Title: I Carried a Watermelon – Dirty Dancing and Me

Author: Katy Brand

Pages: 249 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

I Carried a Watermelon is a love story to Dirty Dancing. A warm, witty and accessible look at how Katy Brand’s life-long obsession with the film has influenced her own attitudes to sex, love, romance, rights and responsibilities.

It explores the legacy of the film, from pushing women’s stories to the forefront of commercial cinema, to its ‘Gold Standard’ depiction of abortion according to leading pro-choice campaigners, and its fresh and powerful take on the classic ‘coming of age’ story told from a naïve but idealistic 17-year-old girl’s point of view.

Part memoir based on a personal obsession, part homage to a monster hit and a work of genius, Katy will explore her own memories and experiences, and talk to other fans of the film, to examine its legacy as a piece of filmmaking with a social agenda that many miss on first viewing. One of the most celebrated and viewed films ever made is about to have the time of its life.

The Review

It was the coronavirus isolation of 2020 and everyone was stuck inside and it didn’t occur to me to mind….okay that’s a lie. I was bored (but safe and lucky). So I decided to read I Carried a Watermelon. The reason was two-fold: 1) I like Katy Brand, I think she is funny and 2) I love Dirty Dancing. I don’t just love Dirty Dancing, I LOVE Dirty Dancing. It is a love that a few people have. An obsessive love, a love in which no one can speak badly about Dirty Dancing because I will fall out with them. I got the sense (cleverly through the title of the book and the picture on the cover of Katy Brand brandishing a watermelon) that Katy Brand liked it too.

I Carried a Watermelon is a fantastic memoir – it is funny, light hearted, silly in places but overall it connects with the reader through this shared love of the classic 80s film Dirty Dancing. Brand walks you through her childhood when we relied of video cassettes with the threat of them being worn out or in Brand’s case hidden by her father, the depression – when the remake was made (I wasn’t as brave as Brand – I saw it in snippets, I couldn’t watch the whole thing). But through it all she has this really positive attitude and pro-women-gung-ho-ness about her.

I loved it. I genuinely couldn’t put it down and I am so very jealous that she got to go to the real life Kellerman’s resort.

One thing is for sure, I will not be putting Katy Brand’s I Carried a Watermelon in the corner – that was a bit tenuous but you know what I mean.

I Carried a Watermelon by Katy Brand is available now.

For more information regarding Katy Brand (@KatyFBrand) please visit www.katybrandofficial.com.

For more information regarding HQ (@HQstories) please visit www.hqstories.co.uk.

Title: The Panic Years

Author: Nell Frizzell

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Random House/Transworld Publishers/Bantam Press

The Blurb

The Panic Years: something between adolescence and menopause, a personal crisis, a transformation.

The panic years can hit at any time but they are most commonly triggered somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and forty. During this time, every decision a woman makes – from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends – will be impacted by the urgency of the one decision with a deadline, the one decision that is impossible to take back: whether or not to have a baby.

But how to stay sane in such a maddening time?
How to understand who you are and what you might want from life?
How to know if you’re making the right decisions?

Raw, hilarious and beguilingly honest, Nell Frizzell’s account of her panic years is both an arm around the shoulder and a campaign to start a conversation. This affects us all – women, men, mothers, children, partners, friends, colleagues – so it’s time we started talking about it with a little more candour.

The Review

I am 36 years old. Well, I will be 37 this year and so this book, The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell should, in theory, speak to me.

Nell Frizzell is looking at things that society deems important to a 30+ year old. Things like marriage, children, and early menopause. And whilst I have thought about those things they aren’t necessarily a massive concern. I can see the reasons why Frizzell wrote about them and I admire her candid approach – at times she comes across as a little cuckoo and obsessed with time running away from her – but I think for me personally I didn’t mirror her concerns. I think The Panic Years would be a perfect book for someone looking for reassurance – in particular about becoming a mum – but it didn’t resonate with me because I don’t necessarily want the same things as her.

The Panic Years is well written and I think more books like this are needed. Women need to have their voices heard on subjects that are generally kept quiet and hidden and it needs bold voices like Nell Frizzell and so I admire her greatly for her writing and her honesty.

The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell is available now.

For more information regarding Nell Frizzell (@NellFrizzell) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Random House UK (@penguinrandom) please visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com.

For more information regarding Bantam Press (@BantamPress) please visit www.bantam.press.

Title: The Reading Cure – How Books Restored My Appetite

Author: Laura Freeman

Pages: 272 Pages

Publisher: W & N

The Blurb

At the age of fourteen, Laura Freeman was diagnosed with anorexia. But even when recovery seemed impossible, the one appetite she never lost was her love of reading. Slowly, book by book, Laura re-discovered how to enjoy food – and life – through literature.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

I am fully aware of the restorative power of good books. I once spent nearly six months bed bound and reading my way through my bookshelf. At the time of reading The Reading Cure I am on a 12 week Coronavirus lockdown and I am consuming books at a rapid pace. So whenever I see books that extol the healing power of reading I will always be drawn to them.

What I found with The Reading Cure is a memoir that his heartbreakingly beautiful and a writer – Laura Freeman – who talks about books with such passion that I count help but feel compelled to read more about her.  If I am honest, I didn’t know who Laura Freeman was before reading her book but what I found was a vulnerable girl who was fighting a daily battle but also a girl that was winning. It may not seem that she has massive scream from the roof top victories but the victories that she had were very uplifting to read about.

After reading The Reading Cure I know I will be paying a lot more attention to the food featured in books.

The Reading Cure – How Books Restored My Appetite by Laura Freeman is available now.

For more information regarding W & N Books (@wnbooks) please visit www.weidenfeldandnicolson.co.uk.

Title: Q

Author: Christina Dalcher

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s new elite schools. Her daughters are exactly like her: beautiful, ambitious, and perfect. A good thing, since the recent mandate that’s swept the country is all about perfection.

Now everyone must undergo routine tests for their quotient, Q, and any children who don’t measure up are placed into new government schools. Instead, teachers can focus on the gifted.

Elena tells herself it’s not about eugenics, not really, but when one of her daughters scores lower than expected and is taken away, she intentionally fails her own test to go with her.

But what Elena discovers is far more terrifying than she ever imagined…

The Review

I recently read Vox by Christina Dalcher and was suitably horrified by the world that she created in that story so I was eager to see what else she could do and boy was I impressed.

Q is a dystopian story that managed to scare me senseless. Dalcher’s take on society and eugenics was genuinely terrifying. I think more so because it has happened before and because in the society in which we live I can very easily see happening again if we aren’t careful.

Elena’s story of a mother’s love is at the heart of Q and makes you ache with what she is going through. You love and loathe characters with such ferocity and I think, in Elena’s husband Malcolm, Dalcher has created a villain that I hate nearly as much as I hate Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter.

I think that this book hit home for me because I work in a school and ranking systems are used. Not in the sinister way that are featured in Q but it is something that I am used to seeing. Who is to say that this dystopian ideal is not to be put in place in the future?

Q by Christina Dalcher is available now.

For more information regarding HQ (@HQstories) please visit www.hqstories.co.uk.

Title: Last Lesson

Author: James Goodhand

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House

The Blurb

Last year, Ollie Morcombe was a star pupil, popular and a gifted musician.

Then, after the accident, everything changed. Now he’s an outcast, a prime target of the school bullies who have made his life a living hell.

Today – the last day of the school year – he’s brought those bullies a gift. A homemade pipe bomb.

What has driven a model student to plan an unspeakable revenge? And with the clock ticking down to home time, what can anybody do to stop him?

The Review

Last Lesson focuses on Ollie who has been through some massive change in the past 12 months and they have had a profound effect on him and how he is handling life. For Ollie, he can only see one option. To get revenge on the people that have been making his life hell. He plans to kill them all in their last lesson of high school.

What a complex topic wrapped in a really readable novel. James Goodhand has looked at many complicated issues within his novel Last Lesson. He looks at the hierarchy within the school system, he looks at grief and he looks at mental health.

I think what Goodhand has done well with Last Lesson is to look at the complexities of mental health and its correlation with extremism. He has handled it sensitively and without pushing blame or agenda other than trying to help you spot the signs.

It seems strange to say I enjoyed this novel because I shouldn’t have enjoyed a novel which has such a sad message but it is hard not to like it. Goodhand is a great writer who engages you in the story and really makes you care for the characters. It will be interesting to see what he writes next.

Last Lesson by James Goodhand is available now.

For more information regarding James Goodhand (@goodhand_james) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Penguin Random House (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.