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: 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: Staunch

Author: Eleanor Wood

Pages: 297 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

A late 30s The Wrong Knickers meets Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Eleanor finds herself in her late 30s on a beach in India with three old ladies, trying to ‘find herself’ and ‘discover her family history’ like some sad middle-class crisis cliché. How did she get here?

Truthfully, it could be for any one of the below reasons, if not all combined:

  • Stepmum dying/Stepdad leaving – family falling apart, subsequent psychotic break; both parents now on third marriage
    • Breaking up with J after 12 years – breaking up a whole life, a whole fucking universe – for reasons that may have been… misguided?
    • New boyfriend moving in immediately, me insisting ‘it’s not a rebound!’ even after everyone has stopped listening, being cited in his messy divorce, him being sectioned, then breaking up with me
    • Going into therapy after dating a potentially violent, certainly threatening, narcissist (the most pertinent point of which should be noted: I did not break up with him – he ghosted me)

How to address this situation? Take a trip to India with your octogenarian nan and two great aunts of course. The perfect, if somewhat unusual, distraction from Eleanor’s ongoing crisis.

But the trip offers so much more than Eleanor could ever have hoped for.

Through the vivid and worldly older women in her life, she learns what it means to be staunch in the face of true adversity.

The Review

I have a new goal in life. I want to be staunch.

Let me explain.

I like to think that I am not a person driven by fear. I don’t worry unnecessarily. I respond to things rather than over-thinking. However, for the past seven days (at the time of writing) I have been holed up in one room fearing the world. A virus is ripping through the country and because of my weakened immune system and the medication that I take to control my immune system I am not embarrassed to say that I am scared. Terrified, even.

So when I read something as uplifting, as courageous and as heart-warming as Staunch by Eleanor Wood I am genuinely given hope. This story of one woman’s admiration for the brave women in her family made me stop and pause, to reassess. I travelled with these ladies to their mother country. I shared their experiences – both good and bad. I revelled in their victories and had my heart squeezed by their failures. In truth, I lived their stories as I read the page.

It reminded me that whilst things are pretty crappy at the moment (and believe me, they are) that things will get better and easier and there will be things to look forward to eventually. It was the first fluttering in my belly of maybe one day being staunch.

Staunch by Eleanor Wood is available now.

For more information regarding Eleanor Wood (@eleanor_wood) please visit her twitter page.

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

Title: The Lost Ones

Author: Anita Frank

Pages: 464 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

In the classic tradition of The Woman in Black, Anita Frank weaves a spell-binding debut of family tragedy, loss and redemption.

The Review

I love a good creepy story. Preferably one set in a spooky house and there has to be a mystery.

Voila. The Lost Ones by Anita Frank.

The Lost Ones is set during World War One. Stella Marcham has experienced sadness that no one should ever have gone through. She is sent to convalesce and grieve at her sister’s home but things seem to be getting worse rather than better. When no one believes Stella and her sister about the ghostly happenings at Greyswick, she leaves herself in danger of being sent to an asylum.

I have such a visceral response to the terrible history of women being made to appear as if they were crazy or mentally unhinged. It makes me feel physically sick. I have a genuine fear of gas lighting and especially during a period of time when women weren’t taken seriously and were treated like delicate flowers. Anita Frank’s fantastic writing made me feel so helpless and hopeless for Stella. My stomach was churning and my anxiety was peaked. If a book can make you have that much of a reaction then you know that it is written well.

Furthermore, the characterisation was deeply unsettling. Mrs Henge, the housekeeper had such a sinister Mrs Danvers quality to her that it was hard not to see suspicion lying around every corner. Besides the ghost story you have a house full of intrigue and mystery with twists and turns aplenty to keep you on your toes.

As far as ghost stories go, The Lost Ones is one of the best ghost stories that I have read all year. Add in the multiple layers – war time, feminism, mental health – Anita Frank really has created a fantastic story; one that is still playing on my mind days after turning the final page.

The Lost Ones by Anita Frank is available now.

For more information regarding Anita Frank (@Ajes74) please visit her Twitter page.

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

Title: The Day We Meet Again

Author: Miranda Dickinson

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

Their love story started with goodbye…

The brand-new novel from The Sunday Times bestselling author, Miranda Dickinson.

‘We’ll meet again at St Pancras station, a year from today. If we’re meant to be together, we’ll both be there. If we’re not, it was never meant to be . . .’

Phoebe and Sam meet by chance at St Pancras station. Heading in opposite directions, both seeking their own adventures, meeting the love of their lives wasn’t part of the plan. So they make a promise: to meet again in the same place in twelve months’ time if they still want to be together.

But is life ever as simple as that?

This is a story of what-ifs and maybes – and how one decision can change your life forever…

The Review

I love train stations. That may sound weird but bear with me. Having done the long distance thing for nearly 7 years, for me train stations are synonymous with meeting my partner after a few weeks away from each other. The flip side of that is that there is always the sadness of going back home but bygones. So when I read The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson which uses St Pancras Station – once the scene of a reunion of me and my fiancé – I knew I was going to love this book.

The Day We Meet Again is one of those frustratingly wonderful books that you want to simultaneously hug and throw across the room. You yell at the characters, you will them to make better choices, you groan at the fact that they are not marionettes that you can manipulate to do your bidding but I suppose if I had that power then the book would have been much shorter and the pay off less great.

With Phoebe and Sam, Miranda Dickinson has made two fantastically likeable yet flawed characters. She has the perfect set up which has allowed them both to be selfless in their selfishness so when they pull their heads out of their bottoms they can be the perfect companion for each other. All the while you travel to some amazing places. Dickinson really has worked her magic in this book. It is a lovely read and a perfect gift for the romance reader in your life.

The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson is available now.

For more information regarding Miranda Dickinson (@wurdsmyth) please visit www.miranda-dickinson.com.

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