Books and Netflix shows you should get involved with

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At the start of January I signed up for a Goodreads account, in the hope it would push me to read more and so far it’s working. I’m on my fifth book of 2017 already, and I’ve read some seriously good ones so far.

I’ve been spending much more time with a book (or the Kindle app) in hand, which has meant less Netflix viewing, but still enough to recommend some good stuff available on the UK version. If you’re spending time indoors with your duvet and Netflix or if you’re looking for new reading material, I give all of the below many shiny stars.

READ The Vinyl Detective by Andrew Cartmel

I read this because my boyfriend had downloaded it to Kindle and I liked the cover. That was it. No other reasons, but I’m so glad I did. I enjoyed this book from cover to cover. It’s a properly good novel with some mystery, likeable characters, a few laughs and a lot of is set on the streets of London which I love. It’s about a guy who tracks down rare records for people, and gets hired by a secretive Japanese man which leads to a wild goose chase all over the country and eventually to the US. The next book is out in May and I will 100% pre-order it.

WATCH Hunt for the Wilderpeople

It’s worth getting a Netflix account solely to watch this film. It’s an indie New Zealand flick and I laughed myself stupid watching at the cinema last year. It’s heartwarming, hilarious, brilliantly acted and extremely feel good. One of the funniest thing I’ve watched at the cinema ever.

READ Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This book gets rave reviews all over the place and for good reason. The story follows a group of people who are brought together during a disaster and delves into what their lives were like before and how they change drastically after.

WATCH Curious and Unusual Deaths

Another documentary recommendation to add to my many (find more here) but this is something a bit different. It’s really weird. When I saw the title I immediately thought yes, this is me all over (not that I’m really into death just FYI, I just find this stuff interesting), but it’s very odd. Odd in a way that after one episode- only 20 minutes, you’ll feel like you have to watch more. From the cheesy narration to the comical/disturbing re-enactments, take it with a pinch of salt.

READ The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

I didn’t think I would last through this when I first started. I found it hard to get into but after about 25 pages I got there. It’s far from my usual type of novel but it’s written to perfection and you feel like you’re being made more intelligent as you read. It’s set in Russia under Stalin rule, and is definitely one for any history lovers or those who like the arts and a good gritty life story. It’s also quite sad and shocking to think life was really like this for people.

5 things worth watching on Netflix right now

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I’m doing the opposite to what I usually do at this time of year at the moment- planning lots of exercise and outdoor running. As much as I love a good winter hibernation period and annually purchasing festive fluffy Primark PJs to wear around the house, I feel like I need to be out and active to stop myself waking up in January feeling awful about myself in the post-Christmas lull.

Now, as much as I am committed to this, I am also still committed to lots of Netflix watching and hanging around under blankets etc etc. I’ve watched a few really good things on the old Netflix lately, and while I’m hardly ahead of the curve I feel a couple of them aren’t being watched/discovered enough. So if you’ve got some solid plans to spend some quality time with N coming up, I can highly recommend you give the following a watch:

1) Love Sick

I’ve been trying to talk everyone I know into watching this. It’s on its second season, and both are on Netflix but it actually started life on Channel 4…and it was called Scrotal Recall. I think the name might have put a lot of people off, which is a shame, because it’s absolutely brilliant, perfectly hilarious and very endearing. Season two is funny on a whole other level. It’s essentially the story of a group of uni friends continuing life after the student dream ends, and the main story is of Dylan, the main character, who has chlamydia and has to track down his past conquests to let them know. It develops into more of a failing love story as the show goes on and it’s brilliantly done. Plus the episodes are short- around 25 minutes, so it’s binge perfection.

2) Catfish

I’m unashamedly thrilled this is now on UK Netflix, and I don’t use the word thrilled lightly (or very often). I LOVED this when it came out on MTV. I’ve mentioned it on here before, probablt more than once, but I’m doing it again. This is a documentary more than a film, and is about falling in love online with a person who turns out not to be what they say they are- or more to the point, who they are. It inspired the MTV show Catfish, which is also really good.

3) Force Majeure

I started watching this with my housemate back in 2014 and having remembered it exists after seeing it pop up on Netflix I will be revisiting it. The idea of the show is to explore ‘adult responsibility’ and it gets pretty much every issue it looks at perfectly right. It’s funny, but is definitely a dark comedy and certainly not all light laughs. The first episode really dives straight in and while the humour is strong, it’s also really quite dramatic. Massively recommend this.

4) An education

This came out when I was a student and I went to the cinema to see it at 11am on a Wednesday. Remember when you could just do that? It’s a film starring Carey Mulligan looking incredibly young and it’s absolutely brilliant. It follows the story of very young woman who is all set to go to Oxford, but gets swept up by a man twice her age. It’s funny, relatable and weirdly feel-good.

5) Clueless

Because obviously, duh.

Image: Pixabay

Watching Gilmore Girls as an adult has been about more than just nostalgia

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When I first saw that Gilmore Girls was on Netflix, I ignored it. I loved the show when I was in my early teens but I kind of didn’t want to revisit it in case I didn’t like it anymore, or it was just  unwatchable as an adult. Obviously, I was wrong about both of those thoughts, because after taking the plunge a couple of months later, I’m addicted and ploughing through about three episodes an evening while my boyfriend sighs but secretly enjoys it.

I like mindless TV. I like being able to stick something on and mostly zone out and not have to think about it or get really nervous or upset or feel any kind of emotion. This is pretty much what I thought I would get out of re-watching Gilmore Girls. A bit of nostalgia, a bit of ‘ohhh Stars Hollow looks like the dream I bet it’s so safe and clean and a good place to have kids’ and a bit of light relief from stress and tiring stuff happening in my life.

But actually it’s made me think quite a lot, which probably isn’t for the best most of the time, but hear me out.

The main theme of this show is complicated relationships. You’ve got Rory and Lorelai who are best friends, two peas in a pod and also mother and daughter. Then there’s Lorelai and Emily, who roll through season after season with tension and rows and bitterness- the kind of relationship you might have had with your mum when you were really young and thought you knew much better/didn’t remotely understand each other- and maybe even now too. Oh and of course there’s Luke. Loveable Luke, with the backwards baseball cap and the dream breakfast location as an office. The whole love affair between him and Lorelai is pretty much every crush you’ve ever had that you feel you can’t act upon, played out over black coffee and looks that last a bit too long.

I can actually resonate so much with a lot of this now I’m older and dare I say it, slightly wiser and more emotionally together. Balancing a relationship with your parents is hard and can be even harder when you have different views, grow to live very different lives and want very different things. Moving away from home and shutting the door on all the things you don’t like about home is easy, but it’s not a good resolution as many people learn. It’s also the foundation of this TV show.

Watching Emily and Lorelai struggle through TV life with practically nothing in common and utterly different outlooks is really interesting, because while it’s an extreme example, it’s hardly uncommon. 

Surprisingly when I was 12 I didn’t realise how well this show does at picking out the bad, hard and grizzly bits of family life. It’s definitely all a bit too glossy on the surface, but there are times when I really feel like I’m a reliving an awkward meal time at home. You know the kind you realise most people have but at the time made you want to smash all the plates and break things? 

It’s much easier to sit and realise how complicated the whole family dynamic really is once you’ve turned into an adult yourself. 

I didn’t expect to watch and reflect on family and relationships or how much family life and feelings change as you grow older. I just expected to roll my eyes at Lorelai and Luke’s refusal to admit they luuurve each other and wonder how I can end up living in a Pinterest town like Stars Hollow. So thanks Netflix for the chance to reflect and feel like I’ve actually emotionally developed in the past 10 years.

If you want a Luke’s mug like mine you can get one from Etsy here.

5 documentaries you shouldn’t miss on Netflix

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It’s the weekend (or if you’re reading this and it isn’t the weekend, it will be again soon), so that means only one thing really- documentaries. One of my favourite things to come out of planet earth and another reason to be grateful to Netflix. I love them. The weirder, more obscure and more shocking the better too.

I used to watch a lot of docs on YouTube back in my former life as a student with terrible internet and a laptop constantly on the verge of death, but things have gotten much easier since. I’m becoming more and more aware of how much Netflix has changed my home habits- I watch way more ‘TV’ now, but also way more documentaries, so I’m putting it down as a win.

Here are some you should check out that are currently available on UK Netflix:

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

I watched this on the tiny screen of my phone but it deserves more- such a good film. It’s an hour and a half long, so settle in for a good stretch, even though it won’t feel like it. This follows two men who’s bodies have been ravaged by illness and been obese, so are in a bad way. The film follows them through a quest to essentially turn things around and claim back their health. It’s full of the usual ups and downs of a life journey and one of the better extreme health documentaries you’ll see.

Tricked

This a weird documentary. It’s not even one that I would say is good particularly but there’s something about the people involved that’s fascinating. I didn’t think I’d watch past ten minutes but I got glued to it. It’s about pimps and prostitutes and human trafficking. There’s a Denver police chief, a delusional pimp who dresses like Snoop Dogg and has an appalling attitude to women and life in general, and then there’s the women who have taken part to give an idea of life on the inside. It’s interesting, and horrifying obviously, and gives a rather strange look into the world of busting a pimp and pulling women out of prostitution. It also shocked me how easily women can get trapped into a life of selling sex, nothing like I imagined- worth a watch.

Trophy Kids

One of those things that seems so unrealistic it almost appears fake. I can’t comprehend a childhood like the ones these kids have. THE PRESSURE.

Planet Earth

The complete collection of glorious Attenborough flitting around jungles and frozen tundras talking about animals and incredible nature is all on Netflix. I remember spending summer of 2006 watching these and crying over polar bears. Jungles is my favourite for animals and Ocean Deep is my favourite for “is this really real though?”

The Pyramid Code

Are the pyramids much older than we think? Did the Ancient Egyptians know much more about science than we do now? WATCH AND FIND OUT. Prepare yourself for conspiracy theories, shaky camera work and some serious eyebrow raising. I love documentaries like this- wholly unpolished but so enthusiastic.

My friend literally left the pub early once because she wanted to go home and watch more of this. If you like history, this is a must see. Some of it is pretty far out, but that makes me like it more. You’ll also learn some crazy facts about pyramids. Ancient Egypt is fascinating to the point it creeps me out, and this just backs up that feeling. Some of the shots remind me of a retro video game, which adds to its air of geekiness in a really good way. I also find the narrators voice oddly soothing.

Seriously though, how did they build the pyramids? How?

Image is Pixabay

6 amazing documentaries you need to watch 

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Erm, can we just talk about documentaries? I’m having a massive re-emergence of love for them and I just want to take all my annual leave (or leave my job entirely) and stay at home all day with the documentary channel and some houmous.

There are SO many good ones out there right now and I’m not even talking about new trendy ones, the Internet is bursting with doc films. My latest documentary hype started with, unsurprisingly, watching Making a Murderer on Netflix, and by about episode three I was fully back on the documentary bandwagon. I don’t know how anyone can not enjoy a good gritty, real-life tv show. Its perfect.

Anyway enough of me basically asking documentaries as a whole to marry and settle down with me, and onto my point- documentaries you need to watch and where you can find them.

  1. Making a Murderer

On the off chance you haven’t watched this- get it on Netflix. It’s about a guy who was wrongly jailed for 18 YEARS, released and then the following events that unfold are literally unbelievable. It’s ridiculous and amazing and SO addictive. It’s 10 episodes so prepare to binge.

2. JonBenet Ramsey

Massive shoutout to Hannah Gale for showing me this one back in our student days. It focuses on the murder of six year old JonBenet- whose body was found in her own home- and the case remains unsolved despite it being heard in front of the grand jury several times. Lots of insane family happenings and WEIRD circumstances. This is on YouTube– Turn the volume up- the sound quality isn’t great for this link but it appears to have the whole documentary in one place.

3. Hot girls wanted

You know Ann from Parks and Recreation right? Well she made a documentary for Netflix and it’s pretty bloody good. In case you’ve made the fatal error of not watching P&R her actual name is Rashida Jones and she made a documentary focussing on how young girls in the US get into porn. Not something I’d usually watch but I saw it advertised on the home page and stuck it on, after ten minutes I was totally fascinated. It’s hugely eye opening, partly sad and partly liberating.

4) Dear Zachary

Good grief, saddle up for a dose of harrowing viewing. Probably even harder to watch than Making a Murderer and seriously emotional. Don’t watch this if you’re feeling fragile, but you have to watch at some point. You can catch it on YouTube or Netflix.

5) Louis Theroux- The city addicted to crystal meth

So all the Louis Theroux documentaries are amazing, and now they’re on Netflix- dream come true. This particular one is set in one American town with a crazy meth problem and looks at addicts, recovery centres and what the police encounter. Shocking, and very sad, but so interesting.

6) Catfish- the original

So pretty much everyone has seen or heard (I imagine) about the MTV show Catfish. BUT have you seen the one off original documentary that inspired the show? If not you need to. Nev Schulmam, who’s the filmmaker, met a girl online and fell in love- I probably don’t need to explain more. This is SO good, one of my all time documentary films, and so interesting in the height of the social media world we live in.

Buckle up on the sofa. It’s time to get serious.