28th February 2018: International Day of Hygge

I love the hygge trend. I’m definitely someone who loves home comforts, cosy blankets and cups of tea. Hygge can also translate as self-care. As someone with a chronic illness, I have to take care of myself, and there’s nothing I love more than snuggling on the sofa, surrounded by candles and soft throws and that feeling of being at home.

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February 28th is International Day of Hygge. On that day, people will be sharing how they go about embracing hygge, using #internationalhyggeday.

Last year I wrote a blog post about how to bring hygge into your office. The 28th falls on a Wednesday, so I’ll be at work all day, then attending a Pilates class, which is something that greatly helps my fibromyalgia.

I’m all about embracing hygge in small ways every day, so I’ll make sure I take a proper tea break at work, sitting and meditating and just being in the moment. In the evening, we’ll have some good comfort food, maybe roasted lamb chops. I’ll make time for reading, snuggled up in the car on my lunch break or curled up on the sofa in the evening before bed, fighting off the winter with a hot drink.

Hygge is literally about enjoying life, acknowledging joy, and creating a cosy environment. It’s the little things that make your day just that bit better. For ideas on how to embrace this day, visit How To Hygge The British Way.

What will you be doing on International Day of Hygge?

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Challenging big companies to reduce plastic

Unless you live under a rock, you will have seen the latest news about just how bad plastic is for the environment. According to some studies, plastic pollution is having a huge impact on our oceans and sealife, with creatures swallowing tiny bits of plastic all the time. You only have to search for ‘plastic pollution’ or ‘plastic ocean’, and you’ll find a variety of different articles, detailing just how bad this problem has become.

Now, big groups of activists have joined together and are fighting back. One particular petition is aimed at big companies to ban plastic cutlery and straws, and has almost 150,000 signatures. The petition states: “Globally, we throw away 500 million straws a day, and according to PlasticOceans.org, we dump 8 million tonnes of single-use plastic in our oceans yearly.” Those are incredibly (and infuriating) figures.

Pressure is also being put on British supermarkets to reduce plastic packaging. As detailed in my recent blog post about my journey to becoming more environmentally conscious, we as individuals can only do so much. Big companies must take more responsibility.

Not only have I signed the petition above, and similar ones, I also contacted Tesco and Asda about their plastic use. I will be contacting other supermarkets and big companies too, but these are the first responses I’ve received.

Asda:

Thank you for contacting us about this issue.
We want our customers to trust that we’re doing the right things on the issues that matter to them. That is why we recently published our commitments to reducing our use of plastic and recycling more.
We’ve already got a strong track record when it comes to reducing our packaging. We’ve reduced out total weight of packaging by 27% since 2007 and are committed to making all our Own Brand packaging recyclable by 2025.
But, we’ve challenged ourselves to look at how we can move faster on this important issue and have identified some immediate actions we can take.
  • Over the next 12 months we will be removing 10% of plastic from all our own brand products as well as continuing to work with our suppliers and other experts to explore new options and find more recyclable solutions.
  • We will be phasing out 5p ‘single use’ carrier bags from our stores in 2018, with a donation from the sale of our “bags for life” going to good causes.
  • We will also introduce a zero profit re-usable coffee cup to provide our customers with a great value alternative to single use cups. Alongside this, we will also be removing all single use cups and plastic cutlery from our head offices in 2018, with all our stores and in store cafes adopting the same policy by the end of 2019.
As part of our longer term work to look at new innovations in plastics and to find different solutions to plastic, we are also working in partnership with the UK’s leading experts in packaging technology at Leeds Beckett University Retail Institute as well as one of our biggest UK suppliers, ABP, on priority projects to develop new alternatives to plastics and more recyclable materials.
Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch and if you wish to read more on our pledge please follow the link below:
Tesco:
Thank you for contacting us.
 As part of our Little Helps plan, we have made the following commitments:
•Making all packaging fully recyclable or compostable by 2025
•Ensuring that all paper and board used will be 100% sustainable by 2025
•Halving packaging weight by 2025 compared to 2007 levels
Our aspirations go further than these targets, and we would like to work in partnership with Government and all of our suppliers to create a closed loop system for packaging.
Across the UK in particular, we see three steps:
1. Materials and design: There is an opportunity to reduce and simplify the types of materials we use in our packaging as part of our product development process in collaboration with our suppliers.
Through the reduction and simplification of the current range and type of materials we accept in our packaging we could create over the longer term a closed loop system based on selecting only recyclable materials.
This in turn can stimulate innovation in the packaging and recycling market through increased demand (e.g. increasing the use of rPET). We will require design innovation from our suppliers, such as greater use of compostable and biodegradable materials.
2. Recovery/recycling: This is one area we need greater innovation and there is opportunity for significant government leadership.
Currently, the inconsistencies in infrastructure and recycling activities between councils make consumer education and closed loop systems impossible to build. We would welcome the creation of an integrated national collection of packaging and investment in innovative recycling facilities. This is essential to a holistic approach to packaging recycling. PRN reform is also a necessary part of the solution and we look to contributing to this process.
We do support developing a cost-effective Deposit Return System (DRS) and are currently working with a number of partners to scope a project to explore how this can operate in practice and at scale. We view DRS as only one aspect of the holistic approach that is required to achieve the broader goals of reducing waste and increasing recycling in the UK.
3. Changing customer behaviour: Behaviour change can only be driven once a recognised and understood recycling infrastructure is in place. Getting this right will support consumer education and practice (failure to do so will lead to frustration for customers and a low take up rate on recycling).
Helping individuals to make the right choices can start with simple, clear and consistent information on packaging supported by other media. We can use marketing and promotions to encourage recycling, use of own containers, and choice of packaging purchase.
These steps will build on the progress we’ve made in recent years:
•In the UK, we have removed polystyrene from our fish packaging and replaced with a more environmentally friendly plastic, avoiding 653 tonnes of polystyrene being used.
•With our meat trays, we have replaced a two layer plastic tray with a single layer plastic, thereby making 84 million trays easier to recycle and removing 96 tonnes of plastic.
•We have made significant changes to the packaging of our wet wipes with a 20% material reduction and removal of 57 tonnes of plastic. This material saving is enough to make over 10 million more packs.
Overall, over 78% of the packaging on all our own brand products is recyclable depending on if the local authority collect it.
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.
It seems like they’re all making the right noises, and it’s certainly a step in the right direction, but now isn’t the time to let up the pressure. We have to start putting our money where our mouths are, and boycotting companies that refuse to take responsibility.
I’ve been on a journey to swap my cosmetics and toiletries to cruelty free (and vegan and natural, where possible), deciding to take a moral stand and refuse to give my money to companies who don’t care about these things, so why not do it with packaging waste too? We’ve recently started buying our milk from an old-fashioned milkman, who not only provides milk in glass bottles, but they also take the empty ones away to be reused. We’ve also swapped to Ocado for our shopping, buy our meat and cheese from the local farm shop, and always refuse single use bags.
While this is a lifestyle choice, it also doesn’t make sense to me that people don’t care about the environment. This is our planet, and we won’t get another one. We cannot continue to abuse it.
Let me know if you’ve had any positive responses from big companies regarding their environmental policies!

The Bandwagon Goes Environmentally Conscious

Last year, one of my personal projects was to go cruelty free and vegan where possible when it comes to my beauty products. I’ve swapped Clinique for The Body Shop, fallen for Sand&Sky’s face mask, and become a regular at Superdrug. But now I want to tackle something else – waste.

Some of you may know that, as my day job, I work in regulatory affairs for a medical company. As part of that, because we’re a small team, we also handle the environmental side of things. We’re certified to ISO 14001, which means we have goals to be more environmentally conscious, and we also have to submit our packaging waste and WEEE data to the relevant authority. We have internal training on the environment, and what we can do to reduce our impact as a company, as well as individuals. This means that I have to be more environmentally aware, and that awareness spills from my professional life into my personal life.

Confession: my partner has always been better at recycling and reducing waste than I am. Being a cynic, I don’t trust our local council to put much effort into recycling. Also, it can be hella confusing. With all the revelations about just how insidious plastic is, I’m now second guessing everything I put into the recycling bin.

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The first goal is to reduce. It seems like everything comes packaged in plastic, especially from the supermarket. When the 5p plastic bag surcharge came in, it made us a bit more conscious of how wasteful they can be. Our plastic bags are always reused as bin bags for our bathroom bin, so that’s one plus point, but they do ultimately end up in landfill. So we bought some Bags For Life, and remember to use them around 95% of the time, thus reducing the amount of plastic bags we use.

Another thing we’re implementing is switching to a milkman. Yep, the old fashioned milkman of years gone by, who delivers milk to your front door in glass bottles. Living so close to London, I thought we’d have a plethora of options, but I could actually only find a few milkmen in our area. We’ve gone with Tim Davis Dairies of Braintree in Essex, who will kindly deliver five pints of organic milk to us in glass bottles. (They also take the bottles away to be reused.) We used to order 4 pints from the supermarket every week, plus one or two singular pints for me to take to work. So that’s a huge amount of plastic gone from our weekly shop.

One question that must be asked: Is it more expensive? The simple answer is yes. 1 pint of organic milk from Sainsburys cost 65p. From the milkman, it’s 85p. We’re in the fortunate position to be able to afford that difference, but not everyone is. Until supermarkets wake up and stop producing so much bloody waste, some people have no option but to continue with the cheaper, arguably more convenient supermarkets.

One thing that does actually work out cheaper is Who Gives A Crap, an Australian company that delivers bulk packs of toilet paper to your front door. At first glance, it feels like you’re paying out more, but the toilet paper lasts so much longer, so it does work out cheaper than the supermarket equivalent (recycled paper). It’s super soft, recycled paper, and they use no plastic in their packaging. They also donate 50% of their profits to building toilets. Doing good definitely feels good.

The next step is to reuse. I do have several reusable Starbucks cups that I take to work and in the car. But these cups are too big to fit into our coffee machine, so what do I do? I use a non-recylable cup to put into the machine, which gets thrown away. Well done, me.

To combat this, I’ve bought a KeepCup, a smaller glass cup that will fit inside the damn machine at work, and is easier to transport as it has a lid that closes (though it’s not fully leak-proof). Hopefully this will mean I’ll pop it in my bag every time I go out, and stop using disposable coffee cups.

I have OCD, and part of my OCD is a fear of germs. I don’t like eating off other people’s cutlery, or using their mugs. It makes me feel ill. So going out to eat can be a struggle. One huge factor for me are straws. I hate drinking out of glasses that hundreds of others have touched, so I always get a straw. Which is bad. I’ve bought a set of glass straws from Amazon, which are actually really nice to use, and they’re easy to clean. I just need to find a way of keeping one in my bag without it getting mucky.

The final option is to recycle. As mentioned above, our local council doesn’t recycle everything, so you have to be careful what you put in your bin. They do recycle most plastic, glass, and cardboard, so they’re my first port of call, but I’ve signed up to Terracycle in order to properly recycle beauty and household products, like those pesky packs face wipes come in. There are various other recycling schemes on Terracycle, but those two are ones we could definitely do with using.

But is this enough? I’m always of the mind that we can only do what we can do, as individuals. Money, time, and circumstances always factors into these things. There are also some things I want to tackle, but I don’t know how. Receipts, clingfilm, teabags (!). The list feels endless, and you can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed.

The truth is that a lot of these things have to be sorted out by the manufacturers, and by supermarkets. Stop wrapping bananas in plastic, for fuck sake. Start investing in reusable, sustainable packaging. Stop using plastic in absolutely everything. Coffee shops, start recycling your cups (like Costa does), or just stop using disposable ones. Greater minds than mine can come up with decent solutions, I’m sure of it. Let’s make the environment a priority.

In Bloom: My current work-in-progress

Since last autumn, I’ve been working on my latest project; a full-length, semi-autobiographical novel called In Bloom. I’m currently on my second draft, conducting a full read-through, and getting feedback from beta readers. I’m aiming to have a final draft ready to submit for publication within the next month.

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I want to talk about In Bloom, because writing it has been an incredible journey for me. When I say it’s semi-autobiographical, what I mean is that one of the key events in the novel is based on something that happened to me as a teenager. When I was 15, I was raped by a guy I’d been seeing casually, and had agreed to go off with, but when I wanted to stop, he wouldn’t.

It took a long time for me to realise that this was rape. We were warned about strange men lurking in dark alleys, or even creepy “uncles” who might touch you in the wrong way, but not about this. I was never told that I could say no at any point. That having full body autonomy means that I can give and withdraw consent whenever I wish. And that if someone doesn’t respect my decision, they are doing something wrong.

As girls, we’re taught all the wrong things. To quote my own novel:

It starts when we’re young, of course. We’re told what good girls do, and don’t do. Then we start to have periods and grow breasts, and we’re told to hide ourselves, lest we attract The Wrong Attention. We’re told to be wary of boys, afraid of men, and their questionable intentions. Yet we also have to live with them, trust them, love them, so we don’t know how to cope when those men betray us, hurt us. The world takes us apart, piece by piece, turns us into unsure, trembling, fragile creatures. We’re left bare, vulnerable.

And so it goes, our confidence slowly ripped apart, our sense of self destroyed. How many young women know what constitutes rape? How many young men know what consent actually means? The answer is pretty terrifying.

I didn’t start writing In Bloom so I could name the guy who raped me. The time for that has passed. I’ve changed enough details so it’s unlikely he, or anyone else, will realise the event I’m talking about. I wanted to write this story because writing is my outlet. It’s cathartic, therapeutic. I wanted to tell this story because it’s the story of so many other women and girls; women and girls who may feel that they’re alone, that they’re wrong. In Bloom has a very simple message: You are not alone. You are justified. You are heard.

That scene is pivotal for my protagonist, Lauren, but it isn’t the end of the story. She has to deal with someone sharing a photograph of her from that night – passed out, half-naked, vulnerable. She loses her friends. And then, almost a year later, her sister, Hannah, is found dead.

In Bloom may be a story of pain, of sexual violence and trauma. But it’s also a story of sisterhood, of maturity, of confronting your past, your ghosts. It’s a story of acceptance, not of what has happened to you, but acceptance of yourself, as you are. You are more than the sum of your experiences.

I’m still open for beta readers, though I will caution anyone that this book contains the following themes: rape, child abuse, suicide. But nothing is graphic or gratuitous. Read the blurb below, and if you’re interested, please email thebandwagonreviews@gmail.com.

 

In Bloom

Lauren Winters must return to her hometown, the town she fled from after her sister, Hannah, committed suicide. 

Before Hannah died, she revealed a truth to Lauren that she knew could never be forgiven. After Lauren experiences a traumatic event, she relies on Hannah to keep her safe and sane. But what happens when the one you trust the most betrays you?

Lauren has no choice but to go back, to face the life she left behind. 10 years later, a memorial is being held in Hannah’s honour. And someone is desperate to bring her back to life.

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Medsmart: The medication reminder app

As my readers will know, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia almost two years ago. Since then, I’ve been on amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant that’s prescribed to help with chronic pain and fatigue.

Amitriptyline is a tricky drug. It took me a while to get used it each time my doctor increased my dose, leaving me to deal with side effects like drowsiness and a dry mouth. It also matters what time you take this medication, and getting that right can take a while too.

Since I started taking amitriptyline, I’ve had a reminder on my phone each evening, telling me to take my medication. Fibromyalgia often comes with “fibro fog”, making it hard to remember things. Since taking my medication is important, I didn’t want to leave it to chance, so my calendar has been clogged up with a daily “take pill” reminder. Until I found out about Medsmart.

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Medsmart is relatively new, so they’re still adding medications. My version of amitriptyline wasn’t on there when I first downloaded the app, but it is now. I scanned the barcode, then went through a few questions to ensure it was the right medication, and that I wasn’t allergic to anything in it. Then I could set up my reminder.

I take 50mg of amitriptyline every night, and I’ve recently been taking an extra 10mg later on to help with broken sleep. Sadly, the 10mg version isn’t available on Medsmart yet, but I hope it’s forthcoming. I set a reminder to take 50mg in the app for 18:30 every evening. Right on time, it popped up, then prompted me to go through the app to confirm I had taken the medication.

Overall, the app is smooth and easy to use. The interface is clear, the information obvious and easy to understand. You can also set reminders for someone else, so if you care for a friend or family member, you can use the app to remind you which medications they need to take, at what time(s). I think this is a nice touch.

My only grip is that the barcode scanner isn’t always clear the first time you try to use it; sometimes it was blurry, so I had to come out and try again. I’m also keen to see their library of medications expanded to include everything I take, but I understand that getting everything on their system is a huge task! I’ll definitely continue to use this app in the future.

The Medsmart app is free to download on Android and Apple. You can find out more on their website.

Season’s Greetings from The Bandwagon!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I love yuletide, my word of choice for this time of year. Bringing the outside in, getting together with friends and family, and sharing good food and laughter. There’s nothing quite like it.

Whatever you do this December, I want to wish you a very happy festive season, and all the best for 2018!

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Best Books of 2017

December is here, yay! It’s almost Christmas, and 2018 is just around the corner. So it’s time for The Bandwagon’s best books of 2017!

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As usual, I’ve read some absolutely brilliant books this year. It’s always difficult to pick a favourite, so I’ve picked my top 10 books of 2017. The only theme I can pick out is that most of my tops books were written by women. There have been a lot of strong books by women authors lately, and I’m keen to see this theme continue.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.

Read my review here.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

Read my review here.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

Essex, England, 1645. With a heavy heart, Alice Hopkins returns to the small town she grew up in. Widowed, with child, and without prospects, she is forced to find refuge at the house of her younger brother, Matthew. In the five years she has been gone, the boy she knew has become a man of influence and wealth–but more has changed than merely his fortunes. Alice fears that even as the cruel burns of a childhood accident still mark his face, something terrible has scarred Matthew’s soul.

There is a new darkness in the town, too–frightened whispers are stirring in the streets, and Alice’s blood runs cold with dread when she discovers that Matthew is a ruthless hunter of suspected witches. Torn between devotion to her brother and horror at what he’s become, Alice is desperate to intervene–and deathly afraid of the consequences. But as Matthew’s reign of terror spreads, Alice must choose between her safety and her soul.

Alone and surrounded by suspicious eyes, Alice seeks out the fuel firing her brother’s brutal mission–and is drawn into the Hopkins family’s past. There she finds secrets nested within secrets: and at their heart, the poisonous truth. Only by putting her own life and liberty in peril can she defeat this darkest of evils–before more innocent women are forced to the gallows.

Inspired by the real-life story of notorious “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins, Beth Underdown’s thrilling debut novel blends spellbinding history with harrowing storytelling for a truly haunting reading experience.

Read my review here.

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

Elka barely remembers a time before she knew Trapper.

She was just seven years old, wandering lost and hungry in the wilderness, when the solitary hunter took her in. In the years since then, he’s taught her how to survive in this desolate land where civilization has been destroyed and men are at the mercy of the elements and each other.

But the man Elka thought she knew has been harboring a terrible secret. He’s a killer. A monster. And now that Elka knows the truth, she may be his next victim.

Armed with nothing but her knife and the hard lessons Trapper’s drilled into her, Elka flees into the frozen north in search of her real parents. But judging by the trail of blood dogging her footsteps, she hasn’t left Trapper behind–and he won’t be letting his little girl go without a fight. If she’s going to survive, Elka will have to turn and confront not just him, but the truth about the dark road she’s been set on.

The Wolf Road is an intimate cat-and-mouse tale of revenge and redemption, played out against a vast, unforgiving landscape–told by an indomitable young heroine fighting to escape her past and rejoin humanity.

Read my review here.

The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent.

Read my review here.

Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

Poison is a literary psychological thriller about a marriage that follows minor betrayal into a bubbling stew of lies, cruelty, manipulation, and danger.

Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream. Their family, including Cass’ two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Portland —a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly. First with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace.

With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute.

Read my review here.

I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in.

Read my review here.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting . . .

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure–a silent companion–that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect–much like the silent companions themselves.

Read my review here.

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners—including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.

Read my review here.