01 August 2016

Etc — July 2016

Coleman Coffee Roasters
My usual Saturday morning routine is quite simple: run along the river with a small group of friends, finishing with a coffee at Monmouth's Bermondsey coffee bar (sometimes followed by a cocktail at Little Bird). However, the Bermondsey Monmouth is closed until 10 September, so we've been exploring a few other coffee options in the area, including Coleman Coffee Roasters, which I used to go to when I first moved to Bermondsey four years ago before Monmouth became the default.

Coleman's Spa Terminus home is in a railway arch they share with The Little Bread Pedlar, who make amazing pastries and cakes. The queue at Coleman can get pretty long — especially with Monmouth closed — but the macchiatos and pourovers are still rather good. You can buy bags of coffee beans too and follow up with a trip to The Kernel, The Ham & Cheese Co or any of the other great Spa Terminus producers.

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
I enjoyed Karin Tanabe's previous novel, The List, about the pleasures and pitfalls of working for a POLITICO-like media outlet and was intrigued by the description of her latest, which sounded rather different. The Gilded Years is based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, who was the first African American to attend Vassar College. The twist is that Anita, who is light-skinned, is attending a white student. We meet Anita in her senior year in the closing years of the 19th century where she begins to struggle with the tension between her ambition to continue her education and perhaps pursue a career in academia, and her burgeoning need to be able to be honest and true to her identity and her family. Can she keep her secret until graduation? And does she even want to?

Anita's story is a fascinating and important one — and one I knew nothing about before reading Tanabe's fictionalisation — and The Gilded Years is beautifully written, thought-provoking, sometimes sad but ultimately inspiring.

Seven at Brixton
My friend and I had hoped to spend a sunny Saturday night at Brixton Beach Boulevard but made the mistake of not booking tickets and so couldn't get in. It wasn't a challenge to make a new plan, however, with both Brixton Market and Pop Brixton just a few minutes' walk away. We ended up going to an old favourite of mine, Seven at Brixton, a cocktail and tapas bar in Brixton Market. The cocktails are good and cheap and we shared a delicious (and huge) platter of meat, cheese and other tapas. If Seven is too busy, they now have a sister restaurant, Three Four Eight, on Coldharbour Lane.

The Nice Guys
Unusually for me, I haven't been to the cinema in several months, partly because I've been busy and partly because there haven't been any films that I desperately wanted to see. But I had hoped to catch The Nice Guys and thought I had missed my chance until I discovered there are still a few screenings in London cinemas.

The eponymous 'nice guys' in Shane Black's 1970s-set film are borderline-alcoholic private eye and single dad Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and thug-for-hire with a heart Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). The unlikely duo team up to investigate the suspicious death of a porn star, tumbling down a rabbit hole of sleaze, corruption and murder. Despite the dark themes, Black keeps the tone light with snappy banter between the two leads and a hefty dose of slapstick comedy. The Nice Guys is funny, fun and quirky — and a lot more enjoyable than the recent adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, which also involves a troubled private investigator in 1970s LA. The Nice Guys sometimes veers into parody but its tongue is usually firmly in its cheek, and while March and Healy aren't always especially nice, they are charming and make for an entertaining double-act. Angourie Rice, who plays March's tween daughter, puts in a fine performance.

The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne
S.K. Tremayne's debut, The Ice Twins, posed the intriguing question of what you would do as a parent of twins if one of the twins died but you couldn't be sure which daughter was still alive. It was a fast, twisty read and the same is true of Tremayne's follow-up, The Fire Child. In a rather Rebecca-like set-up, Rachel marries the handsome and rich David and comes to live in his crumbling Cornish pile, Carnhallow House, along with David's young son Jamie. Jamie's mother died in tragic but mysterious circumstances the year before but her presence is felt throughout the house, and Jamie himself is — understandably, perhaps — still disturbed by her death.

Rachel wants to be a good wife and mother but she also begins to harbour suspicions about the death of David's first wife — and about whether her seemingly perfect husband is all that he seems. Rachel herself, it soon emerges, has a troubled past of her own and she thought that her whirlwind romance with David was the opportunity to start afresh. But are Rachel's past demons responsible for her newfound fears or is there something more sinister going on at Carnhallow House that could threaten her life? The Fire Child is an engrossing read, packed with depictions of the beautiful and dramatic Cornish scenery, and with a cracking twist towards the end — great if you are looking for holiday reading material.

Disclaimer: The Fire Child is out now, published by Harper Collins. I received a pre-release copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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