When I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter in July, I was able to cross off almost all of my goals for the year. All except one.
Which just happens to be the one I was moved to write about on here.
But, here’s the thing: as I greyed out my last little bit of available annual leave for the year, it was impossible to feel bad about it. Because I AM GOING BACK TO NEW YORK!
Since her recent work-related move, my sister’s appetite for travel has grown to surpass even mine. When she heard the news that she was getting an extra week’s holiday before Christmas this year, a trip to the city that never sleeps seemed only logical – and I took very little persuading when asked to join her on the trip.
We booked our flights by the pool in Mojácar, Spain, because that’s pretty much how my sister rolls.
Stringer and I have also finalised arrangements for our upcoming Toronto trip as well (Bouchercon for him; tagging along and making my own fun, as usual, for me) so what July lacked in action it made up for in… planning for future action. And sometimes a lazy week in sunny climes with the family is just what the body, and the TBR pile, needs – which is why this post is heavier than usual on the books this month.
Russel D McLean: Ed’s Dead (2017): Being pals with writers can be a little odd. On the one hand, there’s the person that you know; and on the other – well, the words that they create on a page can give you the sort of insight into people’s characters that you weren’t necessarily expecting. Right now I am struggling with the fact that the guy who wrote Ed’s Dead – a book that starts off tame enough, if you can describe the lead character’s accidentally killing her scumbag ex-boyfriend as “tame”, before descending into complete unstoppable mayhem – has catsit for me. If you’ll excuse me… ***
Dave Eggers: The Circle (2013): Quite possibly the worst-written book I’ve been unable to put down, The Circle reads like it was written by a five-year-old – while also containing the cringiest sex scene I have ever read. The dystopia-by-means-of-gradual-erosion-of-privacy thing is an interesting enough concept, but I can’t help feeling that this was only an ALL OF THE PLAUDITS kind of book due to the schadenfreude of the subject matter. **
Lindy West: Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman (2016): Lindy West is one of my favourite feminist/cultural commentators, and her first book – a pre-holiday gift from one of my longest-serving online pals – was a deeply moving yet hilarious collection of autobiographical essays. The only downside was that I had read a couple of them before, as they had been repurposed from the likes of her column in The Guardian – but stories like her campaign against misogynistic rape jokes and the time she confronted a particularly cruel troll deserve to be preserved in hardback, to be re-read and re-read. *****
Sophia Amoruso – #GIRLBOSS (2014): If you can get past the preciousness of her insistence on referring to you, the reader, as #GIRLBOSS – yes, complete with hashtag and in all caps – Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso’s book is a low-key inspiring read. Part-memoir, part-motivational speaker with a hangover, Amoruso’s no-nonsense, no-holds-barred style is refreshing to read, and only a little spoiled when you Google what happened to the company in later years afterwards. Or read anything about the ill-fated Netflix adaptation. ***
Christopher Brookmyre – Dead Girl Walking (2015): It’s been far too long since I picked up a Brookmyre, as the speed with which I got through this recent thriller featuring journalist Jack Parlabane (the disgraced post-Leveson version) shows. Featuring some great supporting characters, the mystery of what happened to Heike Gunn – the glamorous frontwoman of a band on the cusp of great things – kept me turning pages late into the night. Holidays are GREAT. ****
Cat Marnell – How to Murder Your Life (2017): I’m struggling with whether to recommend this memoir from beauty journalist/Internet enfant terrible Cat Marnell. The idea, I guess, is a sort-of Prozac Nation for junkies, but Marnell’s hyper-confessional, stream-of-consciousness style is exhausting to read in book length. She’s not after the reader’s sympathy though, and as a reminder to seek out and re-read some of her very best writing (her column after Whitney Houston’s death, for example) this was well worth the 99p Kindle purchase. ***
Jeff Zentner – Goodbye Days (2017): Because I couldn’t walk past a copy of my old MySpace pal’s second YA novel in WH Smith at Birmingham Airport at 6am and not buy it, you know? Unlike The Serpent King, the tragic heart of this book – about a teenage boy in the aftermath of the car crash that killed his three best friends – doesn’t come as a surprise, but just like its predecessor, you’ll come away from Goodbye Days feeling like a better person. ****
Baby Driver (2017): My favourite “cultural” moment of July 2017? The opening ten minutes of Baby Driver. My least favourite? Pompous grown-up movie critics who said mean things about Baby Driver. Sure, Lily James’ female romantic lead is Manic Pixie Dreamboat personified, and it all got a bit too Tarantino in the last 20 minutes, but Edgar Wright’s latest had me acting like one of the folks in a Cineworld Unlimited advert throughout (you know, shrieking, sobbing, eye-popping, the works). An utter joy. ****
The Circle (2017): Hey, you know The Rule? The one that goes Thou Shalt Watch Anything Karen Gillan Appears In, Even if it is the Poorly Reviewed Made-for-Netflix Adaptation of a Book You Spent the Whole Last Section Ripping The Piss Out Of? It’s a rule I live my life by, even if I already knew large chunks of where the film would differ from the book after sitting up one night on holiday reading the Wikipedia plot summary while Charlotte live-texted the half an hour she watched before giving up. The parallels between The Circle of Dave Eggers’ imagination and a certain cult-like tech company, the Irish subsidiary of which once paid my bills, is stronger than ever here, but at least nobody takes anybody from behind in a public toilet cubicle! ***
The Big Sick (2017): As perhaps the most famous X-Files fan on the internet (bring back the podcast, pls) I have a huge soft spot for Kumail Nanjiani – now magnified a hundredfold, after watching this big-hearted romcom co-written with his wife Emily V Gordon about the dramatic beginnings and intra-cultural complexities of their real-life love story. With Emily, played by Zoe Kazan, in a coma for much of the film the risk of manpain (my least favourite cinematic genre) is strong – but Holly Hunter’s supporting role as Emily’s mother is an absolute joy. ****
Doctor Who, s10 (BBC1): “Is the future going to be all girl?” sneered John Simm’s Master, not best pleased to be taking orders from his female regeneration Missy (Michelle Gomez), in the season finale of Doctor Who. A couple of weeks later, we knew the answer – but, before then, Peter Capaldi spent a season playing the quick-witted, no-nonsense, kind-hearted Doctor we’d given up on wishing he had in him. For that I thank Pearl Mackie whose companion, Bill Potts, was allowed to just get on with being uncomplicatedly brilliant without any of the Impossible Girl Who Waited nonsense that had spoiled far too many recent Doctor stories. She’s back at Christmas for (at least) one more trip in the TARDIS, and I am DELIGHTED. ***
Um, I’m pretty much still listening to the Lorde album and very little else, although the first single from Alex Lahey’s I Love You Like a Brother (out 6th October) is MARVELLOUS.
Podcast-wise, I’ve been loving the frank chats and excellent guests on Janet Mock’s Never Before podcast. I also joined beauty journalist (and blog pal) Laura Pearson-Smith to talk girl!Doctor and the Kardashians on the first episode of her new entertainment podcast What’s Been Happening.
Friday at TRNSMT Festival, 9th July: I squeezed in the first day of Glasgow’s new city centre music festival before heading off on hols – and watched in horror as somebody pulled down their shorts and squeezed one out during soulful Liverpudlian Louis Berry’s early evening set. I don’t know what’s worse: that I always seem to witness public defecation at festivals, or that I haven’t let it put me off attending them. Once the horror had passed though, an otherwise decent crowd and excellent weather put me in such a good mood that I even gave Radiohead a decent review – although perhaps the fact I had to file by five songs in to make a next-day print deadline had something to do with that.
Brooke Magnanti (with Russel D McLean), Waterstones, Glasgow, 20th July: One of several events launching Dr Magnanti’s latest crime novel, You Don’t Know Me (which I just finished this weekend!). I could listen to Brooke talk for hours: the press, politicians, men and the double standards of society are frequent targets of her wry sense of humour thanks to her time as Belle De Jour, the call girl/blogger who became a bestseller, and it makes her fiction all the more gripping.
Butcher’s Choice Comedy, McPhabbs, Glasgow, 26th July: Turns out if a girl wants to see her husband on his birthday these days, she has to watch him do standup. Stringer’s latest novel might have been longlisted for all of the awards, but I have never felt more proud of him than during the two mid-set rounds of applause he got at one of Glasgow’s best comedy nights.
Skating Polly, Broadcast, Glasgow, 31st July: which I’ve already written about at length. Girls to the motherfucking FRONT.
- hitting 5,000 followers on Twitter;
- Equi’s (Great Taste award-winning!) chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream – currently only £2.50 in Morrison’s, which is also stocking some of my other favourite flavours!
- playing Shithead late into the night with my favourite people;
- rocking a bikini for the first time in my life;
- Michael Tedder’s incredible Ted Leo interview for Stereogum (so good it reminded me why I love writing about music);
- New York, as seen through the music of Ryan Adams;
- Hotel Chocolat’s new Glasgow store, and particularly the salted espresso martini chocolates;
- finding out you can buy THAT salted caramel spread in Selfridges, even though I am never in Selfridges;
- the magic bun maker I bought via a targeted Facebook ad, because it changed my life and I am not ashamed.
How is your summer shaping up? Got any more book recommendations for me?