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What we loved: October 2023
The memoir of the moment, genius songwriters and rom coms galore.
In the words of Maisie Peters, ‘I wake up and it’s October’. Honestly, where is this year going? I cannot believe we’re going into November already. It’s a busy time of year all round, but for me (Caitlin) it feels like another level. Busy at work with so many books publishing ahead of Christmas, busy reading and recording our new season for all of you, and busy singing and dancing in the lead up to a community theatre production of Jersey Boys!
As she mentioned last month, Michelle has celebrated her birthday and her first wedding anniversary with Jack in October. She also started working at her local Waterstones! Living out that dream we all have to work in a bookstore (I never have and I feel kind of left out?) Plus of course, we’re so excited to start sharing our 11th season with you. Our first episodes with Clare Fletcher and Elise Esther Hearst are out now.
All in all, a wonderful month. To paraphrase our favourite, Maisie Peters, ‘the universe is shifting and it’s all for us.'
Please let us know in the comments what you enjoyed reading, watching and listening to in October.
*denotes review copy
A moment again for Michelle and Jack’s wedding pictures, taken in Toppings & Co, Edinburgh.
The Wake-Up Call by Beth O’Leary
I always look forward to a new Beth O’Leary (who we interviewed a few years ago). The Wake-Up Call is set in a failing hotel, where Izzy and her sworn enemy Lucas are searching for ways to keep the doors open beyond Christmas. I felt like this took me longer to become invested in than The No Show, but I ended up really loving this heartwarming story. While it’s not really a Christmas novel, it does have a bit of a festive vibe if you’re looking for something to read in December.
The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue
I started reading this book quite sure I was going to enjoy it, I’m so glad I was right because that feeling wasn’t really based on anything. For everyone who hasn’t read it, I don’t want to give anything away. The blurb describes the story as an unconventional, messy, and foolish love story. It is about love, lots of different kinds of love. My favourite was the friendship between Rachel and James. As their lives become intertwined with Rachel’s professor and his wife (there’s a bit of Conversations With Friends there, but generally more enjoyable and less frustrating?) it all gets very complicated and messy.
The Woman in Me by Britney Spears
Alongside Spare this is sure to be one of the most discussed releases of 2023. I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I wasn’t massively across her career until the conservatorship started being discussed more broadly. The overwhelming feeling I had reading The Woman in Me was anger – that anyone could be used and abused the way Britney Spears has by both her family and the public. It really feels like she has been able to somewhat reclaim her own story through this memoir and it’s absolutely worth reading.
The Boyfriend Candidate by Ashley Winstead*
I recommended this one on the podcast ahead of our interview with Elise, but every other book I read in October will have its moment in the sun! The Boyfriend Candidate is a slow-burn and fake dating rom-com. Alexis has been recently dumped, so she heads out with the intention to have a one-night stand. Enter Logan. As they hit it off and get to a hotel room, the fire alarm goes off and they evacuate half-dressed. Turns out Logan is a local politician in the middle of a campaign, so the photos end up in the news. Here the fake dating comes in: they agree to lie to the media and public to save Logan’s campaign and Alexis’ career (she’s an elementary school librarian, the pics aren’t a great look). Obviously, there are lots of shenanigans as they fight their own feelings and lie to everyone. It’s such a fun read.
Strictly Come Dancing
Autumn in the UK means it’s time for cosy Saturday evenings watching Strictly. This year is such a delight. Each Saturday we get a nice meal and make an evening of curling up on the sofa to watch the show. It just never fails to make me smile! Here are a few of my favourite dances so far:
Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles
As an Aussie born in the mid-90s, of course I grew up loving The Wiggles. But I didn’t really know that much about the beginnings of the band, or when and how they became so wildly successful. This documentary is a wonderful look at how four young guys sort of accidentally tapped into something amazing. Plus every up and down that came afterwards, including their OG Reunion Tour which I’m still so bummed that I missed. Available to watch on Prime Video, watch the trailer here.
The Long Shadow
It’s been a while since I recommended a crime drama, so consider this a return to my usual dark viewing habits. The Long Shadow explores the murders committed by Peter Sutcliffe – but without the voyeuristic sense that the killer is being glorified. The series was made in consultation with the families of the women. It’s a harrowing watch at times, but it’s not gory. It really brings the women to life and highlights how the police investigation was marred for years by bigoted views and incompetence. The results of this were that so many more women died before the killer was caught. It really does encapsulate the title and portrays the long shadow these murders have cast on families, loved ones and communities. There was one scene in particular that just played over in my mind for days: a mother playing Bridge Over Troubled Water in her daughter’s empty bedroom after identifying her body. A moving, but important watch.
Father of the Bride
There’s a short scene in the latest season of Only Murders In The Building that references this movie, and it was the only prompt I needed. I watched the first movie, then the sequel a few days later, then rewatched that part 3-ish family zoom call they made to fundraise during COVID. Let this be your reminder that these two movies and bonus clip exists, and go spend some time with the Banks family.
(I was so obsessed with these two movies when I was growing up! – Michelle)
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The Good Witch (Deluxe) by Maisie Peters
I’ve spent hours upon hours listening to The Good Witch since its release earlier this year. I’ve gone from ‘Maisie who?’ to ‘this woman is a genius and I will listen to every single thing she releases forever’ in the space of months. Needless to say, I was delighted when the deluxe edition was announced. Holy Revival and Guy on a Horse are such a vibe (and match the energy of my album favourite BSC). Of course, I have such a love for Yoko which includes the lyrics ‘Paul McCartney is not the villain’ and ‘Yoko never broke up that band, you misunderstood The Beatles’. *Chef’s kiss*
That Rom-Com Pod with Clare Fletcher & Karina May
Can never get enough rom-com content, which is why I’ve been loving! We’ve just interviewed Clare at the start of this season, and had Karina on to chat about her debut novel earlier this year, so both are friends of Better Words. Together they’re going trope by trope chatting about different rom-coms they love to watch & read. Get ready to have so many recommendations!
Autumn Variations by Ed Sheeran
Two music recommendations in a month? Who am I?! Ed Sheeran’s surprise album drop came just in time for my favourite season. There’s been some criticism of this album, but I really love Autumn Variations – more than Subtract. My friend Alicia fromsaid it’s ‘a real testament to the British weather’ and that’s true. It matches this season of change, growth and endings so perfectly. I also want a print of the album artwork…although perhaps I’ll settle for vinyl instead.
1989 (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift
While I also fully endorse Michelle’s music recommendations, all of October was leading to this. I listened for the first time with a bunch of my co-workers in a meeting room on Friday afternoon and it was so much fun! I think of all the re-records so far, this one sounds the most similar to the original. Which is both not surprising and an incredible accomplishment. Still slightly disappointed “Slut!” isn’t a Karma-like bop, but I love Say Don’t Go and Is It Over Now?
Game nights with friends
There’s nothing better for autumn than cosy board game nights. Our recent one was accompanied by a Mary Berry pie and crumble featuring foraged blackberries. We played Ticket to Ride and judging by the replies from people when I posted a story on IG, this is a popular game choice! Regular trivia and game nights with pals are what I miss most about Australia so it was lovely to have our own version here as the nights draw in.
I’m Just Pete - SNL sketch
This is the best thing I’ve seen all month for sure. Pete Davidson returned to Saturday Night Live as the host in the first episode of their new season. His own version of ‘I’m Just Ken’ from the Barbie movie. Watch it if you haven’t seen it, and now I’ll go watch it again.