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Archive for October, 2018

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When Marni Olsen (Kristen Bell) discovers that her brother Will (James Wolk) is marrying the girl who bullied and tormented Marni all through high school, she is determined to stop the marriage and make Will see what kind of person Joanna (Odette Yustman) really is.

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Year of release: 2010

Director: Andy Fickman

Writer: Moe Jelline

Main cast: Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman, Jamie Lee Curtis, Signourney Weaver, Betty White, Victor Garber, James Wolk

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: The dance lesson! The stellar cast, lots of laughs throughout

Lowlights: None. Loved it

Overall: Thoroughly enjoyable and really funny

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I’ve never read anything by Jane Fallon before, but there must be something about her book covers that appeals because I have no less than three of her books on my shelves! I’m not a big fan of chick-lit, because it’s generally utterly predictable and fairly bland, but I had a feeling this would have a bit more bite to it, and I was right.

Tamsin and Michelle have been best friends forever, and would do anything for each other. So when Tamsin gets a hint that Michelle’s husband Patrick is cheating, she asks her good friend and work assistant Bea to proposition him in  a ‘honey trap’ situation so that she can catch Patrick out. However – and as we discover from the very first page – things don’t go to plan.

The first third of the book is narrated purely from Tamsin’s point of view, and if I’m honest, it took me a while to get into and I was starting to feel a bit blah about the whole thing. Then the narration starts to switch between Tamsin and Bea, and it picked up a lot. Considerably in fact, to the point where I found myself waiting for when I could pick the book up again.

Some parts are completely predictable and if I’m honest, some the characters are pretty stereotypical – Patrick is a bit of a pantomime villain, while Michelle is almost sickeningly sweet. I found it difficult initially to warm to Tamsin, but she grew on me throughout the book. There is a lot of humour though, and ultimately a lot of heart in this book. It’s a fairly undemanding read, and the ending did surprise me, but in a good way.

Overall I’m glad I stuck with it and I am looking forward to reading more  by Jane Fallon.

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This is the second in the Gourmet Detective series of tv movies, starring Dylan Neal and Brooke Burns, and which are based on the books of Peter King.

In this instalment, the titular detective Henry Ross once again finds himself teamed with Detective Maggie Price, when they investigate the murder of a journalist at a luxury spa. Naturally there are several possible suspects, and it is up to Henry and Maggie to sift through the evidence and uncover the killer.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Scott Smith

Writers: Peter King (book series), Dawn DeKeyser, Dylan Neal, Becky Southwell

Main cast: Dylan Neal, Brooke Burns, Crystal Lowe, Patrick Sabongui, Stefanie von Pfetten, Devon Weigel, Brendan Penny, Steve Valentine

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Genre: Cosy murder mystery

Highlights: Charming and undemanding fun throughout, chemistry between the two main characters, mystery kept me guessing until the big reveal

Lowlights: None for me, but those who like their films gritty and realistic might want to pass on this one

Overall: Good fun, perfect to unwind on a lazy weekend

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Leona Stevenson (Barbara Stanwyck) is in bed with illness when she overhears a telephone conversation between two men planning a murder. Gradually she comes to believe that she is the person they are going to kill and that her husband Henry (Burt Lancaster) is involved.

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Year of release: 1948

Director: Anatole Litvak

Writer: Lucille Fletcher (original radio play and screenplay)

Main cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey, Harold Vermilyea, Leif Erickson, Jimmy Hunt

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Genre: Mystery, thriller, film noir

Highlights: Barbara Stanwyck is fabulous in the main part. I liked the claustrophobic atmosphere of her confinement

Lowlights: The flashback story surrounding Henry is a bit convoluted. I preferred the relationship aspect to the criminal aspect

Overall: An enjoyable film noir, which was a bit convoluted in places, but Stanwyck’s performance is fantastic as always

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This was another audiobook (I’ve REALLY been getting into audiobooks this year), and it was narrated by Vanessa Coffey, who I thought did an excellent job. Admittedly, as this is non-fiction, she didn’t have to tackle different characters etc., but she kept it interesting especially during the parts where she was discussing statistics etc.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This book is a memoir of sorts, written by Jill Stark, a health reporter originally from Scotland but who has lived in Australia for many years. After one too many hangovers, on New Years Day 2011, Jill decided to give up alcohol for three months – this eventually turned into a whole year – and this is the story of how it was for her.

As well as the physical effects of not drinking, Jill concentrates a lot on the social effects – how for example her friends found it awkward to be around her, and stopped inviting her out on certain nights when they themselves planned on getting drunk. She was told that it wasn’t the Australian way not to drink, and people couldn’t understand why she would want to do it. Occasions when alcohol is not only normal but actually expected – birthdays, weddings, football season and first dates etc. are all navigated in due course.

A large part of the book discusses statistics surrounding binge drinking; how it is encouraged by the alcohol industry, however subtly, and the effects that it is having on families and society in general. Some of the statistics are frankly quite scary, and paint a picture almost of a timebomb waiting to explode.

To clarify – Jill Stark is not an evangelistic teetotaller – she understands the attraction of alcohol and has no desire to stop others drinking; indeed she hopes that after her sober year, she will be able to indulge in alcohol in moderation herself. However, she does have genuine concerns about the rise in binge drinking and the long term effects of this behaviour.

Overall, I found this a fascinating listen – my only niggle is that it is occasionally very statistic heavy. Nonetheless, it gave me a lot to think about, and there is no doubt that Jill Stark is an engaging and entertaining writer.

If you have any interest in the subject, I would definitely recommend this book.

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For anyone who doesn’t know the story of Top Hat, it centres on Broadway sensation Jerry Travers, who falls hard for society girl Dale Tremont, and dances his way from Broadway to London to Venice in order to win her heart. A case of mistaken identity causes all sorts of problems, but there is so much fun to be had on the way.

Having seen and loved the 1935 film, and also seen the West End stage show production (on tour), I can safely say that this is one of my favourite musicals, because it’s impossible to watch it and not feel happy. The songs will make you smile, the storyline is both romantic and extremely funny, and the dancing is spectacular.

All of this means that it is no mean feat for an amateur dramatics company to take on, but South Staffs Musical Theatre Company have taken on many such productions in their long history and are never found wanting.

Watching it, I was mesmerised by Harry Simkin and Fiona Winning, who played Jerry and Dale (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers famously played the roles in the film, and Tom Chambers debuted the role of Jerry when it was made into a stage musical). Simkin and Winning are 17 and 16 respectively, but you would think they had been singing and dancing for decades, such was their professionalism and obvious talent. I really felt as if I was watching two future stars.

Also must mention Dom Napier as Alberto Beddini, the wannabe rival for Dale’s heart, and John Wiley who played footman Bates. Both of these were in danger of stealing their scenes, and raised some huge laughs from the audience.

Overall, a wonderful show and another feather in the cap for the South Staffs Musical Theatre Company.

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The Silkworm is the second book in the Cormoran Strike detective series, by Robert Galbraith – who everybody and his wife knows is J K Rowling writing under a pseudonym.

I really enjoyed the first book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, despite having seen the excellent television adaptation, and therefore knowing ‘whodunnit’. I was determined to read the rest of the books available before watching their respective adaptations, and as the adaptation of this particular novel has been sitting in my recorded items for some time, I felt I should probably get around to reading it.

The plot here revolves around a writer named Owen Quine, who has written a provocative novel, which casts aspersions about many other people in the literary and wider world. It has given several people reason to detest Quine, so when he is found murdered in extraordinary circumstances, there is no shortage of suspects. With the police choosing the most convenient suspect, it is left to Strike and his assistant Robin to try to get to the truth.

If anything, I enjoyed this book much more that the first one in the series; the writing seemed much more pulled together somehow and the mystery was more satisfying. As I say, I did actually really enjoy The Cuckoo’s Calling, but it did have a convoluted plot, which meant that knowing the outcome from the start probably helped. With The Silkworm, I had no idea of the outcome, and while the plot was tightly woven, I was able to follow it and found myself getting pulled in. It’s wonderful when you find a book that you actually look forward to coming back to, as I did with this one. They mystery kept me guessing and there was a twist at the end, which I did not predict but which was not so out of left field as to be completely unbelievable.

Also the characters of Strike and his assistant Robin were much more fleshed out in this novel. I continue to adore Robin, who is intelligent, compassionate and a good foil for the gruff and imposing Strike.

All in all, I can’t find anything to complain about with this one, and I look forward to reading more in the series.

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