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About Last Night by Mabel

Published July 31, 2022

About Last Night by Mabel

Mabel’s second album is very good, featuring lots of that pop sound she’s become famous for. Quite a lot of the time, I could almost visualise her dancing along with her troop on stage. Yay for pop! There really wasn’t a standout song on the album, though, a couple were better than others but no real anthems, unlike the first record which was stacked full of them. Fun but not particularly memorable.

Secrets of Willow House by Susanne O'Leary

Published July 31, 2022

Secrets of Willow House by Susanne O'Leary

This was a free book of the week from Apple Books, so low stakes investment but actually it was a really good read. I whipped through it in super quick time, and enjoyed watching the characters gradually relax and unfold into their surroundings. The bit where there was a supposed mystery over the emails and money and stuff was annoying because it was so obvious what was going on and our hero Maeve even laid out the facts and still couldn’t see it… annoying. BUT once that was out in the open, the rest read like a dream. I’m curious what the other books in the series are like too.

It's a small gin world

Published July 30, 2022

It's a small gin world

Not long ago, I wrote of a new fondness for gin, particularly as June celebrated World Gin Day. Since then, I’ve learnt even more about the tipple and even managed to find a whole gin universe to be unravelled. Bear with me on this. I talked of James May’s gin, the cleverly titled James Gin, which has the broadcaster’s traditional understated marketing and labelling but is packed full of taste.

Planning next year's menu

Published July 29, 2022

Planning next year's menu

I’m not great at planning or being organised or looking too far ahead, although it’s something I’ve been working on for a long time (especially if the number of to-do apps I’ve reviewed on this blog are anything to go by). However, when it comes to gardening, apparently, a bit of forward planning is necessary. I’ve talked about how this year I’ve dived into Huw Richard’s step by step book which has really held my hand throughout the growing year.

The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

Published July 29, 2022

The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

Overall I think I enjoyed this book but I have to admit to find it quite slow going. There’s a murder and a mystery at the heart of it, but it seems to take such a long time to make any progress at any point. It has the problem of a non-police character getting involved where they probably shouldn’t but then as a relationship was developing with one of the detectives, it kind of worked. I liked the character building and really felt part of the family of Ericka and Anna, but, yea, it just seemed to take a long time to get to the big reveal.

Time loop tension in The Lazarus Project

Published July 28, 2022

Time loop tension in The Lazarus Project

I love stories about time travel so I was very intrigued by Sky’s new TV show, The Lazarus Project, an eight part series about a covert group trying to stop the end of the world. The premise is that this group keep an eye on world events and if there’s an extinction-level threat, they press a reset button that loops time back to the 1st July. The neat thing about this is each 1st July acts as a checkpoint in time, so you could have 100 loops that set you back to 1st July 2012, or you could go straight through to 1st July 2013 with no problems.

Knowledge Encyclopedia Space! by DK

Published July 28, 2022

Knowledge Encyclopedia Space! by DK

This is a great resource book for kids and adults alike, delving into all aspects of space. There are breakdowns of each planet in our solar system as well as a view of what’s further afield. There are details about space travel, what has been discovered so far and what future missions might find. And there’s talk of the big bang, of the various types of stars, and quite a big section on constellations and looking up into the night sky. Great book to refer back to in the future.

Heartstopper: Volume 1 by Alice Osman

Published July 27, 2022

Heartstopper: Volume 1 by Alice Osman

After whipping through the TV show in super quick time, I was curious to see what the source material was like. I’m not a huge graphic novel reader but had to dip into this one and was glad I did. The art is of a unique style, quite scrappy, but it draws you in and you connect as if you could have drawn it yourself. The story is very similar to what occurs on TV, although it finishes much sooner than the episodes do, so I’m already interested to read what happens in volume two.

The Diary of a U-Boat Commander by Stephen King-Hall

Published July 26, 2022

The Diary of a U-Boat Commander by Stephen King-Hall

It’s not clear whether this book is fact or fiction, it presents as a diary recovered from a German prisoner-of-war, as a factual record of his progress through the German navy and the first World War. But there’s not a lot known about it so it could be fabrication. Regardless, it does a great job of showing how human both sides of a war can be, people just doing their jobs, falling in love, missing home and doing their duty. A good, quick, read.

Silverview by John le Carré

Published July 25, 2022

Silverview by John le Carré

I’m relatively new to this John Le Carre journey so it’s a bit odd to be reading this, his last book, at this point. However, the title just called out to me. The book was basically finished before the author died, and it was polished by his son before release. I thought the writing was incredible and the characters are so well drawn… but I’m not sure I understood the point of it. What was the story, what was the plot? Review suggest it was showing the author’s disillusionment with the security services but, I don’t know, I think I just missed it all. It’s short though, so nice to just revel amongst these odd characters for a while.

Outlandos d'Amour by The Police

Published July 24, 2022

Outlandos d'Amour by The Police

I knew more of these songs than I was expecting which is always a nice bonus, and it was really interesting to hear The Police trying to figure out their sound. It did raise questions in my head when the tracks dipped into reggae - is there an element of cultural appropriation here or should people be allowed to experiment with inspiration wherever it comes from? I wasn’t expecting a wider philosophical discussion to come out of listening to this album but it did! Good songs, though, that stand the test of time.

Special by Lizzo

Published July 24, 2022

Special by Lizzo

What a fantastic album this one is! Great songs, great vibe, wonderful pop and inspiring lyrics. I appreciate the change she made to Grrls in response to the wider conversation, but I don’t necessarily appreciate sampling the worst Beastie Boys song I’ve experienced. And it’s so weird listening to About Damn Time because I’m so familiar with that one section from TikTok that it’s like when you suddenly hear the rest of a theme song from your favourite TV show. But loved it!

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Published July 23, 2022

Beach Read by Emily Henry

I was expecting your classic rom-com read here but actually it was a lot more nuanced than that. There was the romance (quite detailed in places!) and there was the comedy (I loved some of the back-and-forths between Gus and January), but there were other layers, the troubled history of our pair, the writer battle between them, and more than anything, how to deal with the fact that your parents are human too. A good read and a satisfying ending.

The Modigliani Scandal by Ken Follett

Published July 21, 2022

The Modigliani Scandal by Ken Follett

I loved the way this was written, I’ve always liked Ken Follett books but there were too many characters to keep track of in this, and all of them doing similar things. Dashing around trying to find a painting that may or may not exist whilst also making forgeries of paintings that may not exist. It’s short, so there wasn’t a huge amount of room for character development and so even though I usually love a good heist, this really didn’t do it for me.

Something to declare

Published July 20, 2022

Something to declare

I got a couple of episodes into The Undeclared War before I realised I needed to get Mr C on board with this show. It’s airing on Channel 4 at the moment, or available as a boxset via streaming, and we very quickly demolished the lot. The programme tells the story of a young woman doing work experience at GCHQ (is that a thing?) at the exact moment a huge cyber scuffle between the UK and Russia kicks off.

It's like you were there

Published July 17, 2022

It's like you were there

I saw this clip on YouTube recently of Olivia Rodrigo on tour in London, bringing out Natalie Imbruglia to sing the Australian’s big hit Torn. It’s fun and frothy and, of course, an excellent song. Unfortunately, the video isn’t available to embed but it’s worth going over to YouTube to watch it for the frankly incredible quality. For me, this answers the question of why people would want to be filming something at a gig when they could be living in the moment.

Exodus by Bob Marley & The Wailers

Published July 17, 2022

Exodus by Bob Marley & The Wailers

This is so good, fantastic beats, great vibes, and that wonderful voice on top. At first, it felt like a shame to have to wait through the whole album to get to One Love, but then it turns out the rest of the album is great too. I did have Jamming stuck in my head for a significant amount of time, but there are worse songs to keep bursting into! Loved it.

Mercury - Act 2 by Imagine Dragons

Published July 17, 2022

Mercury - Act 2 by Imagine Dragons

I love Imagine Dragons and this is some good stuff from them - very similar to a lot of their other work, and, if I’m honest, nothing that particularly stands out. But it’s a good set of songs and easy to listen to. I don’t fully understand what’s going on with the album set up - Part 1 came out a while back, and Part 2 now, but it seems like Part 2 is just added on to the existing album, rather than being a release in itself. Slightly odd, but I just made it work.

The Day We Met by Roxie Cooper

Published July 16, 2022

The Day We Met by Roxie Cooper

I liked the format of this book, the way it skipped through years and only dipped in and out of the lives of our two main characters. It reminded me of One Day, which also only visits the characters on one day a year. You really get a good sense of the life being lived, and it was worth going on the journey with these two. Actually, [spoiler alert] just like One Day, there’s a super sad ending, and if I’m honest I could have done without it. It’s well written and winds to a satisfying ending but just left me feeling despondent.

The Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope

Published July 15, 2022

The Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope

This was an interesting story - a child was snatched by his father and then some years later, returned to the grieving mother. It was fascinating because she could be confident the boy was still alive but had absolutely no idea where he was. Dealing with a child six years older and now with some trauma put the pressure on our protagonist which added to the intrigue. I did guess the twist but it was still a good read to get to the end.