and Marie Lu) and it follows Selina Kyle as she escapes from Gotham's slums and returns as Catwoman. There's also Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Batwing.
What I likedI love a good superhero. I just do - ever since I used to steal my brother's Marvel comics, I've always been a fan of superheroes, and this, basically, is that. It's a fun read. I'm not big on DC Heroes - apart from Arrow which I love because Stephen Amell takes off his shirt - so I'm not one of the many people that are angered by this version of Catwoman because other than the cartoons I watched in the 80's I have no comparison to make; I quite liked her. I also liked the Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy story and the reference to Nyssa Al Ghul who I know from Arrow.
What I liked LessAlthough she's undeniably readable, I'm not a fan of how Sarah J Maas writes. Does that make sense. I read her stuff and I do enjoy it, until I think about it and then I am annoyed (although there was less purring and ess unnecessary sex than I expected so that's a bonus) Selina here is so much Caelena from Throne of Glass that's it's almost funny. I don't like Batwing. Where was Batman? And the Selina/Luke thing was weird.
What’s it About?S'a little novella that slots between The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. Basically a letter from Taryn to Jude.
What I likedI don't know if you know but I love this series and as with all books I love I am always hungry for more, so when people write these little companion books my heart signs because they give me some of the 'more' I long for. This is a cute filler story that fills in some gaps and answers some questions and gives a perspective other than Jude's and I like that a lot.
What I liked LessI still don't like Taryn and this letter, which is basically just her trying t justify why she's a dick did not make me like her any more than I did to start with. Locke is a dick and Taryn is a dick and that, is that.
What’s it About?Arty has alway lived in a totally off the grid clearing somewhere in South India. When some weird virus takes down her entire family she has to venture out into The Real World for the first time in 17 years...
What I likedA bit like when I read The One Memory of Flora Banks, I loved the concept of this - the whole living off the grid thing in what could be described as a 'cult-like' community and never having known anything else, ever, is fascinating to me. I liked the concept, I liked the story, I liked the stuff set at The Clearing, I liked the twist although I did see it coming, I liked Arty. I flew through this book also, which is a good sign. It's an easy read.
What I liked LessIt was so unrealistic I just couldn't handle it. My eyes rolled so far into the back of my head that I gave myself a migraine. Arty has lived in a clearing for 17 years. She's never seen a car, or a television or used a mobile phone and somehow I'm supposed to believe that within days of leaving - days after, also watching her entire family die - she's picked up on the foibles of the modern world so well that she's ordering herself a coke in a cafe and knowing how to pay for it, she's catching trains and planning to catch planes and she's throwing around words like selfie and it's just so unlikely. Also she got herself a convenient celebrity friend who conveniently solved all her problems and just...no. Also the ending tied everything up way too nicely to be realistic and THAT ONE THING at the end, again: no. May I suggest Lisa Heathfield's Seed instead?
What’s it About?The sequel to Vicious which I loved so much I cannot even tell you. With a jumping timeline it follows on from Vicious keeping us up to date with Syd and Victor and Eli and new character Marcella
What I likedSo I said when I read Vicious that these books are a little bit like a Professor X / Magneto origin story except not at all, all extraordinary powers and blurred lines and anti-heroes and I am so so here for it. I love this book so much. I love this series so much. Eli and Victor are delicious and I want to just love Sydney because kid just needs a hug and Marcella, the wronged wife with new powers is everything and basically I inhaled this book and now I want to read the whole series again. It's gripping and fascinating and funny and so so tense. It's brilliant. Do you like The X-Men? Then you really need to read these books.
What I liked LessIt is over. Let's just pretend it isn't.
Ah March, how happy happy happy you made me. To be honest, though, any month that both starts and ends with a holiday has got to be a good one, am I right?
What I did:
· The start of the month was the end of our February ski trip, which I talked about in my last wrap up: mountains and My Best Guy = perfection.
· One of my littlies had her first dance show in March so that was a lovely time, followed by Thai food with MBG. Always with the Thai food. We have a bit of a Pad Thai related problem, truth be told.
· I went out with some friends – we went for tapas at our friend’s bar and then to one of the local theatres where they were showing Mamma Mia on a big screen complete with falling confetti and live music. There was prosecco and dancing and it was a fabulous evening.
· I spent a day with my Mum, Auntie and Granny doing crafty stuff which was low key and lovely. I do not excel at the craft stuff, but it was good to spend time with them.
· I had brunch with Helen and Molly – and Dan too actually, which was a lovely time. Molly’s reaction to the black pudding on her plate was hilarious.
· And then I went on holiday again.
· I spent a day skiing in La Plagne with my pal Jane and her husband and two gorgeous girls. It was one of those perfect days – we skied and laughed and danced and drank and when the 4 year old was asked what was the best part of her day she said it was My Best Guy helping her put her skis on. Too cute. Chair lift selfies galore, guys. & vin chaud.
· MBG and I then spent two days skiing in Val D’Isere and Tignes. It was perfect: blue skies and good snow and so so quiet we often felt like we had the mountain to ourselves. I finally finally skied The Face black run in Val D’Isere which I am super proud of as I couldn’t have done it even last year. I was terrified at first, but I loved it. I had the biggest grin on my face by the end.
· We had an amazing pizza of dreams at a cute little bar in a lil town called Saint Foy.
· We headed home via a town called Troyes which we immediately fell in love with, all old timber buildings and prettiness. We drank a lot of fruit beer and sat outside IN T-SHIRTS. This is remarkable as it’s been like winter again in England. Brrr. It was minus one yesterday morning when I got in my car. What even?
· Back in England we had a night in Cambridge – again, fruit beer and fruit cider and pretty old buildings. Less of the tshirts. See above re temperatures in England.
March in 3 photos:
Finally got to ski with these guys!
Happy smiling CashCat
Troyes, where we drank fruit beer and were happy.
I listened to:
Not much actually – a bit of Queen on the road trip home. Lots of French radio!
Marvellous Mrs Maisel. Grace and Frankie. Glee. The Good Fight. Arrow. Line of Duty. The Grand Tour. Dumplin’. Queer Eye. How to Get Away with Murder
Bookish plans for April:
I’ve already read Nevernight and I was sent a proof of The Carer by Deborah Moggach which I have almost finished. I want to read Asking For It as my ‘off my bookshelf’ book which I got for Christmas off my parents and then I have Paradise Lodge to read on my Kindle along with an eArc of Reasons to Be Cheerful. I also have Diary of a Drag Queen to get to and for some reason I really want to reread Flambards. We shall see how much of that I actually manage. Ha. I did 7 last month so I’m hopeful!!
“He said, "I'm going to use that in something one day." And he wrote it down on a napkin and put it in his back pocket. I thought to myself, "What the hell makes you think I'm not going to use it in something once day?" But, of course, there it was in his next movie. That's how it was back then. I was just supposed to be the inspiration for some man's great idea.”
Oh my goodness let's sit down and chat so that I can tell you all about this book that I am in love with called Daisy Jones and the Six. Honestly. I have never ever read a book quite like this one.
“You have these lines you won’t cross. But then you cross them. And suddenly you possess the very dangerous information that you can break the rule and the world won’t instantly come to an end. You’ve taken a big, black, bold line and you’ve made it a little bit gray. And now every time you cross it again, it just gets grayer and grayer until one day you look around and you think, There was a line here once, I think.”
It's a couple of weeks since I finished reading and I am still thinking about this book because it was so much fun.
Here's the thing. Taylor Jenkins Reid has written a lot - and I'm aware of her but I've never read any of her work so when I read the blurb for this, and saw it was by her I was super keen to get involved. I am also super glad I did. I loved it.
I LOVED IT.
So the deal, if you haven't read this book already is this: Daisy Jones and the Six are a fictional band from the 1970's. Think....Fleetwood Mac maybe, or The Rolling Stones with a female lead? Thing big. Think a big 70's rock band at the height of their fame. Imagine that all coming crashing down. Then, imagine that same band, perhaps some 30 years later doing a Behind the Music type tv show where all the members and their friends etc are interviewed separately so you get all these conflicting ideas about what their fame looked like and how it all fell apart. That is what this book is.
It's SO CLEVER.
It's written as a transcript - between an interviewer and whoever they're interviewing at the time so it moves back and forth between the members of the band and their manager and their significant others and it slowly builds up this picture of this group of people thrust into the limelight and it is extraordinary. It's kind of odd, because the way the story is told means it's all dialogue - you get very little description, you get nothing actually, other than the words of whoever is talking at the time and it does take a little bit of adapting to but once you do oh my God. I was lost I was totally caught up in the story of these people and this band and the real life sex, drugs and rock'n'roll lifestyle they were living. It's intoxicating. You follow them through their career, and, for a big part of the book they're working on this album so you get to know how all the songs came to be and then at the end of the book all the song lyrics are there and I am still dizzy with excitement.
“We write songs about women. Women will crush you, you know. I suppose everybody hurts everybody, but women always seem to get back up. You ever notice that? Women are always still standing.”
It touches on big themes: substance abuse features heavily if that's a trigger for you, as does abortion and infidelity, but it's also strong and unabashedly feminist and the characterisation is spectacular and the relationships these people have with each other are so complex and so raw. It's not dark a and heavy and brooding book even though it has a couple of dark themes. It's just....it's what a good book looks like, it's clever and original and refreshing and can you tell I loved it. I'm not going to lie: I am such a fangirl for this fictional band. Give me all the band t-shirts, give me the merchandise, let me spend my money on the most expensive tickets to their tour because YOU KNOW I WOULD. I am such a groupie. It's being made into a mini series apparently and WOW, this book was made to be adapted and I cannot wait to see what they do with it, I can't wait to meet Daisy, and Billy. I cannot wait to hear those songs. This book is special, people, and I have already bought two copies to give as gifts.
“Let me take this opportunity to be clear about one thing: I never slept with David Bowie. At least, I'm pretty sure I didn't.”
This series though. I mean seriously what am I even supposed to do with myself whilst I wait for book three?
This is why I like to be late to the bookish party sometimes: if you start a series once everybody else has read it and the whole thing has been written and published then there are no cliffhangers that leave you wanting to throw yourself off a cliff and you can just binge read the whole thing and bask in the glory. Case in point: the Grishaverse which I read in its entirety earlier this year with no drama and no waiting and no finishing any of the books and wanting to cry because NOW I HAVE TO WAIT because they were all just there waiting.
I've just read The Wicked King and I want to cry because NOW I HAVE TO WAIT.
Also damn these books for getting so deep into my faerie loving heart.
“The three of you have one solution to every problem. Murder. No key fits every lock.” Cardan gives us all a stern look, holding up a long-fingered hand with my stolen ruby ring still on one finger. “Someone tries to betray the High King, murder. Someone gives you a harsh look, murder. Someone disrespects you, murder. Someone ruins your laundry, murder.”
So. This is the sequel to The Cruel Prince which I read last year and basically this series is just so cruel and wily and spiteful and I love it. If Slytherin were a series of books it would be these and I'm not even joking. The Wicked King is set 5 months after the jaw-dropping finale of The Cruel Prince and it follows on perfectly. Jude, our mortal in the faerie world, has succeeded in getting Prince Cardan on the throne in order to keep her little brother off it, and she rules through him with secret control - but only for a year and a day - and time is ticking away fast. Prince Cardan doesn't much like being ruled by Jude; other people don't much like having Prince Cardan on the throne. There are alliances and betrayals and all the royal court dramas you could wish for and it is just one thing after another leaving you reeling and so so invested. I was drained by the end of it: so much happens so quickly to these characters I found I wa entirely entranced by and it left me exhausted in the best kind of way.
Like book one, The Wicked King is full of mind games and twists and people being all too happy to put a knife in somebody else's back and I swear, it is the most fun - despite the aforementioned exhaustion. This book could have been slow, and lost - the way that middle books are, sometimes, but oh my goodness it is not. I actually think I preferred it to The Cruel Prince if I'm being honest. Nobody likes anybody and there are power games a plenty and so many things that you (or I at least) did not see coming and don't even talk to me about the world-building because it is sublime.
I am so here for the thing going on with Jude and Prince Cardan too because I can't help it, hate-to-love is a trope I can't help but love and it's done so well here. Don't get me wrong, this relationship is probably about seventeen shades of toxic and these two probably are not good for each other. And yet. And yet. I can't figure them out, they can't figure themselves out and the weird distribution of power is massively toxic but wow I ship it.
“Tell me again what you said at the revel,” he says, climbing over me, his body against mine. “What?” I can barely think. “That you hate me,” he says, his voice hoarse. “Tell me that you hate me.” “I hate you,” I say, the words coming out like a caress. I say it again, over and over. A litany. An enchantment. A ward against what I really feel. “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.” He kisses me harder. “I hate you,” I breathe into his mouth. “I hate you so much that sometimes I can’t think of anything else.”
Also the end.
Did I mention how the end made me want to cry because NOW I HAVE TO WAIT. I am so so ready for Queen of Nothing. So ready.
This post is amusing to me for a number of reasons, the main one being that I never thought I would write a blog post about practical boots.
I love shoes. Really really love them. I am such a sucker for a lovely pair of shoes - I've been collecting Irregular Choice shoes since I first saw a pair in a shoe shop in 2008, an expensive habit that is currently on hiatus. I have numerous pairs of Converse pumps and espadrilles from Toms and I find it impossible to walk past a shoe shop without stopping to look longingly in. They can entirely change an outfit can't they, shoes? Make it from nothing into something and I'm known in my circle for always having excellent footwear - my boyfriend's best friend looks right to my feet as soon as he's said hello whenever we're in the pub. So given my love for beautiful shoes it seems odd that I should be here to talk today about my winter boot recommendation.
And yet here I am.
Thing is, winter is a thing here. I do not live in a place of endless summer, and, we ski which means we spend a fair bit of time in the mountains and there's a fair walk from the apartment to the bar at night so a decent pair of boots is a must.
The ones I've had the last few years are these.
Winter boot of dreams. And looks even better worn in.
They're by Salomon and My Best Guy bought me them for Christmas a few years ago; I think this is their third winter and they're still pretty good. They look pretty good and they're warm and comfortable and have a decent sole. Everything you want, really, in a boot. I love them. If you need a good solid decent boot for the colder months then these - or whatever this season's version of them is - would serve you well.
I think this is the 2019 version of the Salomon boot I have.
The thing is, is that they are a little bulky and also, this is me: what I put on my feet means a lot to me and I wanted a change. I've worn these for two whole winters now and I fancied a change, I wanted at least, an option. Something also that I could wear on the less cold, cold days. I was on a new winter boot search.
When we were getting out skis serviced at Christmas I fell in love with these and wow who even knew Moon Boots could look so good?
And then a day or so later I saw these by Sorel. Again. SO nice. Seriously, these are lush in real life.
However at £150 a pair they were both more than I wanted to pay and also, with the Sorel ones, not all that different to the boots I already have. (I did some research though and they're both really good boots so you know - get them, let me live vicariously through you!)
In the end, I plumped for these.
The Out'n'About boot from Sorel. I GOT ME SOME DUCK BOOTS.
I cannot tell you how I love them.
Look at them - they're a bit quirky aren't they, which is a thing I like in my footwear. I think they look really outdoorsy-stylish. They come just above the ankle bone which makes them look and feel a little lighter than my Salomon's: when we decide to go out for a nice meal on a ski holiday I can put these on and feel a little more dressed up than I do in my big hefty boots which is exactly what I wanted; they look less like a winter walking boot and more like a funky casual active boot. They're chelsea boot height and I love me a chelsea boot. But they're still practical. They're warm - canvas lined - and they're fully waterproof and the grip on these babies is better than on my other boots which is a bonus in the snow and they're so so comfortable. So comfortable. They have a moulded footbed and it's fabulous. They look good with jeans and they look good with leggings - put Sorel Out n About into Pinterest and see you for yourself - and basically, I am just so besotted and at £70 they are are less than half the price of any of the others I've looked at. They are so cute - and just what I wanted, a boot for when you don't want to go full winter but you need something a little bit more. I've hardly had them off my feet. GET YOURSELVES SOME DUCK BOOTS.
Also I don't mind telling you that there's a tiny part of me that thinks she might like these, I'm just not sure I can pull them off: