I’m finding it hard to hang up my Halloween hat and move on this year. It’s been such an awesome month. November will be just as cool – it’s birthday month! – but I don’t want to turn my back on spooky things just yet.
My first (and possibly only) Autumn book recommendation this year is this brilliant novel by one of my faves, Sarah Waters. I first read it on my honeymoon over seven years ago and vividly remember being frozen in fear in the middle of the night, having just read another chapter.
The Little Stranger focuses on the inhabitants of once grandiose Hundreds Hall, the Ayres family. Hundreds Hall is now crumbling, a shadow of its former self – and war-damaged Roderick and his sister Caroline are trying hard to keep the family afloat, and keep the truth of their dire situation a secret from their mother.
When local Doctor Faraday finds himself involved with the family, all manner of weirdness starts to spill into his life. What the heck is going on? I’m currently having a re-read in time for the movie adaptation coming later this month and it’s stunning.
It’s not just the truly spooky set up that leaves you wanting more, it’s the way Waters crafts a sentence. Her characters are so well written you really feel you know them after only a few moments and that makes you care what happens to them. Hundreds Hall is a vivid landmark in the mind thanks to the way she describes it – and I can’t wait to see what they’ve done with the film and the casting.
I recommend this because it’s perfect for an Autumn eve, once the sun’s gone down and the dinner plates have been cleared away. I love to read in the bath and this accompanies that well.
I’ll crack open a new bottle of bubble bath and light a candle too, why not?
The Little Stranger
Publisher: Virago (23 Aug. 2018)
Bought movie tie-in paperback (new)
What are you reading?
I read this book in tandem with my friend Heather and it was so much fun. We both raced through it in a couple of days and compared notes as we went. This book is impossible to put down, something authors are always quoted as saying for the cover of novels but in this case it’s true.
Anna Fox is a shut in who hasn’t left her home for ten solid months. Currently living alone, Anna moves dreamily from room to room within her own safe haven, only stopping to overdose on old Hollywood movies and to watch her neighbours through the window.
When she’s feeling up to it, she also offers her support to people like her on an online forum for agoraphobics. As a former child psychologist, she knows what she’s talking about. Sadly Anna is too haunted by her own past and mistakes to be any good at taking her own advice.
When a new family moves in across the way, Anna becomes infatuated with their day-to-day movements. But when she witnesses something earth-shattering her life is tipped all the way over and she must fight to prove she’s not a crazy bitch making shit up.
I really enjoyed the character of Anna and felt desperately sorry for her at times. Trapped in her own home there’s not a lot of freedom for our protagonist but she’s a goddamn fighter. The concept of the bat shit woman imagining things is not a new one but I feel as though the pace and plotting of this novel lifts it above the rest. The prose is beautiful and the characterisation well padded.
My sympathy is with Anna and her family and even though I thought I could see it all coming, it kept me guessing until the end. As an avid curtain twitcher myself, I really appreciated the Rear Window-esque snooper in Anna and her love of black and white noir doesn’t hurt either. It’s incredibly Hitchcockian and that can only ever be a good thing.
I strongly recommend this to anyone who loves a thriller.
The Woman in the Window
Publisher: HarperCollins (25 Jan. 2018)
Gifted hardback (new)
What are you currently reading?
It would be very hard for me to go in too deep on this book because it’s very hard to define. It’s stunning though; macabre, fascinating and eery as hell.
Marina is seven and has just become an orphan, after her parents are killed in a car accident. The same accident strips the skin from her ribs and leaves her body scarred for life. Her personal mantra has become “My father died instantly, my mother in the hospital” and she wheels it out whenever she’s asked to tell her story.
In the hospital, Marina is given a small spooky doll by the doctors and it becomes her constant companion, her confidante.
One day she arrives at the orphanage and creates a ripple amongst the little girls who already live there (less a ripple more a tidal wave, honestly). The girls’ obsession and their love for Marina while pure, isn’t always kind and they torture her daily with their teasing, their silence and their tricks. They steal her doll and deliver it back to her body part by body part, and bury what’s left in the ground.
But at night, everything is different. At night they play Marina’s game.
Based on a terrifying real-life event, Such Small Hands is a poetic horror story molded from the most beautiful prose I’ve read in a long time. It’s nightmarish and pretty at the same time, like some of the most appealing things in life and I couldn’t recommend it more. I hope it leaves you as breathless and creeped out as it did me.
Such Small Hands
Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (3 Aug. 2017)
Gifted hardback (new)
What are you currently reading?
Kudos to Andrés Barba for his amazing author photo. Look at it! (above).
“She can’t be dead, MISERY CHASTAIN CANNOT BE DEAD!” ~ Annie Wilkes
The latest in my long overdue Stephen King Odyssey and one of the best so far.
When I shared that I was reading this on social media, some of my friends popped up to say how brilliant it is, even in comparison to the film – and they weren’t wrong. The adaptation is great and although it’s been a while since I saw it, I don’t remember it being as tense as the book. I guess your imagination will do that to you and it must be hard to capture the inner workings of a trapped man’s mind on film (even if the film is still terrifying, don’t get me wrong).
Misery is, of course, the story of how famous novelist Paul Sheldon comes to live in the home of ex-nurse Annie Wilkes, seriously injured and against his will.
Following a nasty car accident one snowy night in Colorado, Paul is rescued from the wreckage and dragged back to Annie’s where she nurses him back to consciousness. While there is nothing conventional about this set up, Annie’s former career affords her the skill to keep Paul alive and his pain (mostly) at bay.
Though Paul distrusts spooky Annie from the get-go, he reluctantly becomes dependent on her particular brand of health care, not to mention the very strong medication she has been plying him with. Did I mention that our very own Ms. Nightingale is also Paul’s “Number one fan”? What a coincidence, eh?
Nobody needs me to give away the rest of the story, since it’s a tale as old as time and if you haven’t read it, you totally should.
But Paul’s most famous fictional character, the titular Misery has just been killed off in his last novel.He’s keen to move onto new projects and put Misery to bed for good but when Annie finds out, she goes ape.
There’s only one thing for it as far as she’s concerned, and that’s to bring Misery back to life… I’ll leave the rest up to you.
I loved this book because it completely engulfs you, putting you in Paul’s shoes. Things could not be worse for him either. Not only is he a disabled prisoner aware of the expiry date above his head, he’s also being systematically tortured by the person who’s supposed to care for him. His only bargaining chip is his mind.
My only issue with the book is that I pictured James Caan as Paul Sheldon throughout and that was hard to shift. Further proof I let myself down as an adolescent by not reading more SK before watching the films.
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (7 July 2011)
Bought paperback (new)
What are you currently reading?
I love me a Final Girl. The trope is one of my favourites, even though the rules of being a true FG could make your head spin clean off your neck.
Someone who hates the label though is Quincy Carpenter, the third survivor to join the infamous trio of the media dubbed Finals Girls. Comprised of Miss Carpenter (the amnesiac), Lisa Milner (the original) and Samantha Boyd (the enigma), this group of women share just one thing in common – they were all the last ones still standing after horrifying massacres.
Quincy is doing fine now, thank you very much. She’s moved on from the events of that night and even though there are massive chunks of memory missing, she’s faced her demons and come out the other side smiling. Now she’s a baking blogger in the big smoke with a handsome and supportive lawyer boyfriend and a nice home (paid for by insurance money from the deaths of all her friends, but still).
But are things as perfect as they seem? Given that this is a thriller I’m guessing we’re all here to witness the picture perfect world of our heroine unravel – and unravel it does.
When Lisa seemingly ends her own life one night, Quincy’s world is rocked – and it’s rocked even harder when Samantha Boyd turns up on her doorstep, fresh from a self-inflicted exile. And Samantha brings out a side of Quincy she never knew she had.
Is there more to Lisa’s suicide than meets the eye though – and what about the volatile Ms Boyd? Where’s she been and what’s she been doing with her life since she fought so hard for it all those years ago?
I will say that even though I enjoyed the premise of this story and the setting of Pine Cottage (described to us in flashback), it was very predictable. I am the worst plot-guessing person on this planet and hardly ever figure out an ending before it’s presented to me, so it says a lot that I clocked it from almost the beginning. Go me.
I could have described exactly the very last scene to you too so I think that says a lot. But, it’s still enjoyable, particularly if you have an interest in classic horror scenarios. The massacres take place in quite traditional horror movie settings and although the book is descriptive, it is not gratuitous. It tries to go deeper into the psychology of surviving an ordeal like these women have and I liked that.
It just could, and should have been so much better.
Publisher: Ebury Press (Fiction) (13 July 2017)
Bought hardback (new)
What are you currently reading?
I didn’t do so badly with my Autumn Reading List, crossing off all but one of the books I’d planned to read.
I’ve been reviewing them where I can on the #onewomanbookclub tag (which you can access via the menu up there at the top, if you wish). And now it’s Winter and that means I’m even less inclined to leave the confines of my cosy, messy flat unless I absolutely have to – perfect reading conditions.
Here are the books I’m planning to devour over the next few months. You might notice a theme:
I’m a few chapters in and this already has me hooked. I bought this because I thought it was the next book by The Girls author Emma Cline. It’s not, and I’m an idiot but it was a happy accident as this is written beautifully and has a sheen of mystique to it that I so far love.
Oh, the synopsis? Ruth Malone is an attractive single mother of two kids who go missing one day in 1965. When the police make a horrifying discovery, all eyes point to the woman in charge of their care – and her provocative appearance and ‘questionable” lifestyle do not go in her favour.
Because of course they don’t.
This book had me at ‘The Japanese Stieg Larsson’ tbh. Which is one of the taglines printed on the cover. I didn’t even look deeply into what it was about, just clicked buy and here we are.
For those interested this is Amazon’s synopsis, in a nutshell:
Yasuko lives a quiet life, working in a Tokyo bento shop, a good mother to her only child. But when her ex-husband appears at her door without warning one day, her comfortable world is shattered.
It’s well rated and it’s been compared to one of my favourite authors so I doubt I’ll be disappointed. I’m a massive fan of Asian cinema (mainly Korean) so I’m expecting to be blown away. No pressure, Mr Higashino.
I’m cheating a little bit by including this on the list as I’ve just finished it. I thought it was worth a mention anyway. I’m intrigued always by the concept of the Final Girl and this takes that a little bit further by offering us three real life versions.
When the original FG, Lisa seemingly kills herself, it’s up to her fellow club members to find out what the fudge happened, and why. Given that our main FG, Quincy Carpenter has a massive hole in her own memories of that night at Pine Cottage… she might already have more than her fair share to contend with.
I think I’m going to review this in a couple of days so you can find out if I like it or not. Spoiler alert – it was okay.
This was passed on to me by my lovely friend Alice and I can’t wait to get stuck in. She handed me a pile of horrid sounding thrillers which is both amazing and a little disconcerting. The comfort I get from reading/watching horror/thrillers is hard to explain and sometimes feels like my dirty little secret so when someone else just gets it, it is amazing but odd.
Alex Prévost – kidnapped, beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a wooden cage – is in no position to bargain. Her abductor’s only desire is to watch her die.
Doesn’t sound like a walk in the park now, does it?
Another Japanese crime thriller that is meant to be unique and fantastic. I couldn’t be more in. Again, I haven’t really done too much digging about this one but I am expecting to be impressed.
For five days in January 1989, the parents of a seven-year-old Tokyo schoolgirl sat and listened to the demands of their daughter’s kidnapper. They would never learn his identity. They would never see their daughter again.
Sometimes, when I see a book has been recommended by the Richard and Judy Book Club it makes me want to avoid it. But this looks too good to pass up. Another book about family secrets and mysterious girls – delicious.
The girls of the Roanoke family – beautiful, rich, mysterious – seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them that’s never spoken.
Last but not least, a book I’ve been intending to pick up for a long time, even before I saw the deeply weird film version. What Page Are You On mentioned it in their episode about book to film adaptations and I took from that that this is far more accessible than the Scarlett Johansson starring movie (which I loved but found very hard going).
I’m not a massive sci-fi nerd really (besides Star Wars) but I think the earthly setting and seductiveness of main character Isserley will keep me gripped. Here’s hoping.
What are you guys reading? Let me know!
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.
Remember the curfew 🤡🤡🤡
I failed miserably in my Summer Reading Challenge, unfortunately. I put it down to being too busy but I think we can safely say it was just a laziness issue.
I go through phases as a reader. I’m either reading everything in my path, or nothing at all. There’s no in between. But, as the light fades in the evenings and the temperature drops significantly, I’m lining up a list of reads to smash through.
Here’s a little peek at what I’m planning on reading beneath the covers:
Synopsis: Many years after their divorce, Susan Morrow receives a strange gift from her ex-husband. A manuscript that tells the story of a terrible crime: an ambush on the highway, a secluded cabin in the woods; a thrilling chiller of death and corruption. How could such a harrowing story be told by the man she once loved? And why, after so long, has he sent her such a disturbing and personal message…? Originally published as Tony and Susan.
Thoughts: This is the book the film is based on. I picked it up in a 2 for 1 type deal in a supermarket. I’ve so far not got to see Tom Ford‘s adaptation but I hear it’s good and I still hope I get to catch it. I love a thriller and this seems to have quite a dark premise. High hopes.
Synopsis: Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming. Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil. But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms. Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows…
Thoughts: Books like this are perfect Winter reads. They’re like tasty morsels of something that isn’t particularly ‘good’ for you but is so delicious you don’t give two fucks. I like mystery and expect this to deliver nicely. I am so over the lazy Gone Girl/The Girl on the Train comparisons though. Can we move on now? There are other great thrillers.
Synopsis: When Chris Kraus, an unsuccessful artist pushing 40, spends an evening with a rogue academic named Dick, she falls madly and inexplicably in love, enlisting her husband in her haunted pursuit. Dick proposes a kind of game between them, but when he fails to answer their letters Chris continues alone, transforming an adolescent infatuation into a new form of philosophy.
Thoughts: I recently saw the pilot of the TV adaptation of this book, starring the gorgeously talented Kathryn Hahn and became quite smitten with Chris. Although it only gave me a snapshot of the story, I know it’s something I want more of. Then somebody I follow on Twitter started raving about the book and I grabbed a copy immediately. It’s so easy to persuade me to part with my cash. I’m looking forward to this, plus it’s got a LOL-worthy title/cover, which never hurts.
Synopsis: In 2003, an independent film called The Room – starring and written, produced, and directed by a mysteriously wealthy social misfit named Tommy Wiseau – made its disastrous debut in Los Angeles. Over a decade later, The Room is an international cult phenomenon, whose legions of fans attend screenings featuring costumes, audience rituals, merchandising and thousands of plastic spoons.
Thoughts: I’ve already started reading this and it’s so much fun. I’ve just been giggling all the way along. Of course you do have to have seen The Room to have context for all this craziness, and particularly Tommy’s unique brand. It’s great to get a companion piece for a film that makes zero sense and to get behind Tommy’s personal philosophy, and Greg Sestero (although I doubt he’s actually written much of the book) gives us interesting nuggets of Hollywood life, through his own experiences on movie sets and via flashbacks to the acting class in which he fatefully met ‘The Pirate’. Both the film and the book are a must-see/read for any shit film lover, there’s nothing else even remotely like it.
Synopsis: When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH to escape a haunting trauma, they’re hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient…and hungry.
Thoughts: Ooooh sounds good, doesn’t it? And it’s a graphic novel. I picked this up on a whim while I was in a ‘witchy’ mood and I regret nothing. Ghost/horror is perfect for this time of the year.
Synopsis: Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one of the most important movements in rock history. Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to creator in experiencing the power and mystery of a live performance.
Thoughts: I know Carrie mainly from Portlandia but she’s also a member of Sleater Kinney, once pegged as ‘America’s best rock band’. This appeals to my massive love of the Riot Grrrl movement, something I will always been interested in learning more about. So I’ll be reading this in my Docs and stripey shirt with a snarl on my face. In a good way.
My Brilliant Friend – Book 1 (Neapolitan Novels)
Synopsis: A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.
The Story of a New Name – Book 2 (Neapolitan Novels)
Synopsis: Elena and Lila are now in their twenties. While marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the centre of their emotional lives, the two girls mature into women.
Thoughts: I was gifted these by my lovely mother last Christmas and still haven’t gotten round to them, which is unforgivable. Another Twitter recommendation and a double whammy of literary goodness I’m looking forward to. There are four books in the Neapolitan Series and these are the first two. I just hope my heart can take them.
You might be wondering why all the reads on this list are different to those in the Summer line up. Is it just me who carefully selects stories to suit the season?
What are you reading? ❤
I logged onto my Goodreads account today after a hiatus of what feels like months. As the page loaded on my laptop, my eyes flew to the part of the right hand bar labelled ‘2015 Reading Challenge’ and with dismay I read in smaller print, ‘14 books behind schedule‘.
How judgmental is that? In fairness, I asked Goodreads to help me with this challenge and the fact is, I am far behind the already amended 50 book goal for this year. I started 2015 with the idea of smashing 75 but then I realised even I, the ultimate homebody, have a life.
I don’t know how I ended up shipwrecked without a book for so long. Well, that’s not strictly accurate, I suppose. I did have a book on the go and it halted me in its tracks. Do you want to know who I’m blaming for my currently reader’s block? Sarah Waters.
I should preface this accusation with the fact she is one of my all time favourite writers. I’d never picked up a book of hers that didn’t tip me straight into whichever world she was illustrating at the time. The Little Stranger is without question one of the scariest, most gripping books I’ve ever held in my hands. In fact, they’ve all been exceptionally good… and then came The Paying Guests.
I just haven’t been able to get into it and I don’t understand. The lead up has been tedious. It’s certainly well written and everyone I know who’s read (and finished) it has told me the same thing: “Hang in there and then you won’t be able to put it down”. But when godammit?
I’ve tried so many times to pick it up, I’ve even tried listening to Juliet Stevenson read it to me on YouTube as I work and still it plods on. When will it get good?
It pains me not to finish a book, even one I’m not into, more so when people are telling me it’s brilliant. What if I miss out? What if it is the best book I’ve ever read after the first 500 (it feels like) pages? Argh.
So then I thought, maybe if I read something trashy it’ll reignite my reading fires, and make me want to reach for something great. So I bought Grey in Sainsbury’s for a few quid and it’s made the whole situation worse.
I’ve read the trilogy. I’ve seen the film. I’m not what you’d call a massive fan of either, though I don’t regret any of the time spent on it. I like to be up to date culturally but honestly, enough has got to be enough already, no? Who cares what Christian Grey thinks? Who cares how he justifies his actions to the reader? I’ll review it properly when I’ve finished but for now it’s just another book I’m not looking forward to reading at night.
I know I’ll come through this. I know the next story I read will change things and then I can get back into reviewing books and loving books that way I always have. And then maybe Goodreads can get the hell off my back for a while.