It’s the end of May! I love this time of year – it is almost my birthday, the weather is getting warmer and we are getting closer to our big summer holiday this year to Disney in Florida!
As part of the Brighton Festival, City Reads chooses a book for the city to read and plans lots of events around it. This year the book was Let Me Be Like Water by S K Perry, a book about grief, set in Brighton. It was our April book club read and on 12th May we went to an event where we listened to Sarah Perry in conversation with Bridget Minamore. We really enjoyed hearing some background to the book, quite a few assumptions we made proved to be untrue!
Somehow I have managed to read 11 books! This is a new record for me. Almost all were for book tours and 2 were for book club (I was late reading one of them!) Joint favourites were Tiger and Every Light in the House Burnin’. Follow the links to see my reviews!
With three children under ten, Maddie is struggling. On the outside, she’s a happy young mother, running a charity as well as a household. But inside, she’s exhausted. She knows she’s lucky to have to have a support network around her. Not just her loving husband, but her family and friends too.
But is Maddie putting her trust in the right people? Because when tragedy strikes, she is certain someone has hurt her child – and everyone is a suspect, including Maddie herself…
How did I get it? I received a copy from Avon Books for the blog tour.
Frieda is a primatologist, sensitively attuned to her research. When a terrible attack shatters her world, she becomes familiar with violence and competition. It is in her new role as a zookeeper that these brutal attributes will be sharpened. And here that she confronts her new ward: an untamed Siberian tiger.
The forest that the cub came from is home to humans on the very edge of wilderness. Tomas, a Russian conservationist, fears that the natural order has toppled. The King tiger has been killed by poachers, and a spectacular tigress now patrols his vast territory as her own.
In the perilous, freezing winter, when all living things compete ruthlessly for survival, her path crosses with a mother and daughter who take an unthinkable risk. Vengeance must follow; and in the terrible clash between human and tiger, the cub will be captured.
When Frieda learns of her cub’s past, it brings with it the chance for freedom. Faced with the forces of nature and savage femininity, Frieda must trust to her instinct and, like the tiger, find a way to live in the world.
A sweeping story of survival and redeeming love, Tiger plunges the reader into one of the world’s last surviving wildernesses with blistering authenticity.
How did I get it? I received a copy from Quercus for the social blast.
Lauren’s hopes and dreams of being a new mom are shattered when she encounters a mother’s worst nightmare—someone is threatening to take her children if she leaves them alone. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things. From the stark loneliness of returning home after giving birth to the confines of a psychiatric unit, Lauren’s desperation increases as no one will listen to her. Is she mad, or does she know something we don’t?
How did I get it? I received a copy from HQ Stories for a blog tour.
Rejected by her family and plagued by insomnia, Rose Shaw is on the brink. But one dark evening she collides with a man running through the streets, who quickly vanishes. The only sign he ever existed – a journal dropped at Rose’s feet.
She begins to obsessively dedicate her sleepless nights to discovering what happened to Finn Matthews, the mysterious author of the journal. Why was he convinced someone wanted to kill him? And why, in the midst of a string of murders, won’t the police investigate his disappearance?
Rose is determined to uncover the truth. But she has no idea what the truth will cost her…
How did I get it? I received a copy from the author for an Instagram tour.
A beautifully poignant and poetic debut about love, loss, friendship, and ultimately, starting over.
Twenty-something Holly has moved to Brighton to escape. But now she’s here, sitting on a bench, listening to the sea sway… How is she supposed to fill the void her boyfriend left when he died, leaving her behind?
She had thought she’d want to be on her own, but when she meets Frank, a retired magician who has experienced his own loss, the tide begins to shift. A moving and powerful debut, Let Me Be Like Water is a book about the humdrum and extraordinariness of everyday life; of lost and new connections; of loneliness and friendship.
How did I get it? I bought a copy
Adélaïde Bon grew up in a wealthy neighbourhood in Paris, a privileged child with a loving family, lots of friends and seemingly limitless opportunity lying ahead of her. But one sunny afternoon, when she was nine years old, a strange man followed her home and raped her in the stairwell of her building. She told her parents, they took her to the police, the fact of the crime was registered…and then a veil was quietly drawn over that part of her childhood, and life was supposed to go on.
Except, of course, it didn’t.
Throughout her adolescence and young adulthood, Adélaïde struggles with the aftermath of the horror of that afternoon in 1990. The lingering trauma pervades all aspects of her life: family education, friendships, relationships, even her ability to eat normally. And then one day, many years later, when she is married and has a small son, she receives a call from the police saying that they think they have finally caught the man who raped her, a man who has hidden in plain sight for decades, with many other victims ready to testify against him. The subsequent court case reveals Giovanni Costa, the stuff of nightmares and bogeymen, finally vanquished by the weight of dozens and dozens of emotional and horrifying testimonies from all the women whose lives and childhoods he stole.
How did I get it? I received a copy from Quercus for the social blast.
When you’re pregnant you think: ‘I’m having a baby’, not a person who will eventually catch trains by themselves, share a fridge with ten strangers, go to a festival in Croatia without succumbing to a drug overdose, and one day, bring you a gin and tonic when your mother is dying.
We imagine the teenage years as a sort of domestic meteor strike, when our dear, sweet child, hitherto so trusting and mild, is suddenly replaced by a sarcastic know-all who isn’t interested in the wisdom we have to pass on. But with great honesty and refreshingly bracing wit, Stephanie Calman shows that adolescence in fact begins much earlier, around the age of seven.
And having nurtured them through every stage of development, from walking to school by themselves to their first all-night party, you find yourself alone – bereaved even – as they skip off to university without a second glance.
Candid, touching and very, very funny, Confessions of a Bad Mother: The Teenage Years offers hope to despairing and exhausted parents everywhere.
How did I get it? I received an ARC from Picador for the blog tour.
In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. The novel opens with this image, as related to us by the narrator, Violet, looking back on the night it happened from the present day, before returning to relate the series of events leading up to the girl’s murder.
After an accident involving her Dad and sister, Violet joins Elm Hollow Academy, a private girls school in a quiet coastal town, which has an unpleasant history as the site of famous 17th century witch trials. Violet quickly finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, alongside Robin, Grace, and Alex – led by their charismatic art teacher, Annabel.
While Annabel claims her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals – warning the girls off the topic, describing it as little more than mythology – the girls start to believe that magic is real, and that they can harness it. But when the body of a former member of the society – Robin’s best friend, with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance – is found dead on campus nine months after she disappeared, Violet begins to wonder whether she can trust her friends, teachers, or even herself.
How did I get it? I was gifted a copy by HarperVoyager.
Thelma is the busy single mum of 12-year-old Louis. When he is involved in an accident, their lives are changed for ever. Louis falls into a coma and the doctors are not optimistic: if he doesn’t regain consciousness in the next four weeks, he will probably never wake up again.
At home in Louis’ bedroom, a devastated Thelma finds a list of all the things he wants to accomplish in his life, and suddenly sees a way to survive: she will fulfil her son’s dreams, in the hope that it will bring him back. With the help of his nurse, Thelma sets up an iPad in Louis’ hospital room so he can follow her adventures. His first wish: to spend a day in Tokyo. Thelma has just one desperate hope, that her son will come back to her.
How did I get it? I received a copy from Quercus for the social blast.
‘Better opportunity’ — that’s why Angela’s dad sailed to England from America in 1948 on the Empire Windrush. Six months later her mum joined him in his one room in Earl’s Court. Twenty years and four children later, Mr Jacob has become seriously ill and starts to move unsteadily through the care of the National Health Service. As Angela, his youngest, tries to help her mother through this ordeal, she finds herself reliving her childhood years, spent on a council estate in Highbury.
How did I get it? I bought a copy.
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Tom and Hester have been thrown together, literally thrown out of a city that’s left them stranded and starving in the middle of nowhere while it hares off after its prey. Hester is desperate for revenge, Tom is desperate to get back on board his beloved London. This is an adventure story set in a fantasy world where moving cities trawl the globe.
I read this to my son – it took several months as he would sooner play card games than read but we persevered!
How did I get it? I bought a copy.
Movies & TV
I don’t spend as much time as I used to watching TV (lots of books to read) but we have enjoyed The Umbrella Academy on Netflix this month. I do enjoy watching films though – my husband and I take it in turns to choose on a Saturday night, the idea being we choose what we want to watch without thinking if the other person will want to watch it to.
Independence Day 2: Resurgence (2016)
As the Fourth of July nears, satellite engineer David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) investigates a 3,000-mile-wide mother ship that’s approaching Earth. Fortunately, 20 years earlier, nations across the world started to use recovered extra-terrestrial technology to develop an immense defence program. When the alien invaders attack with unprecedented force, the U.S. president, teams of scientists and brave fighter pilots spring into action to save the planet from a seemingly invincible enemy.
I really enjoyed the first Independence Day film – it had everything I like in a blockbuster movie: great acting, threat, heroism, good special effects. So when I saw the second film was on TV I recorded it thinking I’d enjoy it as well. Initially I was surprised not to have heard of it but with a good cast (both Goldblum and Bill Pullman return) and Liam Hemsworth I was hopeful. Unfortunately I can only describe it as pretty awful – I had no idea what was going on. The plot seemed to jump all over the place and while the special effects and acting was fine, I just spent the whole 2 hours wondering what was happening. One to miss I think!
Whose choice? Mine! My husband said I wasn’t allowed to choose every again!
Get Out (2017)
Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behaviour as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.
I remember the hype around this when it came out (it won the best screenplay Oscar) and it was the 10th most profitable film of 2017. This was a great thriller/horror with great performances and there are some great twists which I didn’t see coming at all. A perfect Saturday night film.
Whose choice? My husband’s! Thankfully we both really enjoyed this!
Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
Ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son, Tim, to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth Detective Pikachu. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to work together, as Tim is the only human who can talk with Pikachu, they join forces to unravel the tangled mystery.
Not really aimed at me, I did at the very least have a grasp of who most of the Pokémon are having bonded with my son over Pokémon Go a couple of years ago. The story was entertaining and at times quite funny and the special effects were seamless. Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pokémon helped to! Perfect for kids, especially Pokémon fans!
Whose choice? My 12 year old son’s!
The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
In the future, a strange fungus has changed nearly everyone into a thoughtless, flesh-eating monster. When a scientist and a teacher find a girl who seems to be immune to the fungus, they all begin a journey to save humanity.
I loved the book of this film and was keen to see it when it came out but the release was limited and we missed it. This was a good adaptation of the book – it must be hard work making a zombie film, as they have been done so many times before. But having zombie kids (who most of the time were like normal kids) was a great addition and the acting in this, especially from main Zombie kid Melanie was superb. There was a plot point at the end that we didn’t really get but it didn’t spoil the film.
Whose choice? Mine – my husband relented and let me have another choice (and I think I’ve redeemed myself!)
Aladdin is a lovable street urchin who meets Princess Jasmine, the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah. While visiting her exotic palace, Aladdin stumbles upon a magic oil lamp that unleashes a powerful, wisecracking, larger-than-life genie. As Aladdin and the genie start to become friends, they must soon embark on a dangerous mission to stop the evil sorcerer Jafar from overthrowing young Jasmine’s kingdom.
Having seen the original cartoon in 1992, I wasn’t sure what I’d make of this live action remake, directed by Guy Richie of all people! I saw it with my 12 year old son and we both loved it. Will Smith was excellent and it was a visual feast with colourful costumes and great dancing. I’m really enjoying all these Disney remakes!
Whose choice? Both my son and I wanted to see this.
In a future where a failed climate-change experiment has killed all life except for the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, a new class system emerges.
This film had a great cast – John Hurt, Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer. However, it was pretty weird – it felt a bit like a strange dream. The acting was good but I’m not sure I really enjoyed it!
Whose choice? My husband.
The Umbrella Academy (2019)
On one day in 1989, 43 infants are inexplicably born to random, unconnected women who showed no signs of pregnancy the day before. Seven are adopted by billionaire industrialist Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who creates the Umbrella Academy and prepares his “children” to save the world. In their teenage years, though, the family fractures and the team disbands. Fast forward to the present time, when the six surviving members of the clan reunite upon the news of Hargreeves’ passing. They work together to solve a mystery surrounding their father’s death, but divergent personalities and abilities again pull the estranged family apart, and a global apocalypse is another imminent threat.
This is based on a collection of graphic novels and I remember seeing it when I worked in a comic shop a few years ago. The Netflix series is 10 episodes long and is essentially about a family of misfits with special powers trying to stop an apocalypse. There is some great music and the story is darkly humorous. Great fun!
Thankfully I have got through this month in good health, after the last two months (eye ulcer, broken toe)! It’s been a good month! The weather is starting to get warmer and I’ve read some great books.
My sister and I enjoyed afternoon tea on a double decker bus in London whilst seeing the sites over the first bank holiday weekend. She lives in the Midlands and I live on the South Coast so London is the perfect place to meet and see each other! The bus tour is run by Bridget’s Bakery and is quite expensive but the cakes and sandwiches are delicious and the fun of being on a bus whilst having them is a novelty. The tour was about 1.5 hrs long and took in most of the major sites.
My best friend also got a puppy! My son desperately wants a dog but I’m reluctant. To be honest it is partly me being selfish – I’ve gotten used to my life since my kids got older and the freedom we enjoy now. I feel a dog would be too much of a commitment so I’m resisting at the moment. But luckily, we have been seeing lots of my friend’s puppy and I’m hoping that will do for now. Pippa is a cockapoo and we even got to dog sit one evening! Isn’t she gorgeous? She even has her own Instagram account!
Thanks for reading my ramblings! Have a great month!