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Blockers (2018)

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Best friends Julie, Kayla and Sam make a deal to all lose their virginity on their prom night, but don’t count on their parents finding out about it…and the parents make it their mission to block their girls from finally doing the dirty!

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Year of release: 2018

Director: Kay Cannon

Writers: Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe

Main cast: Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: So many laughs!! Special mentions to John Cena (unexpectedly hilarious) and Ike Barinholtz

Lowlights: Honestly, none

Overall: Crude, sweet and incredibly funny

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This short book (I listened to the audiobook which came in at around an hour and a half) is part of a series of stories featuring Stephen Leather’s creation Jack Nightingale, paranormal detective. I wasn’t aware of that when I bought this one, but certainly didn’t feel that I missed out on anything but not having read/listened to any of the others in the series. Before I talk about this specific story, it’s worth mentioning that the print version of the story also features six other stories of the same name written by other authors. Having read reviews, it appears that the Stephen Leather one was by the far the best of them all, and so I am not particularly bothered by missing out on the others, but some readers may want to have the whole lot.

In this story, Jack and his assistant Jenny take on new clients Mr and Mrs Stokes, who have bought a hotel. However, due to the high number of suicides in the hotel over the preceding years, nobody wants to stay there and the business is losing money. Jack investigates and discovers that the suicides may in fact be murder by a malevolent supernatural force, so it is up to himself and Jenny to find out the truth.

As far as short stories go, this was…okay. Not really a horror, more of a fantasy novel, which admittedly is not necessarily a favourite genre of mine although the occasional fantasy novel will grab me. It was basically just a straight up chronological account of their investigation. I did like Jack and Jenny – both had a good sense of humour and a nice working relationship, and the story itself was serviceable even if it held no major surprises.

There were a few editing mistakes which annoyed me – one character went from being called Timothy to Thomas and back to Timothy again. Also, at the beginning of a conversation with Mr Stokes, the hotel owner says that he has no guests stopping there at that time and a minute later, during the same conversation, Jack asked him if he still had no guests stopping there. Little things like this do tend to niggle me somewhat.

I’m not sure I would be that bothered about listening to any more Jack Nightingale stories, but I also wouldn’t be against the idea of popping one on to pass the time during a long run or car journey.

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Registered dietician Laura Thomas has written this book to help anyone who has ever had issues surrounding food, body image, dieting etc. and to help them adopt intuitive eating (IE). IE is NOT another diet in disguise as a healthy eating plan, and not another way to restrict what we eat – Thomas makes it clear that that is the polar opposite of what she wants to achieve.

This book resonated strongly with me, as someone who has had a mixed up relationship with food and body image for something like 30 years. It actually made me cry at certain times as I recognised the symptoms of disordered eating which she writes about. Crucially though, for the first time, I felt like there is light at the end of the tunnel and that there IS a way to get out of this cycle, and to have a healthy relationship with food.

Written in an engaging, entertaining and accessible way (Thomas is quite sweary and so am I, so this didn’t bother me, but may be worth pointing out to some readers), there are exercises for the reader to complete and each chapter focuses on different aspects of the issues being discussed.

This is an important book, and one which I highly recommend to anyone who has ever felt bad for eating too much, gone on yet another restrictive diet to lose weight, judged foods as good as bad, and or let a number on the scales dictate how good a day they are going to have.

‘Dirty Grandpa’ (2016)

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Uptight lawyer Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is tricked into taking his recently widowed, lecherous and foul-mouthed grandfather Dick Kelly (Robert De Niro) on a road trip to Florida for spring break. Chaos ensues…!

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Dan Mazer

Writers: John Phillips

Main cast: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Jason Mantzoukas, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Hough

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: De Niro (goes without saying), filthy humour

Lowlights: Honestly, I found the very ending a bit ick. But it didn’t detract from the overall hilarity

Overall: If you don’t like sex or drug jokes, you might not go for it. Otherwise, give it a whirl if you need a good belly laugh

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The Change Up (2011)

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Not a new concept (think Big, Vice Versa, Freaky Friday etc) but hilariously done! Married family man Dave (Jason Bateman) and his best mate Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) make a drunken wish that they could swap lives and that’s what happens. Next morning they wake up in each other’s bodies and have to navigate each other’s lives.

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Year of release: 2011

Director: David Dobkin

Writer: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Main cast: Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Gregory Itzin

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: Both leading men’s performances, crude jokes, lots of laughs

Lowlights: None!

Overall: Probably not one to watch if you’re easily offended, but if you like laugh-out-loud, unsubtle humour, go for it!

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emma

This was always going to be an interesting read for me in one sense or another. This books is a new version of Jane Austen’s Emma (a modernisation of each Austen novel was written for a Harper Collins series and this was the third of that series). Emma is not only my favourite Austen novel, but quite possibly my favourite novel of all time by any writer. I’m always intrigued by book and film remakes/reboots/reimaginings/retellings or the numerous other re-whatevers that are around so I sorted of looked forward to reading this, while also approaching with some trepidation.

Anyway…to condense the storyline for anyone who is not familiar, Emma Woodhouse is a privileged young lady who gets pleasure from trying to organise her friends lives and relationships, and fancies herself as an expert matchmaker. However, her meddling is about to result in a few life lessons learned for Emma…

Honestly, having finished this book I am  not sure WHAT to make of it. I definitely didn’t hate it – McCall Smith has a gentle and genteel style of writing, which makes it easy reading, and this book more or less stays true to the original storyline. However, it never really sits well in the modern age. The characters still seem stuck in the original era, but whereas in Austen’s novel, there is sparkling wit and humour, and Emma seems quite a modern young lady, here she seems old-fashioned and something of a snob. Austen wrote that Emma was a heroine who nobody except herself would like (I actually love Emma’s character, flaws and all) and McCall Smith seems to have actually created this very Emma. There is nothing particularly warm about her, nothing to make the reader understand her or root for her, and attempts to remind us that it is set in the current day – mentions of modern technology, modern transport etc – do seem awkwardly shoehorned in, just to remind us that this is indeed a modern retelling. Thus, even if you take this as a novel on it’s own merits and try to block out thoughts of the original, it still doesn’t quite work.

I would have liked more Knightley in this one – he barely features – and less padding at the beginning; at almost 100 pages in and Harriet Smith still doesn’t warrant a mention!

So overall an interesting experience. I’m not disappointed that I read it, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to Austen lovers, unless like me, you’re curious to see how the story sits in a modern setting.

King of Thieves (2018)

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Lively and engaging retelling of the audacious Hatton Garden Heist which took place over Easter Weekend in 2015. This is the third film to be made about this particular event, and it features a stellar cast.

Really enjoyed it, even if I always feel a bit bad when (some of) the bad guys are so damned likeable.

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Year of release: 2018

Director: James Marsh

Writers: Joe Penhall, Mark Seal (magazine article)

Main cast: Michael Caine, Charlie Cox, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse

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Genre: Heist, crime, dramedy

Highlights: The excellent cast, especially Jim Broadbent

Lowlights: None 🙂

Overall: Definitely recommended – plenty of British humour, and although it makes the crooks somewhat likeable, it never lets you forget that what they were doing was very wrong

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