The Famous Five: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Normal Wright; ill. Eileen Soper (Hodder, 2000) An odd, rather pointless reference book, bolstered by colour illustrations and snippets of information about Enid Blyton’s life and inspirations, yet mainly just a plodding recapitulation of Famous Five characters, plot lines and themes—which readers would already know from the novels.
Painting in the Shadows by Katherine Kovacic (Echo, 2019); audiobook read by Casey Withoos (W.F. Howes, 2020) Though the mystery and its investigation are quite slight, Kovacic concocts a cosy and somewhat fraught intrigue throughout. The text shines with passion for art, while Alex and John’s female/male friendship shows real Australian personality. Hogarth the Irish Wolfhound remains a delight.
Lucifer, Season 3 (2017-2018) The Pierce plot line comes a bit unhinged, but the rest of the season is dramatically coherent, drawing the viewer forward while taking occasional whole-episode breathers to flesh out supporting characters like Maze and Ella. A stylish blend of comedy and melodrama.
Full Bore by William McInnes (Hachette, 2016); audiobook read by William McInnes (W F Howes, 2017) A gentle, rather wistful gathering together of memories and musings. McInnes presents recollections within recollections, the weave of his stories constituting less a riotous series of anecdotes and more an appreciation of life as a mosaic of shared happiness and small moments.
Ella Minnow Pea: A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable by Mark Dunn (MacAdam/Cage, 2001) Not as clever or amusing as it imagines itself to be, but still an effective satire on government, dogma and the corrupting influence of absolute power. With the loss of language (denoting civil liberties), even the most eloquent of societies quickly degenerates.
RocknRolla dir. Guy Ritchie (2008) The usual Ritchie blend of half-sinister, half-hapless gangsters carrying on their respective operations and out-scheming one another. Apart from some impossible-to-kill Russians, a bit light on the humour necessary to elevate its Gordian plot knot above intricately self-absorbed and style-heavy dicking about.
A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison (Simon & Schuster Children’s, 2019); audiobook read by Nicky Diss (Simon Schuster Audio, 2019) An assured fairy tale fantasy on the developmental cusp where MG turns to YA. The setting is grim, the story a gripping, character-driven adventure that twists genre to sidestep contrivance. Betty and her sisters have real personality, especially in…
Doctor Who: The Lichyrwick Abomination by Joe Vevers; audiobook read by Jacob Dudman (Big Finish, 2021) A curiously meandering short story. While Vevers focusses on moodiness and setting, the core of the premise itself—Malcolm’s guilt—becomes lost in the mist. Dudman’s reading goes some way towards salvaging the production but it’s still a bit of a muddle.
Doctor Who: The Night of the Doctor by Steven Moffat; dir. John Hayes (BBC, 2013) Prior to ‘The Day of the Doctor’, fans were given 6 minutes 49 seconds in which to celebrate Paul McGann and to lament his not being given a full special (or indeed an entire series) or being cast as the War Doctor.
Flight of the Conchords: One Night Stand (HBO, 2005) A half-hour live comedy performance showcasing some of the band’s early work—less musically assured than in later recordings but with undeniable (faux awkward) stage presence and a talent both for lyrical humour and for taking the piss out of social situations.