Monday, 13 March 2023

Coming soon (early summer I hope) - Book #1 of my new series #CoverReveal #TuesdayBookBlog

It's almost a year since I last published - I'm not slacking (!!), I'm working on a 3-book series about a rage virus.  My plan is to have the first two ready to go and the third underway before I publish Book #1.  The SFV-1 series is a continuing story rather than three stand-alones, so the '9 month gap while I write the next book' practice wouldn't work in this case.  

Can't give a date yet, or even a definite month, but I'm hoping to see this on Amazon in late May or early June: 

I haven't started work on the blurb yet, but here's a brief, spoiler-free summary:

The SFV-1 virus is discovered amongst a rare species of primate in the Amazon rainforest, and is assigned the name simia furens - 'raging monkey'.  It is proved to be zoonotic just before it gets out; no governmental targeted depopulation plots with this one (as I've written about before, in Tipping Point), just good old-fashioned human error. 

Infected centres around three main characters:

Norah Wood (on the cover).  Norah is an artist working on the commission of a lifetime, the artwork for a major exhibition at her town's central museum.  Unwilling to accept that the exhibition won't take place, she ignores the news, social media and the increasing concern of her live-in boyfriend, until shocking circumstances force her to accept what is happening outside the safety of her studio.

London wife and mother Cat is taking part in TV reality show Year Out, in the hope of winning a cash prize large enough to change the lives of her family.  As a contestant, she is spending a year alone on a remote island, with a monthly visit from the show's production team.  During the third month, Zenith TV's helicopter fails to arrive...

Lion, a stressed out marketing consultant, is enjoying a month away from his hectic online world in northern Cumbria, with girlfriend Zephyr and several members of her family.  Always something of a loner, he finds his loyalties are tested when the extent of the catastrophe becomes clear.

Then there is virologist Paul Locke and online motivational guru Julian Sweet, whose lucrative career is cut short when the internet becomes history.  Can the skills that made him so successful be employed elsewhere?

Infected is in its final stages, while Book #2, Darkness, is in progress.  The books are shorter than my usual novels; my other publications are all around 90-105k words, but Infected is 53K and Darkness around 60k.  Book #3, working title Reboot, is still in my head and note form!  Though a continuing story, each part depicts distinct phases in the characters' lives, and I will provide a 'story so far' piece in Books #2 and #3, as I always do.

More later! :)

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Lately I've Been Watching

This month's mini TV and film reviews, with trailers and 'where to watch'.  

If you have trouble finding where any show/film is available in your country, this is a good site: Justwatch.  Just put the name of the show into the search, and choose your country further down, from the drop-down menu.  It shows where you can stream, buy or rent.  

If you can't find what you're looking for, try putting 'where can I watch (name of show)' into your search engine

If you would like to see more posts, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching.  If you get as far as the bottom, 'Older Posts' will take you to more.

Film: The Banshees of Inisherin

5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Disney+.  Buy: Amazon, Apple.  US: HBO Max, Directv, Rent: Amazon, Apple)

Marvellous film; I believe it is/was nominated for various awards, and rightly so.  Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star as Pรกdraic and Colm, two friends living on the Irish island of Inisherin in 1923.  This dark tragi-comedy is based around the outcome of a dispute between them.

The scenery/cinematography is magnificent, the sense of place and time is like a glimpse back into a different world, and the acting is poetry.  Kerry Condon (Clara in S4 of The Walking Dead, Mike's daughter in Better Call Saul) also stars as Pรกdraic's sister, and Barry Keoghan (Chernobyl, Dunkirk) as local boy Dominic.

Can't recommend too highly.  

Limited Series: American Gigolo

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(US: fubo, Roku, Showtime.  UK: Paramount +)

Eight part series based on the 1980 film of the same name, with Jon Bernthal playing male escort Julian Kay.  The episodes delve into the character's past, so we understand more about why Kay ended up with the life he didn't really choose.  

I'll watch anything with Jon Bernthal in it, not only because he is top totty but also because he's a terrific actor (for TWD fans: in this he comes over very much as Season 1 Shane Walsh!).  I also love Gretchen Mol, who plays his one true love, Michelle Stratton (she was exquisite as glamorous, delusional narcissist Gillian Darmody in Boardwalk Empire).  Clever of the producers to choose a beautiful woman of fifty instead of someone younger, I thought - and to have the same actor playing the young Julian Kay and also Kay's son, later in the show.  I couldn't remember what happened in the film because I haven't seen it for decades, but the pain and love in Stratton and Kay's relationship oozes from the screen, and I so wanted an HEA for them!

Rosie O'Donnell is great as Detective Joan Sunday (male detective Joe, originally) - she's the stereotypical world-weary, the-job-is-everything, emotionally screwed up TV detective who makes some serious mistakes but gets it right in the end, but she brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the role that makes Sunday more appealing than I'd anticipated.

It's jolly good.  And you get to look at Jon Bernthal for, like, hours.  

Limited Series: Clickbait

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK and US: Netflix)

Eight episodes about the kidnap and murder of loving husband and son Nick (Adrian Grenier - Entourage).  Each episode is shown via the point of view of one of the main characters - Nick's sister, his wife, one of his sons, the detective working the case, etc.  Most effective.  

More than anything, Clickbait (clue's in the title) explores the way in which people can develop whole relationships online, without having a clue who they're talking to.  I guessed some of the outcomes earlier on (like the woman who considered a fake online profile to be her 'boyfriend', and spoke of him thus, but didn't reveal to anyone that she had never actually met him), though the end was a total surprise.  It's good.  Kept me interested all the way through.

Series: Tulsa King - Season 1

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK and US: Paramount+)

Liked this more and more as it went on - Sylvester Stallone stars as New York gangster Dwight Manfredi who gets released from prison after 25 years, only to be sent by the 'family' to Tulsa, Oklahoma - which is the equivalent, in their world, of being banished to Siberia.  Except that he makes a go of it.  He falls foul of the FBI and an brutal biker gang headed by Ritchie Coster (Head Reaper 'Pope' in The Walking Dead), but soon gathers a new crew around him.  It's violent, but very funny in places; there's some great dialogue, particularly for Stallone.  Definitely recommend!

Series: Falling Skies - Seasons 1-5

First shown from 2011 - 2015

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(US: HBO Max.  UK: Buy on Amazon/Apple)

Five seasons of alien invasion on Planet Earth.  Husband described it as 'the Happy Shopper Walking Dead' which I thought was about right, though I did enjoy it!!  Stars Noah Wyle as Tom Mason, a history professor turned inspirational and fearless military leader.  Sadly, the Mason family are largely unlikeable (with the exception of middle son Ben - Connor Jessup), being self-righteous or just a bit bland and irritating.  Certainly no Grimes vibe going on here.

The Daryl/Merle character (every apocalypse show needs one) is John Pope, expertly played by Colin Cunningham, and my favourite character in the show.  He alternates between rogue-former-baddie-you-love, and irrevocably-damaged-psycho, depending on how annoyed he is with the self-righteous Mason.  Will Patton plays Hershel Greene - sorry, I mean Dan Weaver - the old-timer with lots of sound, old-timerish advice.

It's a very fast-paced show, with never a let-up in the action/disaster/potentially lethal danger, give or take the odd pause for profound philosophical observations and kissing bits, though at the same time it's a bit repetitive, but I didn't really mind that.  The special effects are great, as are the destroyed city settings.

Featured in Season 5 are the Pathetic Sharks of the military, who made me think of the UK police force chasing up people who tweet offensive words, but ignoring actual crime.  In Falling Skies, this outfit is more concerned with catching human collaborators than fighting the real enemy - indeed, when Mason asks them to help in a battle against the creatures who are trying to, like, destroy humanity, their Commander says no because she wants to keep her soldiers safe.  It is at this point that it occurs to Mason and Happy Shopper Hershel that the Commander might have ulterior motives.

If you like gun battles and things being blown up, death and destruction and aliens that speak perfect English with an American accent, you will love this.  It missed that X Factor that made it memorable, but mostly I enjoyed it all the way through; I looked forward to getting back to it each evening throughout its duration :)

Here are some cool clips featuring Colin Cunningham as Pope, also Mason and Hershel/Weaver:  Good Stuff!

Film: Into the Storm (2014)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Amazon.  US: HBO Max, Directv)

Enjoyable weather disaster romp starring Sarah Wayne Callies, just post-Walking Dead, and various other recognisables playing documentary teams and storm chasers as they surviving freak earth-shattering tornadoes.  Also Alicia from Fear The Walking Dead.  Fab special effects.  I love disaster stuff, especially when lots of people get their ticket punched in unusual ways, so this was right up my rue; if it is also up yours, I recommend this as a worthy use of 2 hours of your life!

Film: M3gan 

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

(Rent: Apple, Amazon)

YA type horror film about an AI controlled doll that develops a mind of her own.  It's a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of passive entertainment hours!

Documentary: Unseamly

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Four part documentary about chain store clothing design billionaire Peter Nygรฅrd (the 'Polyester King'), discovered to be a sexual predator of the most monstrous kind.  Up there with Savile and Epstein, though some describe him as the worst of the lot.  Gross and horrifying.  And that's just his hairstyle.

Film: Under The Silver Lake (2018)

3* ⭐⭐⭐

(Showtime, Amazon)

Andrew Garfield plays a young, aimless 30-something in LA, who becomes involved in the disappearance of a girl with whom he spent one night.  As his search brings him into contact with more and more strange characters and peculiar scenarios, it became more and more biazarre, seemingly for the sake of being bizarre.  According to Wikipedia: Under the Silver Lake polarized critics; while its originality, direction, soundtrack, cinematography, and Garfield's performance were praised, some found the screenplay confusing, too cryptic, and lacking the substance and depth the film was aiming for.

Series: The Rig - Season 1

3* ⭐⭐⭐

(UK & US: Amazon)  

Crew on a dilapidated oil rig - led by Iain Glenn with Martin Compston as chief communications chappie - are stuck there because of oddly unusual bad weather.  An organism from pre-history appears and does all sorts of weird shit. People die and stuff.  The mutinous member of the crew (every similar show has one) reveals his honourable side after he and Iain Glenn, in a life or death moment, discover they have personal tragedies in common. I was waiting for Iain Glenn to say, 'You're one of my best crew members, apart from when you're being a pain in the arse.  Are you with me?', and he nearly did but not quite.  

Along comes Mark Addy as the bloated red Face of Corporate Evil.  Then people fly off in a helicopters but we don't know where to.  End of Season 1.  Sorry, meant to say 'spoiler alert'.

Despite being about life/death and off-shore engineering problems, The Rig manages to carefully tick the PC boxes with far higher percentage of women working on an oil rigs than actually do (I looked it up), a gay male mixed race couple and a lesbian doctor, plus the token white heterosexual couple.  Though she's American and he's Scottish so still makes a nod towards mixed race.  Lol.

Saturday, 21 January 2023

Have All Your Friends Disappeared From Your Twitter Timeline?


I've seen stacks of people complaining about this recently, and have found a sort-of solution.  It won't make them all come back again, but it's something I've found that works well for me now, and what I'll be using until the Twitterly algorithms sort themselves out (she says, optimistically).

I'm talking about Twitter Lists - I've never fully understood their usefulness before.  Now I do!  You can make a list of all your favourite profiles and use that as your timeline instead, if you wish.  Here's how:

(Please note: I only use a laptop, don't know how it all works on a phone.)

1. Go to the list on the left side of your page, and click 'More'.

2. You will then see this.  Click 'Lists'.

3. That takes you to this screen.  Click on the little rectangle with the two lines, top right (new list).

4. You will now see the screen below, where you can create your list.  Give it a name, a description if you wish, and make it private if that's what you want to do.  Click 'next' in the top right hand corner.

5. You are then given the option to add people to your list

6 do so by using the search facility - click 'add' for everyone you would like to be on this list.

7. Keep adding, and you will now have your list of people whose tweets you don't want to miss.  Obviously you won't be able to think of all those random people you see and exchange the odd emoji with on a regular basis, but they'll pop up here and there, and then you can add them to your list by clicking on the three little dots on the profile page (top right, under the header photo) and choosing the 'Add/remove from lists'. 


Here is mine.  If you don't make it private, others can follow it too.

The link to it is HERE

8.  You can now follow the initial procedure to go to your list every day - there you will see all your friends' tweets and nothing else :) 


9. Now ... once you start using your list, you may find that you don't want to see stacks of retweets, from people (like me) who retweet a lot.  Might be too many book promos, or just stuff you don't want to see, generally.  In order to see your friend's personal tweets but not their retweets, go to their profile page and head for those three little dots at the top.  

10.  Click on the three dots and you will see this - the first option is to turn off retweets.  Click!

Hope that's easy to follow and is a help!  Do pass on to anyone else you think might find it useful :) 

Saturday, 7 January 2023

Lately I've Been Watching

The latest in my series of mini TV and film reviews, with trailers and 'where to watch'.  

If you have trouble finding where any show/film is available in your country, this is a good site: Justwatch.  Just put the name of the show into the search, and choose your country further down, from the drop-down menu.  It shows where you can stream, buy or rent.  

However... I've found it to be not absolutely up to date at all times.  Sometimes I've had better results simply putting 'where can I watch ***' into the search engine, or going to the programme's own site, if it has one.

If you would like to see more posts, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching.  If you get as far as the bottom, 'Older Posts' will take you to more.

Limited Series: A Spy Among Friends

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: ITVX, britbox.  Britbox in Aus, not available in US)

Big favourite of mine Damian Lewis produced and stars as government agent Nicholas Elliott, alongside Guy Pearce as Kim Philby. This 6 part series is proper good telly, made the way TV dramas used to be, with no sensational Hollywood-esque stuff and only a few fictional additions, all of which were quite inoffensive.  It dips back and forth in time between Elliott being debriefed after his visit to see his old friend Philby before he defected, and snapshots of the two men's lives since they met in the 1930s.

The sense of the era was perfectly captured, even down to little turns of phrase that have faded out of common use; Lewis as Elliott said a few things that made me think, oh, I remember my mother saying that when I was a child.

Something that made me feel very old - an elderly Adrian Edmondson as Sir Roger Hollis, a world away from Vivian in The Young Ones!

Loved it.  Excellent.


Limited Series: George and Tammy

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Paramount +  US: fubo, Showtime, Directv)

I have no interest in Tammy Wynette generally, and had never heard of George Jones, the country singer who became her third husband, but I saw that he was played by the ever-fabulous Michael Shannon and I love biopics, so I was champing at the bit to see this.  Shannon is marvellous, as is Jessica Chastain as Wynette - the attraction when they met was instant, the sort of grand passion that has to be acted upon whatever the consequences; all those feelings just burst off the screen.  I think I was in love with Michael Shannon's George all the time I was watching it, too!

The way in which his alcoholism destroyed their marriage was heartbreaking, as was her growing dependence on her next husband: her manager George Richey (excellently and horribly played by Steve Zahn, though they could have found him wigs that didn't look like joke ones from a fancy dress shop), a grade A asshole who kept her dependent on prescription pain killers to increase her dependency on him.

Also stars another favourite of mine, Walton Goggins as Earl 'Peanutt' Montgomery. 

This was based on a book written by Georgette Jones, their one child, which I now want to read, of course!

....and here is the real life version 


Series: All Of Us Are Dead - Season 1

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Korean, dubbed into English.  Having seen Train to Busan a short while ago, I reckon the Koreans have this fast-zombie thing totally nailed.  This was riveting, just like TOB.  A science teacher makes a testosterone-heavy serum that will, he thinks, make his craven son fight back when horribly bullied at school.  Yes, it goes wrong and gets out.  The show centres round a high school as the virus quickly spirals out of control, and leaks out into the rest of the city.

The zombies are like those in Black Summer rather than The Walking Dead - the victims turn as soon as they've been bitten, and the only escape is to run very fast, and hide.  It's great.  We watched in silence, totally gripped!


Series: Kaleidoscope

5 * ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Loved this!  It's a heist story, starring Giancarlo Esposito, Rufus Sewell and others.  But it's more than that.  The eight episodes each cover a different period of time, from 24 years before the heist, to six months afterwards.  The gimmick is that each one is give a colour (the violet episode, the orange episode, etc), and you can watch them in any order, because separately they all fit together as a whole, a sort of televisual jigsaw.  Each one is almost a complete story; we did not watch them in chronological order, but it absolutely worked.  Totally addictive stuff, highly recommend.


Film: Cinderella Man (2005)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(US: Roku, Starz.  UK: Disney+)

What an amazing story - if it was fiction you'd say it was too unbelievable, but it's not, it's about the life of boxer James Braddock (Russell Crowe) who rose to fame, was injured, fell from grace and, with his wife Mae (Renee Zellwegger) and three children, suffered dreadful hardship during the 1930s Depression. With the help of his former agent (Paul Giamatti), he fights back.

Without being schmaltzy, it's a story about being determined to write your own future, about not giving up, about doing the decent thing even when it's the harder choice, about the love and support of friends.  Never mind all those cheesy 'feel good' films - watch this, because it really happened.  


Limited Series: 1883

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Paramount +)

One of the spin-off prequels to Yellowstone; completely absorbing, and you don't have to have watched the main series to enjoy this one.  It covers the period when the first John Dutton set off on a wagon train, one of the pioneers going west, with all the danger and adventure this entails.  Ends with him settling in Montana, after much death, grief and disappointment along the way.  


Film: Don't Look Up

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


An all star cast in this darkly comedic film about scientist Dr Mindy (Leonardo di Caprio) and his PHD student (Jennifer Lawrence) who discover a comet that will hit and destroy the earth in approximately six months.  The two take their findings to the president (Meryl Streep) who does not appear too bothered apart from turning it into a campaign winner for the mid-terms.  Mindy gets sucked into the whole media buzz about it when interviewed on a ghastly daytime chat show by predatory presenter Cate Blanchett.  Enter Mark Rylance as a narcissistic tech genius psycho type (I'll let you make whichever comparisons work for you!) with frighteningly white teeth.  He was excellent, but my favourite character was a young chap called Yule, a devoted Christian disillusioned with life who falls in love with Jennifer Lawrence, played by Timothรฉe Chalamet.

It's a clever comment on the godawful state of the trash soundbite media/social media and the influence it has on all our lives, but it did also seem to be pushing other messages, too - the comet-sceptic resembled Trump supporters, with their red baseball caps!

The ending is great.  Really funny.  Good one!


Film: The Menu

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Uk: Disney+.  US: HBO Max, Directv)

Crazy weird film in which a small group of cash rich but morally bankrupt, willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money to do the latest hip thing, congregate on the private island of the most esteemed chef in the world (Ralph Fiennes), to experience his culinary concept theatre.  Except there isn't much food, and the themes of each course become more and more ... odd.

Anna Taylor-Joy (in every third film one watches, these days), Janet McAteer (Helen the scary lawyer in Ozark) and a fair few others who will make you think 'damn it, what was he in?' make for a fine cast of diners.  Janet McAteer's character is particularly amusing - she's a ghastly pretentious food critic who has used her poisonous pen to bring down many a restaurant.

A good, extremely dark comedy horror romp!


Film: Amsterdam

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Christian Bale, John David Washington and Margot Robbie star in this low key thriller with a whisper of the darkly comedic, set in New York in 1933, with flashbacks to an idyllic period the three of them spent in Amsterdam shortly after the First World War.  Back in 1933, they unite to uncover the murder of a retired US General and his daughter.  Also features Michael Shannon (who I think was born to play roles set in this period), Taylor Swift, Mike Myers, Anna Taylor-Joy (duh-uh), Rami Malek and Robert Di Niro.  And others you'll recognise.  

I loved the scenery; the backdrops to each scene in New York were particularly exquisite.  The characters were all completely convincing, the plot interesting, but it slightly missed for me.  Not as memorable as it should have been, but it's still a jolly good film.


Series: Alice in Borderland - Seasons 1 & 2

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Japanese dubbed into English.  Arisu, a young man obsessed with video games is fed up with his family pushing him to get a job.  On a busy summer day, having fun and creating mischief, he and his friends hide in a public toilet from the police.  Then all the lights go out.  When they go outside again, everyone has disappeared.

In the vein of Squid Game, they and others who remain are forced into a series of games, in which to lose is to die......


Limited Series: Black Snow

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Aus Stan original)  

Travis Fimmel stars as a detective from Brisbane who works on cold cases, and goes to Ashford in Northern Queensland to investigate the unsolved 1994 murder of 18-year-old Isabel Baker.

Rather than say more, I'll let Travis tell you about it (and yes, he's still alarmingly hot even when not being a Viking).

...and the trailer


Series: Shantaram - Season 1

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Apple TV+)

Back in New Zealand, paramedic and former heroin addict Dale Conti (Charlie Hunnam) pleads guilty to a murder he didn't commit, and is sentenced to many years in jail.  He escapes and makes his way to India, where he assumes the new identity of Lin Ford, and finds a new life as a medic in the slum.  He is constantly battling against the feeling that he needs to atone for his sins.  Also, certain developments make him realise how fragile his freedom is; all it takes is one photograph.

I'm in favour of Charlie Hunnam, generally (because which living, breathing, heterosexual woman isn't?), but he irritated me a bit in this, and his NZ accent is more or less non-existent.  It's more like Northern Irish most of the time, with a few hints of Geordie thrown in (he's from Gateshead).  But I still really enjoyed this, and loved the insight into Indian culture, the sense of community amongst those who have so little ... 


Documentary: The Real Anthony Fauci

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(watch via Robert Kennedy's site, Here)

We have Robert Kennedy Jnr to thank for this exposรฉ.  Shocking and somewhat depressing that we live in a world where these few self-serving sociopaths have control over the health and lives of everyone on the planet.