book adjacent, book related

Book adjacent: Magpie Murders

Something a bit different today – and I’ve been watching the TV adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s novel Magpie Murders. I read the book back when it first came out and I really enjoyed it – but had no idea how they would manage to turn it into a TV series, so I got myself a Britbox subscription especially to watch it!

In case you haven’t read the book, a reminder of the plot: Susan Ryeland has been editing the Atticus Pünd novels for years. The series’s author, Alan Conway is not her favourite person, but she puts up with him because the series has been incredibly popular with fans of the Queens of Crime. But when she reads the latest manuscript, not only is the end missing, but she’s convinced that Conway has hidden another story within his new novel.

Now, what the book blurb doesn’t tell you, but the TV trailer does, is that Alan Conway ends up dead and that as she searches for the missing chapter, she’s also trying to figure out who killed him. I had no clue how they were going to make this work on screen because of the book-within-a-book nature of the story but it really clicks – with cast doubling their roles and different filters on the camera to make it even easier to tell the two apart – as well as the different costumes for the different time periods. I was a bit sceptical about whether the adaptation really needed six parts but it turns out that it sort of did – because there is a lot of plot with two parallel mysteries to a solve and not a lot to cut. Anthony Horowitz has adapted this himself from his novel -and it really works. As you can see from the trailer, a lot of the cast play two roles – the real people who knew Alan and their fictional equivalents in the book.

There are a lot of familiar faces in the cast and the performances are great. Lesley Manville makes a great Susan – tenacious about trying to find the missing chapter of the book, but guarded and prickly about her personal life. I’m not a Game of Thrones viewer, so I’m not sure I’d seen Conleth Hill in anything before I saw him in Holding, and then here he is again in this turning in another great – but very different – performance. I really hope they do the second in the series, The Moonflower Murders, and I also really hope that Horowitz writes a third. He does have two meta-murder mystery series though, and he seems to be doing more with the Hawthorne books – which is even more meta as a fictional version of Horowitz is in that one. I really can’t imagine how they would do a TV version of that. But I said that with the Atticus Pund series, so what do I know! There is a fourth Hawthorne book coming this summer which I’m already looking forward to reading.

As I said at the top, this one is on Britbox, which you can get direct from them or as an add-on to an Amazon Prime subscription. You get a seven days free trial, and there are a couple of other Britbox originals that I fancy having a look at, so I’ve gone beyond the trial for now!

Enjoy.

book adjacent, not a book

Not a Book: Holding

I mean, it was a book first, but in this case it’s the TV adaptation I’m talking about!

So this is ITV’s four part adaptation of Graham Norton’s debut novel. I have to admit that I started but never finished the book, and I don’t know where it’s gone – but I really enjoyed the TV version of this murder mystery, which is just a little bit unexpected and out of the ordinary.

The plot is this: when a body is discovered Siri building work, local police officer PJ has his first murder to solve. The victim turns out to be a long lost local legend – who disappeared the day of his wedding. Introverted and seen as an outsider by the village, PJ discovers hidden secrets as he tries to solve the crime and this is what finally forms a connection with the community.

Everyone in this has a messy life. There are alcoholics, secret affairs, unhappy marriages, busybodies, secret eaters and more. And at times it’s really quite bleak. But for all that there was something totally watchable about it – and I put that down to Conleth Hill’s performance as PJ Collins. Even when he’s doing something he really shouldn’t, you’re still rooting for him and you’re desperate for him to solve the murder and be happy. As the episodes go on, you discover hidden depths to him and the scenes with Mrs Meany (Brenda Fricker) are brilliant. It doesn’t feel like a traditional murder mystery when you’re watching it – whether that’s because you know a lot more than PJ does or because of the way it’s been directed by Kathy Burke, I don’t know. But it felt different and fresh and touching.

As I said at the top, I haven’t read the book – and as I already have way too many books I’m not sure I’ll be going back for it, but if a copy happens into my hands, I’d be interested to see how much of the tone is carried over from the book and how much is from the adaptation.

Anyway, if you’re interested, it’s up on the ITV hub if you’re in the UK, and I think it’s somewhere on Virgin if you’re in Ireland. I have no idea about the rest of the world though – sorry!

book adjacent, not a book

Not a Book: Murder Among the Mormons

I’m on a bit of a documentary jag on my TV viewing at the moment – and no I’m not counting Selling Sunset and Selling Tampa as documentaries – they’re definitely “constructed reality” or whatever they’re calling it now. Anyway this week I watched all three episodes of Murder Among the Mormons across two nights and it was really good.

Murder Among the Mormons looks at three bombings that took place in Salt Lake City in Utah in 1985. It soon becomes apparent that the bombings are linked to the trade in historical documents – and particularly to a series of documents related to the history of the Latter Day Saint movement. It’s got interviews with most of the key figures in the story and looks at the run up to the bombings, the bombings themselves and then the investigation looking to find the perpetrators.

Regular readers of the blog will know that the weirder corners of American religion and religious history and this fitted right into that niche for me. It’s not actually even a new release – it came out almost a year ago but despite all the murder mysteries I read, I’m not usually a big true crime murder mystery person because there’s no guarantee you’re going to get a resolution the way you are in a book that’s sticking to genre conventions. So I probably wouldn’t have watched this if it wasn’t for this tweet from Julie Cohen:

I mean how can you resist trying to find out about the magic salamander. And there actually not a lot more I want to say about the actual contents of the documentary. Because if you go into this not knowing any more than I’ve told you at the top: car bombs linked to the trade in historical documents then this will be a really wild ride. I can’t speak to how it works for you if you already know the story – but the makers of the documentary have put this together incredibly cleverly. So, it’s only three hours of your life – go, go, go.

And if this is your first toe in the corner of the various of Mormonism, then do go have a look at my posts about Under the Banner of Heaven, the season of Unfinished about Short Creek and also relatively recent BotW Educated.

Have a great Sunday!

book adjacent

2022 Reading resolutions

Here we are at the end of the first week of 2022, and I thought I should maybe talk about my plans for the year ahead.

Well, although I’ve called this a resolutions post, I’m not really making any. Is that a cop out? Probably. I know that making commitments to things is meant to make you more likely to be able to achieve them. But I find they just make me feel worse about myself when I don’t manage to complete them. And I never do when it comes to reading.

I entered 2022 with a big old backlog on NetGalley – the same as I did last year. I don’t think it’s got any bigger, but it hasn’t got much smaller either. So I’m going to try to be a bit restrained with my requesting finger and work on that. I’ve already been through and identified some that will fit the 50 states challenge, if I do that again this year. But last year I didn’t do very well with the actual bookshelf – as I explained in my retrospective post so who knows whether I’ll veer off onto a reading actual books moment over the ebook backlog.

But mostly my aim for 2022 is to enjoy my reading. I’ve got much better over the last few years about just reading what I want to read and not what I think I ought to be reading, and I want to carry on doing that. Read what I fancy, not think about numbers of books read or what I should read – and just read what I want, when I want. Let’s see how I get on…

book adjacent, Children's books, Surviving the 'Rona

Surviving Coronavirus: Baby-Sitters Club

Another in my occasional series of posts about things that have been getting me through the Coronavirus, and this is one that dovetails with my love of middle grade books, despite the fact that I’m no longer a middle grader – and in fact am easily old enough to have a middle grader of my own!

If you’re my sort of age, The Baby-sitters Club was up there with Sweet Valley High as a series that you binge-read from the library. Or at least it was for me.  The books – with the building blocks logo and the house with the illustration of the story in the window were instantly recognisable. It’s hard to remember so many years later, but I’m fairly sure I read almost all of the first 50 books, and all the early super specials as well as some of the mysteries. So, I was excited – but also a little trepidatious – to see that Netflix had adapted it. How do you update a series written in the pre-internet, pre mobile phone world so that it works for children today?

As it turns out, they’ve done it really, really well. The personalities of the girls are the same – but Dawn is Hispanic and Mary Anne is biracial. Stacey still has diabetes, but now she has an insulin pump rather than having to do injections. There are mobile phones, but Kristy and Mary Anne still have flashlights to signal between their houses – because Mary Anne’s dad is so overprotective. Would modern parents really trust a bunch of barely teenagers with their kids? Well the series does try and address that. It’s got a strong focus on social justice, which I think is both true to the original books and inline with what the kids today (!) are interested in and it has enough easter eggs in there for the grownups too – like the handwriting on the episode titles being the “right” ones for each girl from the original books, Alicia Silverstone as Kristy’s mum, Kevin from Brooklyn 99 as Mary Anne’s dad. As grown up, sometimes it was all a little bit ott but I’m not the target audience- and i find that with a lot of children’s shows. It was perfect though for watching while ironing. And low-stakes drama is about all I can deal with right now. At the end of the series Mallory and Jessi were introduced, which means I’m hoping there are plans for a second series – but obviously these strange times we live in could have thrown all that up in the air and mean that the cast age out faster than expected.

Anyway, you can find the Baby-sitters Club on Netflix – and I’m off to read one of the new Babysitter’s Club graphic novels which have been adapted by Raina Telgemeier.

Happy reading!

 

book adjacent, Recommendsday

#Recommendsday: Book-adjacent stuff to watch

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been having some problems concentrating on books at various points during the Current Situation, so I’ve been watching a lot of TV in those concentration lapses. As I watch news all day every day at work, I don’t watch news on my off days, and tend to favour non-news TV. I thought today I’d mention some of the bookish things that I have watched, along with all the Drag Race, Tiger King, My Lottery Dream Home and Great British Menu.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

A couple of years back I read Judith Mackerell’s The Unfinished Palazzo, about a house in Venice that was owned by Luisa Casati, Doris Castelrosse and Peggy Guggenheim. When I wrote about the book in my Rich People Problems nonfiction post last year, I said I would happily read more about any of them, which is true, but Peggy is the one I ws really curious about. So imagine my delight when I found a feature length documentary about her on BBC Four the other week.  And it turns out, she’s just as interesting as I thought she would be – and possibly as much of a nightmare to be around as I suspected too.  I am still definitely in the market for a good book about her – but this was a very good watch.  Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is available to watch for people in the UK (with a TV licence) on the BBC iPlayer for another nine days.

Becoming Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s memoir was huuuuuge when it came out – huge to the point were a year on it’s still not out in paperback and there’s still a hold queue for it at my library. Now Netflix has a new documentary that follows her on the tour she did to promote the book, which saw her talking to huge arenas and small groups. If you haven’t read the book (and I haven’t yet) it is a really good insight into her life and her story. I assume if you have read the book, it does the same but even more so! It’s got bonus appearances from Barack Obama, and for the news junkies like me you get to see behind the scenes of some of the TV interviews you may have seen her (and her mum) do at the time of the booklaunch. This one’s on Netflix now.

Wise Children

There’s a lot of theatre that has been on YouTube or TV during the lockdown, but this has been one of the most interesting to me. This is an adaptation of Angela Carters book about two ageing music hall stars, the unacknowledged daughters of the most famous Shakespearian actor of the day. I read the book two years ago, and while it is very good it didn’t really strike me as a show that would be easily adapted for the stage – despite the fact that it is about the theatre. But Emma Rice has done it and now we can all watch. I haven’t got to the end of this yet, but I’m really enjoying as much of it as I have watched. Wise Children is available to watch for people in the UK (with a TV licence) on BBC iPlayer until at least the start of June.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I read the book the other year, but I saw the film first and it has a special place in my heart because of that. All of the Studio Ghibli stuff is available on Netflix now, so if you haven’t seen them already, now is your chance. I’m planning on watching it again – but this time with subtitles instead of the English language dub.

Voila – a few ideas from me. Please put any suggestions you have for me in the comments – I will run out of Drag race soon…

Happy Watching!