Thursday, 21 December 2017

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Publication Date: April 1st 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 388 pages

Bailey “Mink” Rydell has met the boy of her dreams. They share a love of films and talk all day – Alex is perfect. Well, apart from the fact that they’ve never actually met . . . and neither of them knows the other’s real name. 
When Bailey moves to sunny California to live with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex, she decides to track him down. But finding someone based on online conversations alone proves harder than Bailey thought, and with her irritating but charismatic (and potentially attractive?) colleague Porter Roth distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious Alex? 

I positively adored “Night Owls” (or “The Anatomical Shape of a Heart” if you’re in America) and as soon as I realised there was another offering from Jenn Bennett on the shelves, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.

It was exactly what I expected, and exactly what I’d hoped for – a light, romantic story with whip smart dialogue and a swoon-worthy romance at its heart. The only dampener was that you could see the “twist” coming a mile off, but so long as you don’t mind knowing roughly where the story is going, it doesn’t detract from it at all.

If you’re a fan of light fluff filled romance that will definitely give you butterflies, or some classic rom coms (think “You’ve got Mail”) then this is a definite must read. Perfect for whiling away a few hours, and to give you that swooping feeling of that first epic love, this is one I know I’ll be coming back to time and time again.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Top Ten TV Shows That Have Kept Me Sane Whilst I've Not Been Reading

So what do you do when you’re a book blogger who can’t seem to settle down and read? We all go through those patches where you cannot finish a book and end up starting ten and only getting a few pages in. Frustrating, demoralising and incredibly bad for the ever growing to read pile, I turn to television.

As a result I have been ploughing through a truly crazy amount of television over the last twelve months. Some absolute duds that I barely made it through the pilot of, but some incredible shows as well. So rounded up for your viewing pleasure, here are the top ten tv shows that have been keeping me sane whilst I haven’t been reading.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
I love Gilmore Girls, so this was on my radar purely because it was coming from the Sherman-Palladino camp. I resisted watching the pilot when it came out earlier this year so I could binge through the entire series when it landed at the end of November, and I am oh so glad I did. I was interested but not hooked, right through the first episode until the final fifteen minutes at which point my jaw hit the floor and it shot straight up to an all time favourite show. It’s gloriously funny, quick, whip smart, and takes a long hard look at women, relationships, and life – not just in 1958 when the show is set, but a lot of commentary is relevant even now. I love this show, I couldn’t get enough of it, and I am so thrilled that season 2 has already been commissioned.

Stranger Things
Why oh why did I not catch on when the first season came out?! A nostalgic, terrifying trip of a show, Stranger Things is one of the best things on television, and it not only came back hard with its second season, some might argue it came back even better. It’s dark and intense and brilliantly written and acted. The character arcs are fantastic and involve some truly great evolution and amazing pairings that had me practically skipping come season 2. This won’t be one you can hold off watching, once you start you’ll binge straight through, and join the rest of us desperately wanting season 3.

The Handmaid’s Tale
Oh boy was this one traumatic. It also resulted in a lot of fascinating conversations surrounding the events of the show and how we would respond if these things started to happen in real life. For all the trauma (this is not a show you can easily binge, you need to give yourself a breather between episodes) it is one of the best shows out there. Incredibly done, with some truly stunning acting, this show felt real, terrifyingly real, and became all the more powerful for it. Season 1 covers the entirety of the book, but there is a second season in the works, and I’m fascinated to see where they take us next.

Big Little Lies
I’m feeling a bit conflicted about the newly announced second season of Big Little Lies, because the first season was so perfect on its own. However the idea of going back to these characters for a second go around fills me with glee…
It’s a surprisingly funny, dark, and brilliantly constructed who dunnit, that centres on this group of families and the ways their lives cross and intersect in all sorts of twisty ways. It’s incredible, with some truly amazing performances, and one of the best portrayals of an abusive relationship I’ve seen in a show. Sometimes incredibly hard to watch, but always gripping, this is a compulsive must watch.

Dear White People
Short, sharp, incredibly relevant, this show explores the racism at fictional university Winchester, and packs an emotional and truthful punch. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s brutally honest and as a result horrifying. It lays out the racism still far too prevalent in society today, and does it elegantly. Focused on a group of students, episodes follow storylines for each, interweaving, doubling back on themselves to fill in blanks, and showcasing a truly astonishing cast of actors. Watch this show. And then get ready for the second season that’s already been commissioned.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
This is a show that I’ve ended up having a lot of thoughts about as I’ve caught up with the two and a half seasons so far available. It’s a completely odd mismatch of things – a show with mental health at its heart, that’s also got a musical element with some of the funniest whip smart lyrics around? Not something that would immediately spring to mind. But somehow this show works, brilliantly. There are the odd episode mis-steps, but on the whole this is a surprisingly nuanced and layered look at mental health. Honest, at times quite dark and hard to watch, this is a surprising show that rewards watching all the way through. The further in you get the more you realise is going on – plus the songs will be stuck in your head for days…

Master of None
I will admit, the first few episodes I was not convinced. But a friend of mine had been raving about this show for long enough that I felt I ought to carry on, and I was incredibly glad that I did. It’s funny, realistic, tackles topics like racism and sexism head on, and explores all manner of relationships from those with family, to friendships and romance. It’s a wonderful insight into life as a 20 or 30 something and has a freshness to it that makes it even more charming.
The second season is where it really kicks off – particularly the first episode, shot entirely in black and white and mostly in Italian. I loved it.

Santa Clarita Diet
Completely insane, a little bit gruesome, but seriously brilliant – this show took me by surprise. I started to watch it purely because it was Drew Barrymore and not a crazy number of episodes to work through. The first episode (mostly due to the ick factor) was not the greatest hook, but it was still off the wall enough that I kept watching… And watching… And watching… And before I knew it I’d finished the entire series and had become a lot more invested in these characters than I’d ever expected to be. It’s funny – the two leads are brilliantly suited and their down to earth portrayal make the crazy hijinks that ensue even more entertaining. Just don’t watch it whilst you’re eating dinner…

The Crown
Who doesn’t love this show?! Gorgeously shot, costumed, scripted, and acted, this show cannot put a foot wrong. It’s decadent and engaging, completely immersing you in the upside down world of the royal family and breathing fresh life into England’s very recent past. The casting for this is absolutely superb, with some truly incredible performances across the board. If you’ve not had chance to watch it yet, it’s perfect viewing for the entire family and an excellent binge watch over Christmas.

Based on the characters from the Archie Comics, this show is much darker than you’d expect and explores a much more grown up side of Riverdale. The stories are dark and twisty, the characters are compelling, and it’s shot in gorgeous dark and neon colours that add an extra ethereal air to the show. Everything about it is just more and it gives over to that otherness to great effect. The cinematography in the second season is particularly brilliant, with a lot of episodes feeling as though they’re panels that have been lifted straight from a comic. Halfway through the second season, now is the perfect time to catch up before the show re-starts in the new year.

Are there any good shows you feel should be bumped onto my viewing list? Let me know in the comments!