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Heartbreak and Heartburn

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It’s been nearly twenty-five years since my second marriage ended, and twenty-two years since I finished writing the book you’re about to read, which is often referred to as a thinly disguised novel.

Nora Ephron is widely lauded as the queen of the chick flick but she’s so much more than that. She is witty, insightful, astute and strong and in Heartburn she delivers the perfect combination of survival and vengeance ­– detailing her husband’s affair in the form of ‘fiction’.

Rachel Samstat’s life is complicated. Not only is she seven months pregnant, Rachel is living in Washington (a place she’s never really taken to), is juggling a career as a food journalist with being a mother to two-year-old Sam and has just found out that she’s married to a man who is having an affair with incredibly tall woman called Thelma Rice.

Filled with pithy, honest observations on life, love and everything in-between, Heartburn is a fantastically entertaining read. Nora Ephron is everything I would ever want to be in a writer and then some! Her effortless ability to turn a reader’s emotions upside down within a few sentences is wizardry. This short tale of revenge, reconciliation and release is filled with humour and honesty – perfect for anyone who is feeling a bit lost or about to take on new challenges. Ephron has taken a moment in her own history, fictionalised it with reflection and made it magic.

Heartburn was written in the 1980s but it still felt fresh and relevant. We live in a world of edited, filtered, Photoshopped and staged images, surrounded by perfect portrayals of normal life and so the pressure that Rachel feels she has to be with Mark (the perfect ‘power-couple’) is just as relatable today. What Ephron expertly does within Heartburn is break down the barrier and fling back the curtain to reveal the reality (and sometimes humour) of human heartbreak. Even if everything is a-ok in the world of romance/work/home/leisure, I think we all need a little insight from Nora to bring the world back into perspective. She’s the dream!

4 star

5

Top Ten Tuesday – Ten Non-Sentimental Things I Am Thankful For

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Every week The Broke and the Bookish conjure up a new Top Ten list for us book bloggers to write about. This week is all about things we are thankful for. Now, as an Englishwoman, I don’t celebrate American Thanksgiving but I have watched enough episodes of Friends and HIMYM to have an idea of what kinds of things I should be thinking about when putting together a ‘thankful for’ list!

The Broke and the Bookish have specifically asked for us not to be sentimental so I’m hoping my lovely friends and family take it as read that I’m incredibly grateful to have them in my life. I count myself incredibly lucky every day to have the family I have and to have found the friends I have along the way. The boy is a constant source of calm and strength for me in my hectic life and I will be eternally thankful that our paths crossed and we found each other. Love all of you lots and lots.

Now, swift-change, onto the more trivial autumnal and wintry things that make me happy…

Chai tea lattes
This is the first year that chai tea lattes have become a staple in my coffee-shop purchases and I’m obsessed! Just comfort, warmth and autumn in a glass – pure cinnamon perfection!

[addendum: I never realised quite how much sugar was in a chai tea latte… definitely more of a treat!]

My duvet
It’s finally cold enough for my thick, fluffy duvet again and oh how I’ve missed it! It’s been months of just an empty cover on top of the mattress but now I can justify the marshmallowyness of a proper, snuggly duvet – bliss!

Novelty jumpers
Who doesn’t love a novelty jumper?! I am the proud owner of a very kitsch smiling sushi jumper and it is quite possibly my favourite jumper so far but that could soon change… for I have finally got my first ever Christmas jumper! It has bells AND pom poms!

Red velvet cake
Any cake will do really but the queen of cakes, for me, is the red velvet. She’s a rich but light delight – ruby gorgeousness with a cream cheese frosting to top it all off… delish!

Slipper socks
I absolutely hate slippers but for some reason when I come home and the world outside is dark and gloomy all I want is to be curled up on the sofa wearing my sloppy clothes and slipper socks warming my tootsies!

Lush
Thanks to a lovely colleague, I was tempted back towards Lush earlier this year and my skin has honestly never looked better! I now swear by 9 to 5 and Eau Roma Water as a daily cleaser/toner combo and I have fallen in love with the Santa Baby lip tint – it’s a gorgeous Christmassy red and it lasts for ages! And speaking of red…

Red, red wiiiiiinnneee!
My autumnal tipple is back in my life and I’m really enjoying exploring new brands and blends. I went to Unwined in Tooting Market a few weeks ago and they tell you the story behind each bottle – I learnt so much and felt very sophisticated indeed!

Yankee candles
I love the dancing shadows created by a flickering flame and the scents of some of the Christmassy Yankee candles really make the season great! This year I am loving Fireside Treats, Snowflake Cookie and Spiced Orange, mmm!

DVD boxsets
When the evenings are dark before you even leave the office, the last thing you want is to go home and do something productive. You want snuggly times on the sofa, watching a good boxset! Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place is having a resurgence in my household of an eve, what are you watching?

Gold brogues
I don’t feel like I’ve featured these enough (…) so I’m mentioning my favourite shoes once more! I’m not a shoes and handbag kind of girl but in these shoes I can’t help but feel special with every step!

What are you thankful for this autumnal Tuesday?

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A Wicked Western

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I was sitting outside the Commodore’s mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job.

Deep in the heart of gold-mining country, the Sisters Brothers are travelling in search of one Mr Hermann Kermit Warm. The Commodore wants Warm dead and so the best men in the business are answering his call – Eli and Charlie Sisters.

Written in short, snappy chapters from the point of view of the younger Sisters Brother, Eli, this western was a revelation! I’m not usually one for westerns at all really but as both my Auntie and cousin both enjoyed DeWitt’s novel, I was tempted to give it a whirl and I’m so pleased I did!

Set in 1851, The Sisters Brothers is a fast-paced, action-packed read but one that is intelligent in its delivery. The characters, namely the brothers, and their life on the road is incredibly well crafted and formulated with fascinating insight into the lives of men whose job it is to end lives for money. Eli is beginning to suffer from an existential crisis, unsure if he wants to continue on the road with his brother and questioning if he is on the right path or just following Charlie.

The layout of the book, divided into small chapters, makes its very episodic. As we follow Eli and Charlie from Oregon to California, they meet a whole host of people (whores, drunks and witches to name but a few!) and they get into all sorts of situations that demonstrate their relationship with each other and their differing perspectives.

The Sisters Brothers reads the same way I imagine an old Western film plays – with drama, daring and dark deeds. It’s a cinematic cowboy-noir novel that doesn’t fail to entertain. It’s a brutal depiction of a harsh historical period, a time where savagery reigns supreme and people shoot first and ask questions later. I read this book with gusto and was surprised at how engaging and entertaining DeWitt’s novel was. I’ve already been jumping on the bandwagon and recommending it as a great Christmas read/present so if you have the chance, let it surprise you too!

4 star

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Selfless Self-Help

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Thirteen years ago I knew this couldn’t happen.

Reasons to Stay Alive was an interesting read for me as it’s not my typical type of book. I picked it up because I completely adored Matt Haig’s The Humans and to read a book about what made him a writer – an exhausting and extraordinary road to self-expression and self-acceptance – was something I knew I had to do.

Haig’s approach to tackling such a diverse and wide-ranging topic is with grace and humour. He suffered depression to the point of suicide contemplation. He survived and lives with surviving each and every day. Reasons to Stay Alive is a documentation of his journey towards mental health, divided into short chapters with astute observations intertwined throughout.

It is a quick read but an affecting one.

I have experienced mild bouts of depression, times where I felt a bit lost or out of control. And it’s important to realise that everyone is different. This book isn’t a fix-all ‘Ronseal’ of a depression book but it is warm, inviting and explorative of a disease that doesn’t discriminate. It made me look at my actions and reactions with much more care.

Someone very close to me suffers from anxiety and, though I’m understanding, I sometimes find it difficult to understand. The words within Reasons to Stay Alive have helped me to closely examine how I behave, how I can help those around me but also identify triggers in myself that signal when I may be being too tough on myself and others.

I know there are people for whom this book will change their life – and it should. It’s incredibly emotionally sensitive and delivered with the right amount of delicacy to affect anyone who picks it up. There wasn’t a flash of lightning or seismic shift for me but there was an increase in awareness and a recognition of myself on some of the pages. Reasons to Stay Alive is an excellent book to not only raise awareness of the invisible and devastating disease of depression but also to assure people that they are not alone.

Bless you Matt Haig for being brave enough to both survive and share your story.

[Side note: there is an unexpected but added amusement to reading a book with a title such as this one… the sideways looks and double-takes you get from other commuters as you’re on the edge of the platform, waiting for a train! It became endlessly entertaining!]

4 star

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Frozen With Fear

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The girls were playing with the Frozen Charlotte dolls again.

If you want a fast-paced, gripping Halloween tale to get you through the witching hour this eve, then look no further ­– Frozen Charlotte is the book for you!

When Sophie and Jay start mucking around with an Ouija board app, they think nothing of it until a haunting voice emerges and devastating events tear Sophie’s world apart. She travels to the Isle of Skye, determined to discover the truth behind the mysterious death of her cousin Rebecca in hope of finding some salvation – but has she just travelled further into the lion’s den?

The premise of this book is genuinely terrifying but Bell has created such an addictive story and written with such an effecting voice that you race through it. I was completely expecting sleepless nights but I managed to survive nightmare-free and I think that’s because I didn’t give myself time to overthink, I just wanted to read on! The pacing of the book is electric, the suspense is unbearable and the atmosphere created is gothic and tense.

There is an unpredictability to all of the characters, meaning that the narrative rollercoasters deliciously throughout. The cousins Cameron, Piper and Lilias are all so different and contradicting that you never know who to trust, putting both Sophie and the reader on the back-foot, second-guessing reality the whole way through the story. I loved the unpredictability of Frozen Charlotte. Just when you think you’ve figured out how, who, what, where and when, Bell pulls you in a completely different direction, unsettling everything you thought you knew!

The only criticism I could level at the book is the opening precursor to the novel (set in 1910). Nothing really happens with the backstory of the Charlottes and it was something I desperately wanted expanding upon. I felt there would have been more terror to the creepy china dolls if their history was embellished with flashbacks but that’s 100% my preference. I promise not having them isn’t detrimental to the tale, it’s just that the story just makes you want to know and understand everything that’s been before and since!

Bell holds her readers right up to the Jumanji-esque ending (where an unsuspecting child is lured towards the suitcase of Charlottes) and as there is a sequel due out next year, here’s hoping for a follow-up that’s just as rewarding a read as the first…

4 star

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Peculiarities With Peregrine

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I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.

This book has been on my radar for a very long time but it was only when I saw the trailer for the upcoming film that I knew I had to get my proverbial skates on and read it! I almost always have to read a book before indulging in the film (I enjoy the judging!) so to the bookshelf I ran and picked up the first instalment of this unusual Ransom Riggs series.

Jacob’s grandfather has always had a fantastical imagination. His tall tales and quirky anecdotes filled Jacob’s childhood but now he is a teen, his grandfather’s stories of magical abilities and an island of peculiar orphans has rather lost its magic. When an unusual and terrifying incident shakes Jacob’s present, he decides to look to his grandfather’s past for answers and discovers that the truth wasn’t as farfetched as he believed…

Miss Peregrine’s is a narrative all about finding your place in the world, wherever it may be and whomsoever it is with. In travelling to a remote island in Wales, full of secrets and mysteries, Jacob not only learns about his grandfather but also discovers things about himself. The supernatural element of the characters of this book isn’t an entirely unique one – a house or place filled with a familial group of society’s outcasts can be found in many genres and medias – but the delivery of it within Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is stylistically brilliant.

The author, Ransom Riggs, was a collector of peculiar photographs and originally envisioned his debut as a picture book. He eventually developed Miss Peregrine’s into a novel, under the advice of an editor, and chose to weave his narrative around his various antique photographs instead – to great effect! I loved seeing the vintage photographs and how they not only depict the tale but also add to and embellish the supernatural story, lifting it to the next level.

As you might expect, there are a few anomalies that take place when tying unrelated imagery together in a single narrative – different photographs (and therefore subjects) are used to represent the same character for example. There are also some narrative decisions Riggs that are questionably – namely the flourishing relationship between Jacob and Emma, a peculiar who had a relationship with his grandfather back in the day…

But putting these anomalies aside, this was both an inventive and gripping read that takes on the familiar trope of “the others” and makes it its own. Mixing historicism, fantasy and realism Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a wonderful debut and a strong start to the Miss Peregrine series.

4 star