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Mr Right (2015)

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After her boyfriend cheats on her, Martha (Anna Kendrick) is devastated – until she meets Francis (Sam Rockwell), a man who seems perfect for her in every way. Well…in almost every way. Because Francis is a hit-man. But he’s a charismatic hit-man who is bored with the lifestyle, believes murder is wrong and now has a penchant for killing those people who hire him.

Unfortunately, Hooper (Tim Roth), an old colleague of Francis, is determined to kill our hero, and things are further complicated by a mob family who want to hire Francis to kill the leader so that the stupid younger brother can take over.

Reading the above synopsis, you would be forgiven for thinking that this film is a drama, or a thriller. You probably wouldn’t expect it to be a rom-com, but that’s what it is. There is a lot of violence, so if thats off-putting to you, then you might want to give it a miss. But there’s an equal amount of comedy to balance it out, and I did genuinely laugh out loud several times.

I love Tim Roth – he is just electrifying to watch – and his role here was extremely funny, and he sets the precedent for this in the first scene. Sam Rockwell is also brilliant, and ideal for the role of Francis. We can understand why Martha is so drawn to him, even after she realises what he does for a living. And Anna Kendrick was a delight too. I won’t mention all of the supporting cast, but there was not a bad performance among them.

I really enjoyed this film and would definitely recommend it. (Special shout out to the excellent use of the song ‘My Type’ by Saint Motel – great track used to great effect).

 

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Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by American writer Roxanne Gay, all of which are more or less related to feminism. It is split into sections and I would say my favourite section was where she discusses various films from the point of view of a black woman. I love it when someone makes me look at something from an entirely different angle. An example is her anger about the film The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett’s book. I also enjoyed the part about crime and racial stereotypes.

I read it over a period of more than two years because I would read an essay or two between other books. However, I read the last quarter of the book in a couple of days and I actually found it more enjoyable than just dipping in or out.

The last essay, where she talks about being a bad feminist – essentially she, like pretty much all of us, is a mass of contradictions – resonated the most, because it’s a struggle that a lot of us can identify with, to a greater or lesser degree.

Overall, this was an interesting and enjoyable read. I would like to try more works by Roxanne Gay.

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A serial killer is terrorising the small Spanish village of Elizondo, targeting young girls. Inspector Amaia Salazar heads up the investigation, and returns to Elizondo where she grew up. People there are superstitious and believe that there are evil forces at work, and additionally Amaia has to deal with difficult childhood memories, and an uneasy relationship with her sister Flora.

I really enjoyed this book, although there was a lot going on – possibly a little too much – but somehow it worked. It was originally published in Spanish and I find that translations can sometimes feel a bit clunky; however, that was not the case here. Apart from the Basque setting, and the Spanish characters, you would not know that this was a translation. I liked Amaia a lot and thought she was a good main character. The mystery itself did get a bit convoluted, but not so much so that I couldn’t follow it easily. I enjoyed reading about the superstitious nature of the small village, and thought it was an interesting setting.

If you like crime fiction and enjoy an unusual setting, give this one a try – you could well enjoy it.

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I listened to this audiobook over the course of two runs, on 23rd and 24th December. I wanted something Christmassy, but nothing too long, so this fit the bill. It’s narrated by Rebecca Courtney, who did a fine job.

Milly Arnold has always loved Christmas, but when she is dumped just before December, she loses enthusiasm and the last thing she feels like doing is the yearly tradition of helping her young nephews write their Christmas list. But she does so anyway and writes one of her own, asking for flowers, chocolates and shoes. When all of these things come her way, she wonders if she has tapped into a way of making all her dreams come true…

What can I say about this? It’s a bit fantastical, a bit humorous and an enjoyable enough listen, peppered with likeable characters. It’s not the most groundbreaking book, and neither is it meant to be – but if you want something short, festive and a bit chicklit-ty (but with an unusual twist) then maybe give this one a whirl.

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This was an audiobook from Audible, which I listened to over a number of runs during one week. It is narrated by Juanita McMahon, who did a great job overall. There were seven main characters, and she did give voice to them all.

The story concerns three couples – Chris and Beth, Tony and Sarah, and Marie and Duncan. The women have been friends for years, and the men are therefore friends by default, and all six of them meet up once a month at each other’s houses, for a dinner party. Then one night, Chris invites his friend Simon along; Simon is gorgeous – and heartbroken because his wife has just left him for another man.

Having another person in the mix soon changes up the dynamic of the group, as the men feel their territory threatened (with the exception of Chris) and the women are intrigued by the new face.

Throughout the year and the various dinner parties, Simon’s role in their lives means new alliances and new animosities are forged and created and eventually everything culminates in one unforgettable dinner party at his house…

On paper, there is a lot going for this book, and I would say I enjoyed it – for the most part. For the first 45 minutes I had severe doubts though, and considered giving up on it. Repetition can be quite funny, but at times throughout the book, and especially in the first part, it seemed as though Bloom had had some kind of bet to see how many times she could shoehorn a particular word in. In the first part for example, we see just how obsessed with dips Chris is. He loves his dips, and we are hit over the head with this fact as the word dips is trotted out too many times to count. Later on the same thing happens when Beth laments that people find her cuddly. How many times do we need to hear the word cuddly to realise that it annoys her? (It annoyed me too!)

The characters are a mish-mash, and for the most part, not particularly likeable. Chris is so relentlessly cheerful, but yet completely oblivious to what is going on around him (and his failure to pick up on social cues is annoying) that he just comes across as shallow and stupid. I did love him for one scene though, which I won’t reveals here as it would be a potential spoiler.

Tony is pompous and chauvinistic and goodness knows why Sarah put up with him!

Marie is the worst of all. Vacuous, self-absorbed, vain and insensitive, I couldn’t stand her and was amazed that she had managed to find two friends and a nice man who wanted to marry her (I liked Duncan most of all).

What I would say is that the writing flowed well, and it was an undemanding listen/read. I’d give it a  middling score which is to say that I didn’t think it was brilliant, but it kept me entertained enough while I pounded the streets.

Destination Wedding (2018)

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I’m not sure how this film managed to slip under the radar to the extent that it has. After all, it stars two very well known actors, and one of them is Keanu Reeves – a man who it’s virtually impossible to dislike (it might even be illegal at this point!)

Anyway, I love Keanu and I think Winona Ryder is a terrific actress in this kind of role so I looked forward to watching this film, and I wasn’t disappointed. Frank (Reeves) and Lindsay (Ryder) meet up when they both travel to the same destination wedding – one which neither of them wants to attend. Initial animosity turns to friendship and affection, but both have tainted views of relationships and want to insulate themselves against pain, so determine that they should not get involved.

if that sounds angsty, the film itself isn’t. It’s charming, very funny and unusual in that Frank and Lindsay are the only two characters who actually speak throughout the film. It’s so cleverly done though, that it was only after I had finished watching that I actually realised this. There are other people in it of course – but they don’t have lines.

Both characters have the potential to be very unlikeable. Frank is a narcissist, and Lindsay verges on neurotic – so casting two likeable actors was a smart move on the part of the filmmakers, because while you are not blind to their very human flaws, you also actually do care about these characters and get invested in their story (at least I certainly did).

It’s a rather lovely film, and I would certainly recommend it.

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From the cover and title of this book, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s a light hearted comedy, or an undemanding chicklit novel. But it’s neither of those things. This is the story of Jean Collins, who is in a coma after having been knocked down while crossing the road. Her daughter Anne, who has always had an uneasy relationship with her mother, and is now married to a selfish husband and has two – frankly horrible -teenage sons, travels to be with her mother in the hospital.

Narrated in alternating chapters by Jean and Anne (with the very occasional chapter narrated by other characters) this tells the story of their family history, which contains secrets and tragedy which they have not addressed for years. Both mother and daughter hold guilt about the past, and through their memories, the reader pieces together the truth about a mystery which has created a hole in their lives and their hearts.

I really enjoyed this book, even though it is not always an enjoyable read. The characters have had a lot of heartache in their lives, and it is clear that they have not properly dealt with it before now. Both Anne and Jean are very believable and real characters – both basically good people, but deeply flawed and certainly not always likeable.

Jenny Eclair is very talented to have written such an easy to read (the writing flows beautifully) book, while at the same time handling some very tough and delicate subjects. I had one, and only one, slight niggle and that is that near to the very end, there is a almighty coincidence, which I feel was very unfeasible. But I’m just nitpicking with that. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book.