Sunday Salon | 26 January

It has been very grey and murky in SW London for the past wee while which is ideal weather for reading and not actually that bad for going on a walk. This week has been a bit of both for me.

January so far has been a good reading month; I’m ahead of my Goodreads target (not something I bother about too much but it’s nice to know). Reviews will follow for some of these but I thought I’d capture here one that I enjoyed very much.

Beast by Matt Wesolowski

Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the ‘legendary vampire’ tower in another explosive episode of Six Stories

I love the Six Stories series; I enjoy the mix of podcast transcript and background notes with a nice bit of foreshadowing (as often happens in real-life podcasts). At the end of the third volume, I really thought that there weren’t going to be any more – it felt like the revelation at the end of that story provided an element of closure. So I was thrilled to see Beast pop up when I was looking for something else, and of course I had to buy it.

And it’s a really good story. Elizabeth Barton is a vlogger who has built up a large following in her small town in Northumberland (and further afield). She was found dead at a local landmark after taking part in a challenge and three young men were convicted of causing her death.

But someone is trying to throw a spotlight on the case by asking “who locked Elizabeth in the tower”? In looking into the story Scott finds that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Of course.

The manipulation of followers and participants along with the curated nature of (some) vloggers’ output is brought to the fore here, and as well as Elizabeth’s individual story there’s a lot for us to think about in terms of how far we should believe what we see.

It’s a really good story and I hope there will be more.


This last week we have also been on an outing to Osterley House and gardens, part of the National Trust but once owned by a large banking family. The house is closed at the moment but there is an exhibition of treasures including a famous work portraying Saint Agatha by Dolci. It’s a luminous work but Agatha’s story is beyond grim and possibly should have a content warning.


It was this blog’s birthday this past week, and this coming week is my actual real-life birthday at the end of the month, actually on Brexit Day (boo hiss). My way of coping with this is to assume that anyone daft enough to celebrate our exit from the European Union is actually commemorating my special day.

Hope you all have a wonderful reading week, with apologies for the rambles. I’ll see you in my next post!

It’s My Blogiversary!

It’s that time again, and the Bride is now a stroppy teenager who still requires cake but it probably not that interested in balloons.

I personally turned 13 in 1975.

Yes, I am that old.

Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

Anyway, back to 1975

  • Bradley Cooper, Pedro Pascal, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron and David Beckham were born
  • PG Wodehouse, Josephine Baker, Hannah Arendt and Shostakovitch died
  • Ms Grace by The Tymes was number 1 on my birthday; I have no memory of this song in any way, shape or form, but it is worth noting that one of my all-time favourites (January by Pilot) hit the top spot the following day
  • Who cares what other films came out – this was the year of JAWS!

Elsewhere Saigon fell, there was a horrible crash on the Tube at Moorgate, Bohemian Rhapsody was released (and purchased by yours truly) and Davros made his first appearance on Doctor Who.

Hope you will continue to hang around for Bride of the Book God: the Teenage Years

Toy Story 4

When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.

As I am nothing if not a Picker of Nits (which sounds really gross when written out like that) I have to note that this description of the film implies a causality that does not exist. Or am I being too pedantic? Is it possible to be too pedantic (rhetorical)?

Anyway, Woody and the gang are off on said road trip with Bonnie (very cute) and her family. Woody has been struggling with his role as the toy that often gets left in the cupboard when Bonnie chooses what she wants to play with, so he decides to become Forky’s mentor. Forky is struggling with being a toy rather than just trash, which is what he has been created from by Bonnie.

Cue shenanigans.

Lessons are learned, the ending is bittersweet for everyone but hopeful all the same.

I shall say no more.

Except that I really loved this film. We had missed it in the cinema and as the Book God had requested it as a Christmas gift and we had not yet chosen our traditional New Year’s Eve feelgood film which we watch to occupy the time until The Bells, a glass of whisky and a piece of shortbread, and the traditional telephone first footing from my brother, this was a no brainer.

I am willing to explain all of the Scottishness in that last paragraph if required, just let me know in the comments 😀

I was impressed by how good this film was given that it is the fourth in a series and the law of diminishing returns would normally apply. There are too many good things to single out but my favourite thing of all was the great Keanu Reeves voicing Duke Kaboom. Simply awesome.

Oh, nearly forgot – Plush Rush!

You’ve probably already seen this so you don’t need me to recommend but, you know, that’s what I’m here for, so watch it (again, if necessary!)

Sunday Salon | 5 January

So, here we are in the first Salon of the new decade! I hope everyone has a very happy and healthy 2020.

Photo by Daniela Turcanu on Unsplash

We had a super-quiet Hogmanay chez Bride and not much reading was done (I finished one book which I’ll be talking about later in the week) as I was distracted by other things, namely:

Podcast of the WeekHunting Warhead, a CBC podcast about the international hunt for the administrator behind a heavily used online child abuse site. The way in which the authorities managed to track and identify Warhead and prosecute him was fascinating, and although the subject matter is very distressing the podcast was not at all graphic and treated all aspects with sensitivity. Would recommend but only if you have the stomach for that sort of thing.

Drama of the Week – the BBC adaptation of Dracula, starring Claes Bang and Dolly Wells. You may have seen in the Twitterverse that a lot of folk did not like this, mainly because of the third and final episode. I am here to tell you that I reject their opinions; I adored it and have already ordered the blu-ray so I can watch whenever I want. It is funny and clever and properly horrifying (in the right way) so if gothic horror is your thing please give it a try.

New Book of the Week – I received one new book this week, a pre-order of The Great Pretender by Susan Cahalan which tells the story of an undercover investigation into the treatment of mental ilness which ended up leading to major changes in the field. I am lucky in that my own mental health struggles are well managed through medication and wider support from my local health authority and I am fascinated by how such issues were treated in the past especially where women are concerned.

Hope you all have a fabulous reading week!

Little Women

Another adaptation of the famous Louisa May Alcott novel about the lives of the March sisters in 19th century America.

I was going to say here that nobody needs to be provided with a plot synopsis for this film because everyone knows the story of the March sisters. However, I was shocked (yes, shocked I tell you) to discover that not only had my husband not seen any of the previous versions, but did not have a single idea about what the story covered, except girls and possibly references to the American Civil War.

I have to refer to it as the American Civil War because over here in the UK we had our own Civil War, albeit at a time when the crowns but not the nations were united.

I digress.

Having thought about it I decided that (1) my husband was clearly the exception that proves the rule, (2) I do not need to explain the plot and (3) having originally thought that I might go to see this by myself I determined to take him with me.

Anyway, I’ve read the books so many times that I was able to give my husband the key plot points on the way to the cinema, and we settled down.

I was mesmerised by this version, not just because the structure of the film moves away from the strictly linear narrative and flits back and forth between Jo’s life in New York (and her return home because of Beth) and the stories of them as youngsters up to that point.

It’s a beautifully written and extremely well-acted film with an excellent cast and some overt feminism that’s only hinted at in the original novels, using the words of Louisa May Alcott from her other writings I believe.

Stand-outs for me were Saorise Ronan as Jo and Florence Pugh (rapidly becoming one of my favourite actresses) as Amy. The handsomeness of Professor Bhaer did not go unnoticed.

I laughed and cried in all the right places and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Highly recommended.

Directed by Greta Gerwig, 2h 15 minutes long and rated U with very mild threat.

Postscript – there have been several previous versions of Little Women as I mentioned, and here they are for completeness:

  • 2018 – a modernised one which I will simply ignore
  • 2017 – The BBC adaptation, which I have not seen
  • 1994 – the one with Winona Ryder
  • 1978 – a version which I have not seen but includes Susan Dey
  • 1949 – the one with June Allyson and Elizabeth Taylor, and the one I grew up with (though please note I was born significantly later than 1949)
  • 1933 – the one with Katharine Hepburn
  • 1918 – I did not even know that this existed.

December Books | Impulse Buys

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

It is a fact that I am not supposed to buy books in December because gifts, but as we share wishlists I know the range from where my presents will be drawn.

That’s a complicated way of saying that if a title wasn’t on my wish list it was fair game. Here we go.

The Pre-Orders

  • Beast by Matt Wesolowski – because I love the Six Stories series and the podcast format makes for compelling reading
  • Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer – because any new book by this author is a must-buy for me

The True Crime

  • American Predator by Maureen Callahan – if you’ve seen my earlier post you will know that I have already read this, and will be looking into this awful serial killer more in 2020
  • Dark Dreams by Roy Hazelwood – Sexual Violence, Homicide and the Criminal Mind because who doesn’t want some light reading…
  • The Forest City Killer by Vanessa Brown – I heard an interview with the author on a recent podcast and had to find out more about this Canadian case

The Other Non-Fiction

  • The Pulse Glass by Gillian Tindall – a personal and global history in objects; I love this sort of thing
  • Good Morning, Good Life by Amy Schmittauer Landino – I follow Amy’s YouTube channel but bought the book specifically for an online book club read; I’m already behind…..

The Fiction

  • Intensity by Dean Koontz – I don’t think I’ve ever read any Koontz; this is serial killer rather than horror
  • Gallows Court by Martin Edwards – murder in 1930’s London, the first in the Rachel Savernake series
  • We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory – Harrison is the Monster Detective, a storybook hero. What happens when he and others like him join a support group? 

That should keep me busy for a while 😀

Sunday Salon | Books Read

Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season. In getting ready for 2020 I thought I would write up some short reviews of (most of) the books I’ve read recently. All links are to Goodreads btw.

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

I shall declare an interest here as I am one of Jason’s supporters on Patreon so obviously think he is a top bloke. Ghoster is the first full length novel by Jason that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it, although as an Old I had to look up what ghosting actually meant – you, young reader, are probably way ahead of me. Kate has met Scott, fallen in love and is driving to another city to move in with him. She’s given up her flat, transferred to another employer (she’s a paramedic) and is well on her way to future happiness when she realises that she can’t contact Scott. At all. And when she gets to his place it is empty and he isn’t there. But his phone is……

I spent a lot of time during this creepy book inwardly yelling to Kate not to do the thing that she was about to do, but of course it wouldn’t be a horror novel if the protagonist was sensible so it is only to be expected that things do not go well. Great fun.

Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore by Terry Newman

With an iconic image of Joan Didion on the cover and a blurb that stated I would find out about the “signature sartorial and literary style of fifty men and women of letters” thus combining two of my favourite things – fashion & books – it was obvious that I would get this.

It’s quite a slight volume and doesn’t entirely deliver on the sartorial stuff – not enough detail about what they actually wore for my taste – but there were enough tidbits to satify my curiosity.

That Virginia Woolf worried about bad hat days is also a comforting fact for the dedicated reader and follower of style.

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

I’m not sure exactly where I came across the name of Israel Keyes. It must have been one of the true crime podcasts that I listen to (yes, more than one, don’t jusge me) but I can’t for the life of me remember which one. However I found out about him, I was immediately fascinated by how this man could have carried out so many awful deeds without anyone knowing about it. The subtitle of the book says it all:

The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century

He is of course a deeply disturbing and horrible figure who killed all over the USA during a period of fourteen years, burying kill kits for future use, many of which have never been found. This book focusses mainly on the somewhat flawed investigation into his crimes, and I will be following it up by listening to yet another podcast – True Crime Bullshit – which is only about Keyes.

An American Story by Christopher Priest

This is a very well-written novel with a sympathetic (mostly) protagonist and one of the most momentous events of the past few decades in the shape of the 9/11 attacks as context. Ben is a freelance journalist whose then girlfriend died in the attack on the Pentagon; she wasn’t supposed to be on the plane that crashed into the building and like many others her remains were never found, so Ben begins to wonder if she ever really died and if she did whether the accepted story told the whole truth.

There are too many of these inconsistencies to be ignored. At every step of the 9/11 story there is doubt, or there are unanswered questions, or simple logical gaps.

If you concentrate on this story being about loss and in particular the pain experienced when no body is recovered, so there is no certainty and no resting place where one can grieve and find solace, then this is a powerful novel. The 9/11 conspiracy theories work for that reason and that reason only but I still find them very disturbing.

The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett Graff

[..] in The Only Plane in the Sky, award-winning journalist and bestselling historian Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, Graff paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet.

An incredibly moving companion piece to Priest’s novel, it covers the events of that day from a wide range of sources. Extraordinarily sad, powerful reading.

Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

More true crime (sorry, not sorry) this time from the perspective of a journalist who stopped writing about crime and started trying to solve cold cases as a citizen detective. It is a fascinating book, and you can follow Billy’s work alongside his co-host Paul Holes on their podcast Murder Squad. A must-read for all Murderinos, though if you are a Murderino you’ve almost certainly read this already.