The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

You know when you think of the perfect retort for a heated situation after the event? Even decades after the event? That is the premise of The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks. Although, it begins with shy, mild-tempered Caroline Jacobs telling the president of the PTA at her daughter’s school to fuck off. Excellent stuff.

“In the cafeteria of Benjamin Banneker High School, surrounded by crowded bulletin boards, scuffed linoleum, and the lingering smell of chicken nuggets, Caroline Jacobs had shouted a four-letter word.”

Within pages of ‘the scene’, Caroline is taking teenage daughter Polly on a road-trip, back to her home town to confront Emily Kaplan, her childhood best friend who unceremoniously dumped Caroline 25 years ago in the middle of the school cafeteria. It really is the stuff of dreams – who hasn’t had someone in their past that they would like to say “Hey, about that time when you did…” – and it often seems the more petty the crime, the greater the grievance. Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts


1. Seems like everyone in the world except me had an advance copy of Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things. Why?! I was (am) BUSTING to read it. Thankfully it has now been released and I can get stuck in.

2. And while you’re waiting for your copy of The Natural Way of Things, listen to this ace interview. Continue reading

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Years ago, when I was working full-time in an office, I did one those personality profile exercises – the Myers-Briggs of the day. It sticks in my mind because the results of this particular profiling included ‘allowable weaknesses’ which acknowledged that the flip-side of certain personality strengths were particular weaknesses. For example, if you’re a highly organised person who likes to plan ahead you’re less likely to be flexible or good at ‘living in the moment’ (and that’s okay).

How does this relate to Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life? Well, I’m granting this brilliant, immense and harrowing novel some ‘allowable weaknesses’. Continue reading

The 80s Music Compendium by Dave Kinzer


Dave Kinzer listened to all 4,172 songs that made Billboard’s Hot 100 chart during the 80s. Then he compiled 113 lists that include over 3600 of those Billboard songs. Pause and admire his dedication to the decade.

Then he published The 80s Music Compendium – a book of lists that includes everything from songs that were sung in foreign languages (99 Luftballons still holds up, in my opinion); songs that use certain instruments (looking for some ace pop to play on your oboe? Crazy for You by Madonna is just the ticket); 80s hits that are remakes of songs from different decades (basically, if you’re looking for a hit, dig out your Mavelettes vinyl. Also, recognise this?); and songs with particular modulation (so if you’ve been busting to learn an 80s hit heavy on the ostinato, you could start with I Send a Message by INXS). Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts


1. Man Booker 2015 shortlist time. I’m in the middle of A Little Life. It’s brilliant but harrowing. I also have Brief History and will probably read Spool (although I don’t love Tyler the way I feel I ought…). Thoughts on the others? Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from Reasons to Stay Alive to The Secret Son


It’s six degrees of separation for books. Created by Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith. Check out the rules if you want to play along.

This month the chain begins with Matt Haig’s memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive. I haven’t read this book (and it sounds like tough reading) but I have read dozens of other memoirs. One of my favourites is Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies – a truly original book about one of my favourite things, swimming! Continue reading

Finished the Summer Reading Challenge on a strong note


Today marks the end of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. After a slow start, I romped it in with days to spare, although haven’t written detailed reviews of my final two books – Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller and Whiskey and Charlie by Annabel Smith. It was a strong finish. Continue reading