Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

‘One day, the mother was a mother but then, one night, she was quite suddenly something else…’

Nightbitch, that was her name. That is all she is. All she’s referred to. That was her something else.

Mothers, cast your minds back to when your babies’ body clocks were trying to get into a routine. Awake half the night, or all night. Those small hours when it felt like you and your tiny bundle were the only two people on the planet. The sleep deprivation holds strong. Your brain feels weird. Your body feels weird. Lack of sleep does stuff to you. Strange stuff. It’s a mad time looking after a new human.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a good man at your side. He might be snoring his head off peacefully or away all week, working, bringing home the bacon. But when you’re loosing your mind because twenty minutes sleep a night for months on end doesn’t quite cut it, a woman’s grip on reality may become a little compromised.

‘At first she did nothing, waiting for her husband to wake, which he did not, because that was a thing he ever did. She waited longer than she usually did, waited and waited, the boy wailing while she lay as still as a corpse, patiently waiting for the day when her corpse self would miraculously be reanimated and taken into the Kingdom of the Chosen, where it would create an astonishing art installation composed of many aesthetically interesting beds’.

Nightbitch used to have a career, a life outside of four walls. A life beyond feeding and vomit and nappy changes and laundry. She was an artist, a creator. She and her husband had made the greatest creation of all, their baby son, and yet, it wasn’t enough. She had a gap in her life which couldn’t be filled with toddler play dates, meetings with other Moms, chatting baby this, baby that, all day long. No. It wasn’t her. Nightbitch was her. Small signs. Small urges. Slowly, terrifyingly, and at times, hilariously, she felt that she was simply turning into a dog.

‘Yes, vegetables were very civilised. Dogs wouldn’t buy vegetables. Listen to what you’re saying, she said to herself.’

As Nightbitch became more and more Nightbitch, so her parenting abilities changed, for the better? In some ways, I’d say yes. In others, absolutely hell no!! Her son adored their playtimes, the ‘let’s pretend’ at being doggies. Woof!

She was finally finding herself. At last. Even her husband reaped some benefits, on occasion.

As you can probably sense by the first part of my review, this is a story about motherhood and coping and not coping. The best way to describe it to someone would be –

‘It’s an alternative Mother and Baby Book’. Or…

‘It’s an alternative Marriage Counselling Book.’ Or…

‘It’s an alternative Spiritual Health and Well-being Book’.

I’m laughing now, because, really, it is none of those things at all. It’s a dark and deeply disturbing story where the reader can take from it whatever they see fit. There’s a speculative feel to it all the way through, and I love that in a book. There is no right or wrong way to how this book should make the reader feel.

Rachel Yoder’s writing style has such wickedness to it. Her characters are drawn on the pages so clearly, yet we know only just below the surface of most of them. Apart from Nightbitch. Around half way, we know her well. A little too well perhaps.

What I found unusual in Nightbitch was the way her two year old toddlers personality developed into such a big-part character as the story unfolded. We start to see the kind of child he is becoming. How family traits can go far back and then journey their way to the current time. For such a young character, his innocence and sheer glee was a pleasure to read. It was even heartwarming in places. Not too often though, let’s not get carried away from the darkness this book has in spades.

Nightbitch is a wild, wild ride and I think it would either entertain or horrify. I don’t think there’s middle ground here. It entertained me from beginning to end. I loved everything about it. After all, we are all animals at the end of the day, aren’t we?

Be more Nightbitch ladies, and control yourselves in the raw meat aisle at Tesco.

Thank you to Kate at Harvill Secker for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Life on Other Planets by Matt Cook

It’s 1997 and Ben Carters Great Aunt Pearl has just died. Ben arrives with his Dad, Victor, and various Aunts and Uncles meet at the dilapidated old house in order to get cracking with the sorting out and organising of the funeral. Nothing unusual about that, where there’s life, there’s death. Where there’s families, there’s stress. Goes hand in hand.

However, no one can seem to find Aunt Pearls Will, which is a tad problematic. Patience is tested, the families true colours begin to emerge and relationships take a bit of a toxic turn. And then there’s the discovery of something called the ‘Church of The Holy Heavens’ which causes no end of questions and suspicions. Things begin to get as messy as the stale old house itself.

At first glance the title and cover hints that the story is going to be somewhat ‘out there’. Other planets, things that are not of this world, the suggestion of alternative life and beyond.

But the story within couldn’t be more grounded to planet earth and the people on it if it tried. I found myself becoming quickly absorbed and at one with the trials and tribulations of the Carter family.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 47 years of being on planet earth, it’s that humans can be pretty crap when it comes to familial stress. Moving house, new jobs, new schools, relationships, babies, doing the monthly ‘big shop’, health, money, death. It all plays a part in what we all become as we age and slide into that older generation category. (I’m not quite there, yet…!)

As we age, the more knowledgeable we become, yes? Well, actually, having just spent 266 pages with fourteen year old Ben and seeing his family unit through his young eyes has triggered a bit of a rethink actually.

Matt Cooks writing gave me a bit of a zap when I started reading. I knew from a very early point that this was going to be a thoughtful, relatable story, with nuggets of dark humour dropped in throughout.

So, this zap, let me explain. On starting a book, sometimes you read a paragraph, or one sentence in the first few chapters and you already know that you’ve got yourself some quality writing. That’s exciting. That’s the zap.

‘The refrigerator was a riot of mould and malfunction; ancient foodstuffs of unknowable content glistened and furred and hatched plans.’

I mean, who’d think to link crusty-labelled jars of the unknown with dodgy best before dates in the back of a cupboard with the ‘hatching of plans’? Matt did, and it made me laugh far too hard, I completely got it. I’ve rummaged through a similar cupboard or two myself!

That’s how Matt writes. His humour has a slightly dark, yet soft, spiritual side. He has a real understanding of the human psyche, which shines throughout the book. This is particularly prominent with his characters. He must of cast his mind back to his fourteen year old self numerous times.

Matt has created a heartfelt story that is full of life, even though the plot is predominantly about death. Humans are simply being human. Teenagers loitering on the sidelines, often invisible, yet brimming with ideas and carefully trying to work out their own lives. Adults in the thick of it, unknowingly (and probably knowingly) cocking things up.

Many of us have been there, lived it, seen it.

But have we properly seen it?

Fact: Matt has.

I think he’s a bit of a ‘people watcher’. He sees things from a different angle, this helped in creating his characters, the descriptions and situations.

‘I tried again to speak, to clear things up, but my voice was a chewy substance that fell straight out of my mouth on to the floor’.

Matt has a way with words, his story telling has a flow that is so immersive. Before I knew it I had read well over half the book, I’d only picked it up for a chapter or two. A sure sign of a great book is when you’re lost in those pages and don’t realise you have been until you stop, and jump back out into real life.

I would highly recommend Life on Other Planets to everyone. It’s the kind of book which would appeal to adults, teenagers, or a senior human being. It’s got an abundance of emotion, and what stood out most of all was it’s readability. It’s so readable, you don’t even feel yourself getting sucked in. I felt like I was hiding in a cupboard in Pearls hallway, earwigging and spying on the family.

So as you’ve probably gathered, I absolutely loved it and I’m looking forward to seeing what else Matt has up his sleeve. Marvellous stuff!

Thank you Matt for sending me a gifted copy, it’s found it’s comfy slot on my forever shelf.

YA MUM by Ben Tallon

YA MUM and other stories from the backstreets of Britain

A strange little yellow book full of strange scenarios that every single one of us can relate to in some way.

Ya Mum is short vignette style stories that give a sense of art and deeper thought to everyday occurrences that are always seen but often ignored. 

From dumped shopping trolleys to a lonesome shoe. Social distancing in Morrisons to an unpleasant discovery in a pub toilet. 

Armed with the perils of hangovers and dubiously stained mattresses, author Ben Tallon sees our world a little differently. He sees beyond the basics, he turns the arse-end of British life into something story-worthy. 

I see this book as a ‘loo book’ or stocking filler. A book that you find yourself reading out of morbid curiosity, nodding in agreement and surprise at just how relevant it is. 

It’s a strange little yellow book, and I recommend it for shits and giggles. It offers a perspective of this crappy world with its crappy people that’s nothing quite like yours.

About the author:

Ben Tallon is a writer, illustrator and host of Arrest All Mimics podcast. He grew up laughing at farts in Keighley, West Yorkshire and is fascinated by the dirty underbelly of British culture.

Thank you to author Ben Tallon for sending me a signed copy.

Bunny by Mona Awad

‘We call them Bunnies because that is what they call each other. Seriously. Bunny.’

I’m a bit all over the place with this book. I’d call it a ‘yo-yo read’. It’s sickly sweet, ugly pretty, cutely foul and oddly addictive. I was up and down throughout, with awkward ‘do I even like this’ moments. On numerous occasions I was indeed loving it in all its twisted hilarity.

Samantha Heather Mackey is an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at Warren University. In fact, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort – a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other ‘Bunny’.

But then the Bunnies issue her with an invitation and Samantha finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door, across the threshold, and down their rabbit hole.

Bunny was an unusual choice for me as it’s got Young Adult/Fantasy genre written all over it – not my usual choice. But this book feels like it not only blends genres, but bends them too. Into very uncomfortable positions.

⤴️You can treat yourself to this Bunny Zone sign for your wall/garden/bedroom/dustbin area by clicking on the sign!

It’s as funny as hell in places and has a fair few horrific scenes. On Goodreads someone described it as ‘one of the most demented books I’ve ever read’. I dig a bit of weirdness in my books, so my FOMO got the better of me!

I’m a member of The Ladies of Horror Fiction Group on Goodreads and there was a choice of books for September to vote for. Bunny won, so I thought, oh why not, let’s do it! I’m glad I did, but I’m still not sure I even liked it much!

I’m in the UK and the story is American, so I found certain things that I didn’t connect with. The education system in the USA is something I know nothing about. Also certain pop culture went over my head, so perhaps things were a bit lost on me.

The quirky characters were cracking, the humour was dark and dry, it was shockingly funny on countless occasions. It was written in such a way that is felt ‘chatty’ and flowed from page to brain* very easily.

*whilst mashing it up repeatedly.

The Sunday Independent quotes it as ‘Mean Girls with added menace’ and I completely agree.

At three quarters through I felt it was just playing with me. My feelings went from ‘this is weird’ to this is ‘REALLY effing weird’. Then ‘it’s so hilarious but still weird.’ Then ‘uh-oh, I’m getting a bit bored of the repetitive bits in the middle here.’ And the final part was just ‘whaaat??? – I’m not sure I even ‘get it!’

Talk about rollercoaster! It’s like nothing I’ve read before ever. But I think I liked it.

Would I read it again? No. Would I recommend it? I would, yes. But it’s definitely not for everyone. Maybe it would sit better with an American reader, and certainly would be more appreciated by someone twenty years younger than myself.

Apparently the rights are sold to AMC for a possible TV-film adaptation. I think it would be better on screen, I’d watch it, but only because I’ve read it.

It comes across as a weird, fantastical teen/YA story, with elements of horror that is cleverly put together. I enjoyed the characters and their strange behaviours, the writing was extremely good but overall I’d say it is an above average ‘Bunny Tail’ deserving of 3/5 bunnies.

I’ll leave you with a couple of lines which made me pull a right dodgy face;

‘A pause so pregnant it delivers, consumes its own spawn, then grows big with child again.’

‘She looks at us all in her probing, intensely gynaecological way.’

Urgh! That’s just ‘orrible!!

Here is the news…

A Two Ronnies-esque play on book titles Blogpost. Here’s some of my favourite Indie Publishers combined with some books that are on my shelves in a special bookish ‘News Flash’. With a final shout out to a fabulous online book shop.

Good morning/afternoon/evening. Here is the news 🤓 🤓

Photo courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper. Obviously.

Today’s top stories:

News just in! There’s been a report from a couple of local ladies about a sighting of something unusual in their back garden.

Our reporter has just informed us that they said they’ve spotted what appears to be a BLUE MOOSE wandering around, eating their carrots. They said ‘WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE and usually it’s a BUNNY that steals our produce. We don’t know what to think during these strange times anymore.’

Our next story is focusing on the ridiculous amount of books that Lisa from OwlBeSatReading has accumulated over the last few months.

When interviewed she said ‘I don’t know how it gets like this. There seems to be an INFLUX of great authors at the moment, I end up in some kind of book LABYRINTH, struggling to find a way out! I often blame OTHERS but I know for certain I just get the HORNS for new books.’

Next an exclusive story, perhaps to take with a pinch of SALT. The theory behind ‘second breakfasts’.

Although small in stature, we spoke to a group of men (?) about their lives and how it evolves around mealtimes.

One, who wishes to remain anonymous said, ‘you can simply call me Mr HOBBIT, as I don’t want to bring unnecessary attention to us all as we’re on a secret journey at the moment. But I will say there’s never a time when we’re not FAMISHED. You could say we’re bounders really, but we’re certainly not UNBOUND!’

When questioned further, he said ‘we’re going there and back again, that’s all I’m willing to disclose at this stage’.

More on that story later.

Our next bulletin has had a few locals very perplexed. A new housing estate has recently been built and some have experienced a lot of ‘strange goings on’. Here’s EMMA, who lives opposite WUTHERING HEIGHTS to tell our reporter more.

‘I was pegging out my washing early one morning when I caught something in the corner of my eye. I’m no fan of ancient religions, big or SMALL GODS for that matter, but I am convinced I saw A MODERN FAMILY getting into their car and one of their kids was wearing A HEAD OF ZEUS!’

Our reporter asked to look from where she saw this bizarre occurrence and pointed over to her SANDSTONE patio, saying ‘my washing line is strung between those TWO TOWERS, so it’s a good viewpoint. I’ve set up CCTV because I think I’m going mad’.

We’ll keep you updated as the story unfolds.

And finally, as we bring today’s report to a close, bringing you a MYRIAD of bookish oddities, I’d like to end with this lovely story.

Our final article is a heartwarming story about a pile of books found by a chap who’s had an unlikely escape from who knows where. He goes by the name Uriah. URIAH HEEP.

He was in the park walking his dog last Tuesday when he stumbled across a stack of books all wrapped up in a lovely red bow! Uriah tells us more.

‘I remember seeing a postcard in the local post office from a bloke called Bert who’d sadly mislaid some books and he’d be keen on getting them back. Apparently they were for his friend Rose. They may of been for ROSEMARY’S BABY as she’d recently had a wee nipper. Anyway, I’m so happy I could be the bearer of good tidings, I took great pleasure in returning BERTS BOOKS’.

So that brings us to the end of today’s news. Thank you for joining us.

It’s a goodnight from me and a goodnight from him. GOODNIGHT.