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Friday 27 May 2022

Friday Favourites: Books, TV, Podcasts


Dear friends. Another month, another selection of TV, books and podcasts. Let's start with books. 

Book Recommendations

The Herd by Emily Edwards

This one is already gaining accolades.   It's very topical, with the arguments over Covid vaccines from anti-vaxxers, and the growing disquiet over Monkeypox.  Elizabeth and Bryony are friends, although poplar opposites. Elizabeth's daughter can't be vaccinated because of health issues, so she tells other parents and friends that their children mustn't come to a her daughter's party unless they have been vaccinated.  Bryony is fairly vague about her child's vaccination but Elizabeth believes she has her confirmation.  But it all goes wrong. A thought provoking book which made me excited for my hour's reading time every night. 

Written in Bone by Sue Black

You would think that bones are a dry old subject, but reading this fascinating book by Dame Professor Sue Black, a forensic anthropologist, was like a relaxing balm. She has a wonderfully easy and gentle way of explaining science and amazing facts. I was riveted. 

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

A very short book: it seemed to me more like a short story, which is what Claire Keegan mainly writes. But oh how beautifully written.  It has been shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize.

I felt sure I was reading about past times, maybe the 50s or 60s, in this story about hidden secrets behind the doors of a convent. But it turns out to be more recent times. It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, is busily clearing his orders.  

As he does the rounds, he has an uneasy encounter at the convent, and in the town finds people are silent because they're controlled by the Church. There are rumours about young women going to the convent to have babies, which are taken away from them.  And he finds himself directly involved. 

The Impulse Buy by Veronica Henry

Another wonderfully uplifting and heart warming book, perfect for these times, is the latest novel from Veronica Henry.  Three generations of women take over a run down village pub after grandmother Cherry buys it on an impulse, remembering happy times when it was the centre of village life. There are some believable plot lines, as well as satisfying descriptions of gorgeous interiors and food. Henry has  upped her game with this latest book, leaving behind some of the mawkish sentimentality in some of her others. 

TV Reviews

10 Per Cent (Prime)

This is the UK re-make of the hugely successful French comedy drama Call My Agent, which you can find on Netflix should you have not seen it  (where have you been?).  I have no idea why it was thought necessary to create an English version, although it's obviously been produced with the US market in mind. I advise you to try to stick with it, although it doesn't seem promising from the first episode.  It does improve.

Initially the story lines seem to be direct copies from CMA, but with stars of a lesser wattage.  The team behind this series also created the comedy hits WIA, about life at the BBC, and 2012, about the London Olympics.  There are continual riffs from these series's throughout 10 Per Cent, which I found irritating:  one of the female characters is an exact recreation of the Olivia Colman character in 2012, and every time people are grouped round from a conference room table, they seem to start saying "Yes" in different ways, exactly as they did in WIA.

By the end of the series it was more likable and the characters had bedded in.  There was a new introduction throughout the series of a thespian with an alcohol problem (Tim McInnerny) who was a good balance of pathos and humour.  Overall though, it wasn't laugh out loud funny which the French version is. The Matthias character was a faint shadow of the character in the French version,  who was both conniving and charismatic. 

DI Ray (ITV, ITV Hub)

We enjoyed this drama with Parminder Nagra (Bend It Like Beckham) as a newly promoted police Inspector. It's a study in unconscious (and conscious) bias, with Ray being assigned a "cultural" case and finding that she's not living up to the brief by failing to speak the language. 

The Prince of Muck  (BBC, iPlayer)
The Hermit of Treig (BBC 4, iPlayer)

Two full-length film documentaries from BBC Scotland.  The first is about Lawrence MacEwen, Laird and farmer on the Hebridean island of Muck. His family has owned the island (population 27) for a century. It's a gentle, slow moving examination of the inevitable erosion of the old ways in a fast-moving, ever changing world. We learn in the credits at the end that MacEwen has died since the film was made.

In a slightly similar vein, the BBC is re-showing The Hermit of Treig, which I highly recommend. It's a film about 74 year old Ken Smith, who for 40 years has lived alone and without electricity in the highlands of Scotland.  He was attacked and nearly died at the age of 26, which prompted him to go travelling the world looking for a place of solace. He finally found it on the banks of a loch. 

The film is based on his friendship with film maker Lizzie McKenzie. Ken has had a couple of medical emergencies but is still remarkably self sufficient. It takes him a long time to walk to the nearest shop. He has been kitted out with technology to help find him should he have an accident.

Blackout (Walter Presents, All 4)

A classy thriller from Belgium.  The country is plunged into a  power cut caused by sabotage at a nuclear power plant,  and the prime minister learns her daughter has been kidnapped and the lights must not be turned on. A gripping and complex plot involving nuclear protesters emerges. The power is  off for several days but how long can prime minister Annemie keep the police at bay? 

The Jury's Out.....

The Lincoln Lawyer (Prime, YouTube)

The hubster seemed to enjoy this but it lost me early on in episode 1.  I didn't find the lead character remotely engaging.  Detective and legal dramas are 10 a penny so they have to work hard now to capture the attention.  I remember the film, starring Matthew McConnaughey, but there seemed nothing memorable about the drama series.  What do you think?

The Staircase (Netflix)

I may give this another try:  the hubster bailed early on in the first episode, unable to cope with Colin Firth's hysteria after the body of his wife (Toni Collette) was found on the stairs. 


This month's winner for the Podcast Hall of Fame:  Impact Winter, Audible

As you would expect from Audible this is a superb binaural experience.  It's the future, and small clusters of survivors try to outwit the vampires who now roam the land. These are not your average Dracula type vampires. The story is centred on two sisters, one who is fearless and a ruthless slayer of vampires, the other feels she lives in her shadow. An excellent drama. 

Unlock Your Hidden Confidence with Lara Lauder

I've mentioned this podcast before, and you'll recall I was a guest in episode 35.  Lara has now passed the one year anniversary, and her podcast has been downloaded in 39 countries.  I'm delighted to tell you that the episode I was in, where we discussed finding your own style, is in the top four for numbers of downloads!  If you haven't heard it yet, find Unlock Your Hidden Confidence on any of the podcast platforms (I use the free app Pocket Casts). 

The success of the podcast is actually a great case study in its own right, because Lara admits she was nervous and lacked any tech knowledge when she first started. 

That's it for this month. I hope you found something that interests you. As always, love to hear your recommendations and feedback in the comments. 

Sharing this post with:#SpreadTheKindness  and #Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, #AnythingGoes at My Random MusingsRena at Fine WhateverTalent Sharing Tuesdays at Scribbling Boomer,  Traffic Jam Weekend at Marsha in the Middle  Fabulous Fridays at Lucy Bertoldi Friendship Friday Blog Hop at Create with Joy 

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