Throwing Fifty Shades

I really do hate that awful book and here is why. But before I get to that:

This week I read

mr toppit

Mr Toppit, by Charles Elton. It was ok. About a boy whose father named the lead character in his series of children’s books after him, it deals with how your world can be altered completely by the actions of your parents before you were born. It was a good read. I finished it, but I did have some qualms. I tend to shy away from overly charmingly eccentric English families in fiction because I find their eccentricities in themselves  quite formulaic. Once you’ve seen Rhys Efyans eat mayonnaise in his pants, or the hilarious hi jinks of Bridget Jones’ mum or their likes in umpteen 90’s feel good comedies you get a wee bit inured to it. So there’s that. I also think that the baddies in this were a bit panto – Laurie was a good idea but drawn with thick strokes. He missed the opportunity to make her a sympathetic grotesque. One of the blurb reviewers says that the novel is ‘jangly with secrets’. That’s true, but the secrets turn out to be just a little clichéd. I felt the pay off at the end to be a bit of a damp squib. A big plus point, however, was the books within the book – Luke’s father’s ‘Darkwood’ series. Although their plot is just hinted at I felt that he really understood the feel of English children’s fiction from a certain point in time, for example The Black Cauldron, Over Sea Under Stone,  Elidor, or Tom’s Midnight Garden, and the strange darkness that sits at the heart of their innocence. I would have liked to have read the Darkwood books more than I enjoyed Mr Toppit itself.

I heart Trash

Surely a mantra to live by
Surely a mantra to live by

In honour of my first ever follower, I have decided to make a list of my top five all time favourite trashy fiction in the hope that she finds a slightly less dog eared copy of Riders and gets stuck right in there.

Trash rocks my world. But there are some books masquerading as trash that are in fact just crap on paper. I would avoid them. This is what makes good trash, and also what to avoid. This next bit is an abbreviated version of my Fifty Shades of Gray rant, coming to a pub near you soon. If I ever get to go to another pub that is.

They have got to be well written. I have read some books thinking they have all the makings of a top class guilty pleasure only to discover that the editor got so excited about all of those eager readers waiting to hand over their readies they forgot to proof read it before publishing. Step up here The Da Vinci Code – some of the sentences weren’t even finished. And of course Fifty Shades of Gray. As Paloma says, a 200 page text message. How can you flip someone on their back if they are chained to a bedpost? Lazy! Lazy lazy lazy!!!!

The story has to be good. Rock star by Jackie Collins was a particular disappointment here. Some guy is a rock star, he flies around being a rock star, sometimes he doesn’t want to be a rock star…… yada yada yada.  and, yes, Fifty Shades. Three books to say that being rich lets you do what you want? Please.

If you’re going to poison young minds with trash, fine. All for it. But I have to not physically recoil from the messages you are trying to sell. As someone much cooler than me was misquoted as saying: “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend’. I would add, … and 50 Shades of Gray is about how important it is to let that boyfriend abuse you so you can keep him. And yet we seriously had discussions about whether it  brought about the sexual liberation of Britain? Unbelievable.

Anyway, to me, trashy books are one of the greatest ways to spend time. They have to be doorstoppery big (although there are some honourable exceptions to that). They have to be the literary equivalent of chocolate – you go there when you want to be a little happier about the world. They have to have the author in bigger font than the title on the cover. And be paperback. And either be recommended to you by a friend who is giggling while they do so, or picked up in the communal bookshelf of a holiday cottage or hotel somewhere on a rainy summer holiday in Brechin. And finally, the men should be dashing, a bit raunchy and, if possible, called ridiculous names like Rupert, Lysander, or …… Rincewind.

So without any further ado, here are my top five all time favourite trashy reads.


Not the best role models
Not the best role models

Coming in at 5, we have some non fiction. How can the official autobiography of Motley Crue be anything other than trash? I know I said that I have to broadly be happy with a book’s moral standpoint and for that to be true in this case I would have to be ‘ok’ with some of what these charming gentlemen got up to….. I’m not. I’m really not. My advice is read it like it’s fiction and get it out of a library so you’re not giving them any money. They are horrible people and their music is awful but they have some pretty amazing stories. You feel a bit dirty but you can’t stop reading. Nicky Styxx dies. Twice!!!! Tommy Lee …. Sex Tape!!! Gasp. It kept me going while I was two weeks overdue, furious with biology and not a lot else at that point could.


I miss Christmas.
I miss Christmas.

This is a bit of a change of pace from rock and roll Babylon, but I looooooved it. It is the ultimate Comfort and Joy – a Richard Curtis film in book form about a woman trying to have the perfect Christmas when the world is coming to pieces around her. When you are on a comedown from the present opening turkey eating kiddie entertaining mayhem of Christmas day find a quiet corner, a selection box the size of a small dog, and read this – you will love it, I promise. It even has a happy ending.


Resisted urge to post pic of lovely Jamie from the TV series.
Resisted urge to post pic of lovely Jamie from the TV series.

Its GOT to be Outlander. Reccomended to me by a lovely New Zealander, and written by a native Arizonan who has never set foot in Scotland, and about a time travelling World War 2 nurse and her Jacobean warrior/clan chieftain husband, there is simply nothing not to like. It’s getting pretty well known now because of the TV series but it’s still the best book about time travelling Jacobytes I have ever read. And someone is killed by a herd of sheep. You can’t pay enough money for those sort of thrills. Once you’ve finished and you want more Jamie Fraser (who wouldn’t)  go and have a look at the Ladies of Lallybroch website too – Many are called, but few are hosen.


Makes sense if you read them. Which you should.
Makes sense if you read them. Which you should.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. But wait! I feel a great disturbance in the force. As if millions of Discworld fans suddenly howled out in pain at me calling their books trash and were then.. silenced by my superlative reasoning. By my definition, the Discworld Series is definitely trash. Paperback? check. Author’s name bigger than the title? check.  Not totally repellent moral core? Quite the opposite – check. Makes the world a happier place than when I started to read one? check. The Discworld series is more literary chocolate for me, ‘better than literature’ . I never fail to smile when I read one, never fail to think differently, never fail to be impressed at the seemingly feather light prose disguising tightly plotted and intelligent books whose characters slope off the page in a curmudgeonly, suspicious, and/or downright illegal fashion. I defy anyone not to laugh out loud at Small Gods, Mort, or Equal Rites.  The Discworld abides, but this world is a lot more boring now Mr Pratchett is not in residence.

1. All love, Jilly Cooper.

Not the most PC book cover in the world.
Not the most PC book cover in the world.

Its the 1970’s and moneyed showjumpers are shagging their way around the Cotswalds. There is nothing untrashy about this book. it is gloriously, unashamedly trashy. It is a symphony of trashy. But the story is great and Jilly Cooper is a  funny lady. She is  able to see the utter ridiculousness of the lifestyle she is writing about, and, still be a tiny bit in love with it. Given that all her books are about class, she is completely unsnobbish. The difference between Jilly and crap like fifty shades and twilight is that for all the sexual shenanigans and terrible behaviour of her lead characters, they are actually having fun. The other two are turgid and from what I gathered from the texts a real plod to write. Jilly Cooper would rather spend time in her world than anywhere else, and it shows in her effervescent prose. For an instant mood boost, read Riders.

What do you think? have I got it right? have I left any out? what wonderful trash would you recommend to me? I’m always happy to expand my collection.

I’m reading ‘The Pleasures of Men’ at the moment. It’s a bit gloomy…I need some good trash. I’ll keep you posted.


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