I’m finally reading Stephen King’s IT. Yes, aged 39, I have finally decided to dip my toe in Pennywise the Clown’s rancid world.
Although, it should be said that I no longer have one foot poised precariously over the swamp that is the town of Derry. I am now fully submerged, head and all.
Stephen King’s novels were not part of my childhood. I’m quite sad about that, especially when I hear people I love talking excitedly about his stories and how they built a foundation for their love of horror during their formative years.
I was more of a Jackie Collins’ kind of girl, getting all my sex ed from Hollywood Wives. As I developed a love affair with books, my tastes became much darker and I read a lot of Dean Koontz, Shaun Hutson (Slugs, anyone?) – Stephen King style writers, basically. But not actual Stephen King. Where’s the sense in that?
I watched a lot of his films though (including 80’s IT) and maybe there’s a clue there. Maybe watching was easier for me, so I didn’t feel the need to pick up the paperbacks. I’ve corrected that in adulthood but I’ve still only read a handful. It was running joke in our house for years that Glynn would always ask me, “Have you read Pet Cemetary/Thinner/Dark Tower?” and I’d be all, “You know I’ve only read Needful Things.” Now I’ve added Rose Madder, The Shining, Doctor Sleep and almost IT to the list.
(So far I think IT is the most powerful, though I loved The Shining too. Oooweee!)
Back to this story though. IT is the tale of a maniacal clown sure, one who can manifest himself into anything horrifying that frightens a person (there’s even a shark in the novel, who swims serenely up the river past a terrified secondary character). It’s about a rotten to the core town where things turn evil and twisted, every 25 years or so.
But at its heart it is also about friendship, grief, letting your freak flag fly, overcoming fear and bullies – about getting out of an awful situation and then going back because you made a pact when you were twelve.
It’s about hope for a better day, one without evil. Man, sound familiar?
This is not a review. I haven’t finished the book yet, and I dread the day I do. I’m 800 pages in and there are nearly 1400. It’s a wild, detailed terror ride, for real. Like, who knew your own imagination could be churned into such a frenzy by a few words?
I’m beside myself for the new film adaptation and Pennywise but more importantly, I can’t wait to meet the kids. I’m getting major Stranger Things vibes from the trailers, not least because of Finn Wolfcastle’s involvement. And that can only be a very good thing.
I can’t wait to hang out with Ben, Stanley, Mike, Big Bill, Richie, Beverley and Eddie again, and I haven’t even left them yet.
So, please excuse me while I go back to my book and my new friends. Damn I wish I’d known them when I was a kid.
Just under a year ago I claimed the blog title Two Girls One Book Club in a moment of absolute genius. I mean, you have to be a bit of a filth pot to get the thinly veiled reference but it’s classy as well, you know? Just like me.
The plan was to blog with another friend about books but it never came to fruition. Busy bees and all that.
Don’t weep for me just yet though, as there is a happy twist to this tale of how the #onewomanbookclub is well on her way to becoming one half of a perfect pair. It’s quite beautiful, actually, to have found a partner in literary crime. What? I’ve got dust in my eye.
A bit about my gorgeous reading buddy, S. Not long ago she sent me a lovely email asking for book recommendations. We’ve met only once in the flesh, through her boyfriend, who I’ve known for a good few years. In her message, S said she wanted to get into reading more and I bang on about books more than is strictly necessary because the printed word is my friend, so I guess I was a good bet. Not that I’m an expert obviously, I just know what I like.
I swiftly sent back a list of my favourites (and titles that I actually own), she shot back her own picks; which included some biographies, and a few that are right up my alleyway, genre-wise.
Luckily for us, our partners work together, which means we can send care parcels back and forth without much effort and this is always a great thing. But the best thing about #twogirlsonebookclub? Our emails. I love when I can talk frankly about my geeky obsessions and although this is something I can do in my own home, with my family and certain friends, it’s nice to find a girl after my own heart, not just when it comes to literature.
I don’t know where #twogirlsonebookclub will lead. I’m sure we’ll move on from emails to double dates (whether our boys like it or not), so we can talk books face to face. Maybe we’ll start an actual book club one day. Maybe we’ll take on new members.
Maybe the Two Girls One Book Club blog with become a thing, with actual posts on it. Maybe it won’t.
All I know for sure is that books are great and I’ve made a beautiful new friend because of them. We probably would have become real friends anyway, in some way or another, but books paved the way.
When I mentioned at the weekend that I would be having a look back at some vintage classics, starting with a couple of Judy Blume‘s best known works, my news feed came alive with nostalgic comments.
A lot of my friends remembered the books fondly and it made me feel even more excited about hunkering down with some familiar characters over a cup of tea.
I wanted to read Forever first but in the end decided to save it until after I’d revisited Margaret. I’m glad I did that, for reasons I will come back to in the Forever review (spoiler alert: it’s still quite saucy!).
But to this book. I love it still and the thing that stood out most for me is the fact that the writing is really good. I have to confess that I half expected to be taking the piss out of the books that I was so into as a kid/teenager but there wasn’t a trace of that as soon as I picked them both up.
AYTGIMM follows 11 year old Margaret Simon as she navigates her way through a new school, new friends, a secret club, periods, boobs and boys. Written from her point of view, we learn some of the secrets that she doesn’t care to share with her friends, such as her true feelings for Moose, the boy who cuts the grass, and how much she really wants to get her period.
Margaret’s core group comprises Nancy Wheeler, Gretchen Potter and Janie Loomis. Together they form the Four PTSs (Pre-teen Sensations) who meet every Monday to pore over their boy books, talk about periods and do their boob enhancing exercises.
All my life it seems I have been semi-aware of the “I must, I must, I must increase my bust” mantra and it comes from this book. It may have been a thing way before it was set to paper but this is where I picked it up. Yes, I did do it myself (and look at me now!). It was very pleasing to get the warm and fuzzies whilst remembering it.
Despite her intimate circle, every night Margaret chats with the one person (or entity) who will listen to her no matter what. But when she starts to question religion on a deeper level and it brings up issues she doesn’t like, their relationship becomes strained. Will Margaret continue to turn to G-O-D or with they grow apart forever?
I thought that the religion thing was actually quite inspired. Margaret is brought up in a similar way to how my brother and I were; encouraged to choose her own faith when she feels ready. Margaret’s father is Jewish, while her mother is Christian so Margaret decides to give each a fair crack before she commits to one of religion, if at all.
I won’t go into it too much, but it’s quite refreshing to think that this topic was approached head on and then handled in such a sensitive way. I’m impressed with the diplomatic way it raises questions but doesn’t veer in any one direction.
Margaret also shares a close relationship with her grandmother, Sylvia. Keen to convert her granddaughter to Judaism, Sylvia nicknames her “Jewish Girl” which just adds pressure to Margaret as she tries to work out which way she should turn, biblically (or Torah-ly).
Blume also addresses the subject of slut shaming, although I am confident that this was not a phrase back when I was 11, even if it was definitely a thing.
Poor Laura Denker is labelled a bit of a goer (my words) because she is tall and well-developed for her age. She is the subject of much bitching (but mostly envy) within the secret club, who have heard rumours about her getting felt up behind the bike sheds (or the US equivalent, the bleachers?) by Nancy’s brother, Evan and the aforementioned, Moose.
But the main topic on all the girls’ minds is of course, puberty. The girls do focus a lot of attention on boys, mainly Phillip Leroy, the class fitty but that’s nothing compared to the massive amount of time they all spend fretting about growing up, finally getting their periods and proving that they are normal.
I remember so vividly how I used to feel before the Big P came along, how much I wanted to get it and kick start womanhood. It’s nice to be reminded of the girl I used to be, who still pops up her head every now and again, who sometimes has the same worries she used to about the way she looks.
Ah, the simpler days.
(Incidentally, on the day I finally got my period, I was running indoors and banged my head, cutting it open. That day I bled from both ends, proof you should be careful what you wish for. Although, as compensation, we did get fish and chips for supper).
All in all, I adored my trip down Memory Lane. Judy Blume did so well because she understood, and was able to convey what it’s like to be this age. In 2010, Margaret was placed on Time magazines Top 100 fiction books written in English since 1923 list: ″Blume turned millions of pre-teens into readers. She did it by asking the right questions—and avoiding pat, easy answers.″ (via Wikipedia).
Which sums it up better than anything. She just gets it.
The question to answer, I suppose, is does the book hold up? I think so. I mean, I’m 25 years older than the main protagonist so the things I worry about now are somewhat different to then. However, from a nostalgic point of view, I can remember those feelings of inadequacy and pressure like they were yesterday.
I like to be reminded of who I was and of being that age. I also wonder if there is that much difference between being (nearly) 12 years old back when I was 12, or indeed back when AYTGIMM was first published in 1970 (over 40 years ago), and being 12 now. I would imagine, at the centre of it they have the same worries with a lot more besides.
I think my generation are lucky they didn’t have to grow up in the digital age. Nobody had a phone of their own until the very early naughties (or I definitely didn’t) and MySpace was just about the most exciting thing happening on the web, which was still dial-up and patchy at best.
I can only imagine what this book would be like if it were rewritten in today’s setting. A hell of a lot more slut shaming, a bit of internet trolling and a lot of distracted tweeting, rather than two minutes in the closet, I’d bet.
This artist blows me away in general and I have seen a few of her piece pop up over the years, and always been impressed. But I have a very special place in my heart for the Painted Ladies. They are magnificent!
Since it is unlikely I would ever be able to afford one of the original figurines, I have been looking at the photographic prints instead. Still a little bit of a hefty price tag, but maybe one for a birthday wish list.
Yet another US TV show that has sucked me in and won’t spit me out until I’ve devoured all five seasons.
PLL is actually pretty good. It’s no Gossip Girl, of course, but nothing is. It’s very twisty and turny; and feels like a continual teen horror movie.
The gist: When pretty (and bitchy) Alison DiLaurentis goes missing, her clique are left to wonder what the eff went on and who would want to harm her. While the girls had been drifting apart before the disappearance, they’re thrown back together by a common enemy, the sinister A; who is threatening to tell all their secrets, and worse.
Honestly, it’s been quite gripping. Thanks as always, Netflix.
NB: I should say here that I’m trying hard to cut down on my television watching during the week. Left to my own devices, I will just sit dribbling in front of the box for four hours straight every night without gaining anything from it. I know it’s no good for me, so I’ve been coming home and reading, blogging and pottering instead. It feels good.
This is such a material thing to include, but never mind. It’s a total game changer! You know I love ASOS anyway and lust after a lot of items on the site (too much), but upgrading to the Premier account has just been amazing.
Basically: Unlimited next day delivery, courier pick up if you don’t like something; the ASOS magazine to your door and preview emails about upcoming sales, all for just £9.95 a year. £9.95! I know I’m no longer shopping, but when I am… this will change everything.
So happy that this show is back again. I love it, even though I dislike at least 75% of the main characters. The writing is fantastic, the characters are flawed and frustrating; and I’m very interested to see where it goes.
I like Lena Dunham and will always be into what she brings to the table, even if she doesn’t always present it a way I agree with. I read Not That Kind of Girl and enjoyed it. I might come back to that in a separate post soon.
Ah, other bloggers. Such a massive part of why I’m enjoying blogging so much right now.
Again, my current favourites will fill their own future post in the next few weeks but this week I have had some great interaction, when I really needed it, and I am starting to feel very excited about my blogging future.
I have some fun things coming up, including a collaboration with a fellow film lover that really peaks my creative interest!
So that’s what I’m about this month! What are you digging?
Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking a trip down memory lane with some of the books I loved as a child and teenager. I thought it would be interesting to revisit the themes of the day and relate them to life now.
Just holding these two books in my hands takes me back to the girl I used to be (and still am at heart), though I am slightly dismayed that the covers aren’t the same as the ones I had, and the ones advertised on eBay. Still, it’s the content that matters.
Watch this space as I review these two Judy Blume classics as an adult and ponder why they meant so much back then.
Before I even finished this book, I was thinking about how I would review it. Not all books deserve a review in my eyes (Bellman & Black, I’m looking at you) but this one is so multi-layered, so fantastic and dark that it really does deserve to be talked about. I’m just mad it took me so long to get my hands on a copy.
But where to start?
I feel I should preface this post with the statement that I love anything freak show themed. I know it’s human nature to be fascinated by the unusual and the macabre, but I really am attracted to the darkness. What can I say?
While reading Geek Love I was put in mind of American Horror Story Freak Show (which I have still yet to finish). I swear it must have been inspired in part by Katherine Dunn‘s novel. The Wikipedia page however, doesn’t mention the book at all so I guess I’m way off.
But anyway, I love this book. I knew I would even before I’d even cracked the spine. It’s got all the hallmarks of a book that will stick with me for life and has automatically clawed its way into my favourites list. It is that good.
To the book. The story of the travelling Binewski family is told to us by Olympia (or Oly) Binewski, the hunchbacked albino dwarf and daughter of Al and Crystal Lil, carnival owners.
Split between two-time periods, the book flits from current day right back to Oly’s childhood and covers most of the events that lead up to her living in a run down tenement in a room down the hall from her grown up daughter, Miranda, who doesn’t know that Oly is her mother.
Oly has several siblings: Arturo (or Aqua Boy), her older brother (who has flippers for hands and feet), the Siamese Twins, Electra (Elly) and Iphigenia (Iphy); and younger brother Fortunato (or The Chick), a ‘normal looking’ angel of a child, who just happens to have telekinetic powers.
You could say that the children were born special, and while that’s true, we soon learn that their unique idiosyncrasies were predestined. Geek Love isn’t Enid Blyton and is shocking in parts. Early on we learn the origins of the Binewski kids; and that Crystal Lil and Al deliberately engineered a family of freaks to fill up the show.
This band of geeks though, although loved, unfortunately did not come out in perfect succession. We meet the rest of the ‘children’, as introduced by Oly, the offspring that didn’t make it; fated to float for all eternity (or at least for the rest of the family’s days) in cloudy formaldehyde in their own creepy trailer.
I promised a post about my favourite books not long ago, though I didn’t realise then how hard it would actually be to compile my list.
I’ve gone for the traditional Top Ten format but I could honestly go on for hours about all the important books, the life saver books and the milestone books I’ve read in my life time.
I did think it was important to be honest about my most beloved texts, and include books that have mapped my life and love of the printed word, rather than be all pretentious. It would be ridiculous to say that I only ever read Sylvia Plath for instance, when we all know I’d rather have my nose in a Jilly Cooper.
*NOTE: Whilst reading back this post, it was peppered with “I loved it”, “It broke my heart”, “It’s soooo beoootiful!”, etc. I sounded like a giddy teenager. Let’s just agree that if a book is on this list, I loved it and it moved me in some way, K?*
So without much further ado, in no particular order:
The Millenium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest) by Stieg Larsson When I think about these books it makes me want to pick them up and read them all over again. They are ace. Reading them, one after the other, is like immersing yourself in an amazing action movie that never lets up.
I’ve mentioned my love for Lisbeth Salander before and can honestly say that nobody has ever come close to her (for me) as a literary character (though I’m willing to wait for someone to come and match her). She is everything: strong, complex, spikey; kick ass.
The entire story is full of twists and terrible acts, is exhilarating, well paced, intriguing and bloody thrilling. I adore Mikael Blomkvist too, investigative journalist and main character. As he accepts a mysterious freelance assignment in the wake of a libel case he’s just lost, Mikael finds himself deeply embroiled in a dark family history. It’s a case that will grip you from the get go.
Also, if you’re ever stuck for something to do of an evening, Wiki the late Steig Larrson because his real life was fascinating and not so far removed from the trilogy that made his name. I am gutted that I will never read another book written by him, or meet (his) Salander again.
Yesterday, while spending an obscene amount of time shopping for stationery with my friend L, she asked me to help her find some good reads. She’d be the first to admit she’s not a book-worm so I promised her I would write a list of my favourite all time books and get it to her so she can start building a collection.
(I’m not saying my opinion is the be all, it’s a guide rather than a compulsory reading assignment). What can I say? My friend trusts me.
I thought I would turn that list into a blog post soon. In the meantime, here’s a look at my most pressing To Read list. I’ve been a little off the boil literature wise since December but am getting back in the game now.
Can’t wait to get my mitts on the following:
In no particular order:
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn A birthday gift from my Sister-in-law, this has been on my Amazon wish list for a long time. Maddie said she read the back and knew it was for me, even before she realised it was on there. I cannot wait to dig in.
Bone Jack by Sara Crowe I absolutely loved Crowe’s Campari for Breakfast (reviewed here) and couldn’t put it down. So I have nothing but high hopes for this. The former book was reminiscent of early Sue Townsend and that can only ever be a really good thing. I think Sara Crowe is one to watch.
Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield Another second visit, this one has been on my radar ever since I read The Thirteenth Tale. Setterfield can really spin a yarn spiked with all sorts of surprises. Perfect for cold Winter’s nights and tea. Lots of tea.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
I have a love/hate relationship with Flynn. I mean Gone Girl was hard to put down until it pissed me off so much I had to get as far away from it as possible. Dark Places was good though and I’ve heard word on the street that this is a corker too. Some people believe that GG is the worst of Gillian’s trilogy so that bodes well.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler Hello, it’s Amy’s first book full of personal stories. What could be better?
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters Ms Waters is in my top three Favourite Authors and I think this might be why I haven’t yet thrown
myself head first into this story. She’s never let me down before and I have no reason to believe she will start now, but I’m still going to take my time.
I would describe myself as a runner who doesn’t run. Like, ever.
For about five minutes I was really going to do it and for about two of them I actually did. But my shins hurt, my arse bounced behind me like an over enthusiastic beach ball and I wasn’t the natural I thought I was going to be.
So I talked about it a lot and then walked instead.
In fairness, walking has done me wonders and I still wake up at 6.30 every morning for three times around the park come (mostly) rain or shine. I also bought a hula hoop and I do that up to twice a day (arse no longer wobbles quite so much).
But I miss the running I never did and in my heart I think there’s something still there. So the other week I bought Running Like A Girl and I read it with enthusiasm.
Alexandra, or ‘Hemmo’ as her running vest would have her known, is quite something. She was a lot like me in that she had the view that she’d be a track star by default, that she’d be a runner and that would be that.
(Where on Earth I would produce a theory like this from, I have no idea).
Her first run didn’t go quite to plan, and neither did the several that followed. She gave up, she reconnected with her chosen sport – and she kept on going.
The book itself, to the untrained eye, might just contain the story of a girl who learnt to run but I find Hemmo inspiring and really like the dynamic she shares with her father and brother. Even her lovely mum cheering her on to finish the London Marathon made me weep a little.
Anybody overcoming what they perceive to be their own shortcomings is okay by me and Hemmo is really likeable. She talks about food, socialising and life like a friend would and I think this is why her notes on running are so useful. She’s a normal girl who can run.
Sure, the detail she goes into when she describes each marathon can be a little repetitive if you’re not that bothered but I read it with a big ‘F**K yeah’ because I wanted her to get through; to run through the pain and the tears and the self doubt.
Everything Hemmo says about running is true. Nearly every able bodied person is capable of it, they just have to want to do it. And she’s honest, which I really dig. She doesn’t shy away from the fact that she stops and starts, that motivation sometimes lapses.
I found myself really relating to the way she talks about not knowing what she is running for (during one of her down times, after a big achievement). I can put this in the context of my relationship with eating well and moving my body; and perhaps this is why it works so well for me.
That said, I celebrated the completion of this book by not going running. I haven’t been at all yet and I finished the notes a week ago.
I will though. Watch me.
NB: When I talked about this with my brother, he knew who Hemmo was. Apparently, she hosted a few early morning runs and gave some talks at one of the festivals they’ve been to. Which is well cool.
It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontës—but without the dying-young bit.
Blah blah blah.
I found this review really hard to write, moaning to Hannah of Hannah Reads Stuff on Twitter to the same effect. She asked me what my initial reaction was and I can say, truthfully, that when I started to think about my review, I hadn’t even finished the book.
I know, odd to start constructing a verdict when you’re part way through the text, but I’m weird like that. I like to think ahead about blog posts, if not other things in my life, alright?
So I answered honestly (my opinion there and then), in under 140 characters:
I liked it but Johanna annoys me. Bit try hard in the humour stakes and maybe the sex bits.
Which is how I felt.
See how I am alluding to the fact that I’m done reading in my response? (Sorry Han). When I wrote that, I was a couple of chapters from the end but assumed (correctly as it goes) that I would finish it slightly underwhelmed but overall happy to have read it.
And now I am finished, that’s it, more or less. However, I really feel as though the book took a turn that irritated me.
In fact, in the Acknowledgements page, Moran suggests that she struggled to finish the book and had to be talked down from a ledge more than once by a patient and caring (I would imagine) saint of a friend.
I think if I sat down and spoke to her about this, I would be able to correctly pinpoint the moment the tone (and quality) changed, because she was floundering. You know, because I’m the expert at writing and all.
Anyway, I can’t go into the bits that peeved me for fear of ruining it for other readers (and boy, a lot of my friends are all over this book, or about to be).
I can say that fourteen year old Johanna is likeable for a moment but gets old quick. By the time she is a fully fledged ‘Swashfuckler’, I just wanted to scream “Shut up shut up shut up” at the page.
Johanna, or ‘Dolly Wilde’ is too much of a cliché (then weren’t we all back then?) and a bit of a dick. She realises this herself eventually (ooh spoiler) but the lesson she learns as the ending comes into view feels a little tacked on. She’s so pretentious (and I like a bit of that sometimes) that I simply don’t care if she makes it or not. (And of course she does!)
On a more positive note, I liked her older brother, Krissi (though his dialogue is overwrought with pretension), liked the family and I liked John Kite. I also approve of the sex talk to a point because sex talk is my favourite. It is good to read a book that doesn’t mind talking about masturbation and f**king, had I read this book as a teen I may have been a lot more sexual with myself (and others? Probably not).
But again, as Dolly gains more experience it becomes, somehow, more boring. We get it, you’re shagging. Nice one. Stop saying ‘c*nt’ just to shock me, it doesn’t, it’s just jarring now.
Am I glad I read it? Yes. Does it hold up against How To Be a Woman? Nope, but then can you compare a book of essays on Feminism to a novel about an annoying teenager? This is fiction right?
There lies my issue. I think I fell out of love with Caitlin Moran a while back. She trumpeted into my life like a goddess and made me fist pump with glee when I read HTBAW. Then she got annoying, came off as showoffy and a little bit smug and my problem with Johanna is that I can’t think of her as not Moran.
She is obviously writing about what she knows and I would be doing exactly the same thing if I were to write a novel, I’m sure but my inability to disassociate has obviously tainted my overall experience. I think that says more about the author than me though.
I’m glad I’ve read it and I will probably read more Caitlin Moran, but I might stick to the essays and avoid spending too much time in her company. She’s like the friend we all have who is fun because she’s loud and funny (sometimes) but gets on your wick after ten minutes.