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Archive for September, 2018

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Another audiobook to accompany me while running.

Emma is six months away from her 30th birthday when she finds the wish list she made with her friends at the age of 15 (actually I’d call it more of a bucket list than a wish list) showing all the things they hope to achieve by the time they were 30. To her disappointment, Emma realises that she has not managed to even achieve one item – not even grow her hair long!

So with half a year to go, she decides to complete the list, and along the way she discovers a few things about herself and a few things about her closest friends. It’s typical chick-lit, so of course there is a heavy emphasis on romance and female friendships, with her closest friends Cally and Asha playing fairly large roles in the book.

On the good side, Jane Costello does throw in some good one-liners; it’s an undemanding read/listen  and it kept my attention – I certainly did not find myself drifting off. On the bad side, it’s very predictable – there are sub-plots and I correctly guessed the outcome of all of them (as well as the outcome of the main plot). This is a fairly common thing with chick-lit though, and you always know what to expect when you read a book like this – for a lot of readers, that’s the attraction which is absolutely understandable – so maybe my gripe is not entirely fair.

I felt that Alex Tregear did a reasonable job of narrating the story, even if some of the accents were a bit over the top. I preferred Girl On The Run by the same author, but I would probably listen to another book by Jane Costello and would recommend her to chick-lit fans.

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David Hepworth – music journalist and writer, who has won numerous awards for his work, here presents a book which – as the subtitle suggests – catalogues the rise and fall of the rock star. Hepworth believes that there are no more bona fide rock stars; there are pop stars and other music stars, but rock stars were something else entirely (with the ‘rock’ part of the term not necessarily referring to that genre of music). And that something is a mystique, an allure that celebrities can no longer have in this age of social media, where nothing is secret and the smallest details of a star’s life becomes public knowledge almost immediately.

He charts this journey from 1955 to 1994, in an unusual and extremely readable way. Every year he takes a significant day from one rock star’s life, that had an effect not only on the person in question but on the world as a whole.

There are far too many to list, but all the major stars you would expect appear here: Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones, Bowie, Springsteen, Prince, Michael Jackson. And there are others – Bob Geldof (his day being Live Aid), Freddie Mercury (the day he died), Duran Duran (the making of the controversial Girls On Film video), Buddy Holly (also the day he died). Each chapter is short – less than 10 pages – and ends with a list of significant singles and albums from that particular year.

I found the book absolutely fascinating, and even when a chapter featured someone I am not particularly interested in, such is the writing that it made me interested. This book can either be read in huge chunks, or you can dip in and out of it, but whichever way you choose to read it, I highly recommend it to anybody interested in music and stardom.

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This 1998 film was a remake of a 1949 film of the same name, although only the name and the overall premise remain the same. I have seen both before (the last time I watched the 1998 film was – and yes, I feel old – over 25 years ago) and I honestly think that the later film is the far superior one.

Dennis Quaid is Dexter Cornell, an English Professor. The film begins with him staggering into a police station to report his own murder (shot in black and white, this is an homage to the 1949 film which opened much the same way). He then sits down to reveal his account of events and the film flicks back a couple of days earlier. During the intervening hours, Cornell is poisoned, faces his own mortality and has to find out who has killed him and why.

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Year of release: 1988

Directors: Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton

Writers: Charles Edward Pogue, Russell Rouse, Clarence Greene

Main cast: Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Charlotte Rampling, Daniel Stern, Jane Kaczmarek, Christopher Neame, Robin Johnson

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Genre: Drama, thriller

Highlights: Dennis Quaid;  the scene after Cornell is diagnosed – he runs outside and there is a fantastic scene set to The Waterboys’ ‘Don’t Bang The Drum’. I remember this scene from when I first saw this film over a quarter of a century ago

Lowlights: Some hammy acting from Robin Johnson, Christopher Neame

Overall: Enjoyable thriller

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In this first book in the series set in Southampton, and featuring DI Helen Grace, a sadistic killer is on the loose – one who gets her victims to do the dirty work for her. Two people are kidnapped, and trapped in a remote location with no chance of escape. There is a gun – and a deadly choice. One of them will have to either kill the other or kill themselves, and whoever survives is released. Grace and her team are on a race against time to find the connection between the victims and the person behind them all.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it did keep me fairly hooked throughout. I thought the narrator Elizabeth Gower did an excellent job – one of the best narrators out of all the audiobooks I have listened to so far. Under close examination, the story itself is quite preposterous – the level of planning that would have had to be done to effect some of the kidnappings would be virtually impossible, and I am honestly not sure how long someone could get away with it the amount of times that the perpetrator here did. Nonetheless as a piece of sheer entertainment, it certainly did it’s job.

I am unsure what I think about Helen Grace – she is not an easy character to warm to, but I think that that is probably deliberate. Her team respect her, but don’t necessarily like her, and the things that make her hard for her colleagues to like are the same things that make it hard for the reader/listener to like. She is interesting though, which is my main requirement for a lead character. Out of the rest of her team, only two are really fleshed out but maybe we will get to know others better later in the series.

I would certainly listen to more books in this series; having said that, this book took the reader/listener to some dark places and I do feel that I need to cleanse my palate with something a bit lighter first.

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Bob Munro (Robin Williams), his wife Jamie (Cheryl Hines) and their two children rent an RV for a holiday trip to Colorado, and predictably everything that can go wrong, does.

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Year of release: 2006

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Writer: Geoff Rodkey

Main cast: Robin Williams, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: Robin Williams (of course), Jeff Daniels, some truly silly slapstick comedy

Lowlights: None really. It was never going to be a film to set the world on fire but it’s undemanding fun

Overall: I enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of the Vacation movies and other movies of that ilk

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This book is the second one in the Cape Bay murder mystery series. I listened to the audiobook while out running, just as I did with the first one. Here, Francesca is still running Alexandra’s coffee shop, still dancing around the edges of romance with her old friend Matty, and still getting involved in mysteries that don’t concern her! In this book, while Franny is preoccupied with learning how to make a good cup of tea – after some English visitors to her coffee shop weren’t impressed with her efforts – she learns of a murder in town. It’s the second in as many months and is very unsettling to the residents of the sleepy little town.

The victim, Joe Davis, was murdered in the parking lot of Todd’s Gym, which is run by Franny’s school crush Todd Caruthers. The police think Todd is guilty, and Franny is determined to prove his innocence. However, Matt is not so sure that Todd didn’t do it. The two of them work together to solve the mystery, all while trying to navigate their own relationship…

I did enjoy this book. Marguerite Gavin does a good job of narrating the story, told in the first person by Franny, and I really like both Franny and Matt. I do think the editing could be a bit tighter – several times the same phrasing is used twice in a sentence, which is slightly grating, but nonetheless it’s undemanding fluff. A lot of time is given over to the running of the cafe, which I quite enjoyed, but if it’s a solid murder mystery that you’re looking for, then this might not be the book for you, as the murder is just one facet of the story rather than necessarily the main part. The only thing that annoyed me a bit is that – for reasons I can’t explain because it would mean providing spoilers – the reader/listener doesn’t really get a fair chance to solve the mystery. I believe it was Agatha Christie who said that she always wanted to give readers the fair chance to solve the mystery themselves if they just put the clues together; in this case, some very pertinent information was withheld. But as stated before, the murder is one of the focusses of this book, rather than the only focus, so that did not really detract too much.

If you like cozy murder mysteries, you might want to give this series a try.

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The hugely successful musical Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical which tells the story of The Four Seasons (later Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons). It starts with the band getting together and struggling to settle on a name, takes them through their career, and the disintegration of the band, with Frankie becoming the main name and the Four Seasons becoming his backing band.

I went into it knowing next to nothing about the band, other than a few of their songs. Or so I thought – as it turned out, I knew more of their songs than I realised, I just hadn’t realised that these songs I had known for years were actually by the Four Seasons. I was also surprised by the backgrounds of the band – their music conjures up images of a group of clean cut young men, singing about love. In fact, DeVito was a compulsive gambler and both he and Massi spent time in prison. They also had mob connections, which they had to rely on from time to time.

The band are played by: Michael Watson as Frankie Valli; Simon Bailey as Tommy DeVito; Declan Egan as Bob Gaudio; and Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi. Each of them narrate a quarter of the show, which allows all the different characters to shine through and which also allows the story to be told from all four points of view. They were all excellent, and although I am trying to pick a favourite, I can’t!

Valli has an extremely distinctive voice, and Michael Watson did a superb job of recreating it, but all four of them contributed to the high energy performances. The supporting cast were also great, and although there were some sad parts of the story, the overall feeling that the audience were left with was one of joy. The audience clearly adored this show, and with good reason – everyone was clapping, singing or dancing along by the end.

Faultless in every way, this is a show I would love to see again and again and again. If you get chance to see it, go and see it. If you’ve already seen it, go see it again!!

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