Post Number 600! – A What You Have Been Reading Special


Well here it is the 600th post! It has taken me since January 2015 to reach this milestone and I’m delighted that reviewsrevues is still going strong and quite a few of you have been with me since the beginning.  Many thanks for your continued support which spurs me on even when I think I’m going to stray off schedule.

At the start of the year the counters of the most visited posts were reset back to zero so I thought I’d celebrate my 600th anniversary (I’m sure it has its own name but I can’t find better than a double tercentenary!) by having a look at what you have been reading since the start of the year, the Top 10 of 2019 so far.  There’s clickable links to the original, just in case you missed it first time round.  The numbers in the brackets refer to their position in my 2018 Review of the Year.  It’s very tight at the top 3 with just a couple of blog visits between them so expect some changes when I have another look at those statistics at the end of the year.

10 (New Entry)  You Will Be Safe Here- Damien Barr Posted in Feb 2019.  This writer’s first novel takes in over 100 years of South African history and is a very strong debut

9(New Entry) The Taking Of Annie Thorne – C J Tudor – Posted in April 2019 – I didn’t enjoy it as much as “The Chalk Man” but it is an involving read, showing once again the author’s skill with tension and building up a creepy atmosphere.

8 (Re-entry) Mary Portas’ Secret Shopper  Posted back in January 2016 – A Channel 4 documentary show which saw Mary examining what makes good customer service.

7 (New Entry) Once Upon A Time – Donna Summer – Posted in Mar 2018.  Number 85 on my Essential CD list.  This year the much missed Donna’s 1977 double album has been attracting a lot of attention.

6 (New Entry)- The Confessions Of Frannie Langton – Sara Collins – Published in February 2019.  Another debut novel, a superior historical crime novel that does live up to pre-publication expectations and should end up selling well.

5(New Entry) Flat Pack Pop: Sweden’s Music Miracle – Published in Feb 2019 and currently the most read of the blogs I’ve posted this year.  This BBC 4 one-off documentary told the fascinating story of how Sweden became the biggest exporter of pop music per capita of anywhere in the world.

4 (5) The Diary Of Two Nobodies – Giles Wood & Mary Killen – Published in Jan 2018.  The two from Channel 4’s Googlebox who people really seem to want to know more about.  This book came out for Christmas in 2017 but is still attracting considerable attention.

3 (2) Atlantic Ballroom – Waldeck- Published in November 2018 –  If you fancy listening to some Austrian Electro Swing you probably couldn’t do better than to seek out this five star album.

2 (8) Scott and Bailey – Published in April 2016 – The fifth and final series of this ITV crime drama continues to pull in the readers in significant numbers.  Watch out for Suranne Jones in an adaptation written by Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley) of “Gentlemen Jack” the biography of Anne Lister a Victorian lesbian who forged a way into male dominated society.

1(New Entry) This Is Going To Hurt – Adam Kay – Published in November 2018.  One of the best selling non-fiction paperbacks for some time and at long last is seems to be dawning  on people what being an NHS doctor in a hospital is actually like.

Where are you reading from?  The Top 5 locations for reviewsrevues readers.

  1. US
  2. UK
  3. Italy
  4. Australia
  5. Canada

Thanks once again for reading I am off to celebrate my 600th posting!!


The Diary Of Two Nobodies – Giles Wood & Mary Killen (2017) – A Real Life Review



I love Channel 4’s “Googlebox” and always enjoy the contributions of Giles and Mary (or Nutty and Nutty as they call each other) from their thatched Wiltshire cottage. I wasn’t absolutely convinced I needed to read a book written by them, fearing that it might be a cash-in for the Christmas market with little merit which would vanish after the present-buying was over, but someone whose opinion I valued recommended it and I thought I’d give it a go. I was pleased I did.

gilesandmary2Giles and Mary have become recognisable enough for French and Saunders to parody them in undoubtedly the most successful sections of their most recent show with Dawn playing Giles with the right level of Alan Bennett-ness and Jennifer as Mary becoming gradually absorbed by the fabric of her armchair.

gilesandmary3Not Giles and Mary

We’ve taken to this couple because they seem to know each other so well. We can sense the long-suffering of Mary towards Giles’ ability to wind her up, often with a twinkle in his eye with her keen to put him back on the right track. In a preamble they say that Gogglebox has saved their 30 year marriage as all that TV watching has got them to sit down together and communicate as well as giving us all a chance to see how frustrating Giles can be! Both having a background in writing and creating they agreed to the diary format of this book as it offered the chance to produce (in Giles’ words “anecdotal accounts of the various hurdles life and marriage throws up at a couple in a bid to try and see what, in the dread words of the politicians lessons can be learned”. For Mary, someone who admits to recording their disagreements and typing up a transcript, this format would also seem to be ideal.

Much of this is based on the problems of Giles – a procrastinating artist “stranded in the Seventies”, a fledgling eco-warrior and keen gardener who relishes opportunities to be annoying and Mary’s constant busyness, rooting around to locate lost objects and attempting to fit too much into each day whose ideal times of her married life have been when she has had a live-in assistant to act as buffer between her and her husband.

It is these differences between them that work so well. It’s consistently amusing, occasionally laugh-out loud funny and interspersed with illustrations from Giles which adds to the text. I’m hoping and believing here that we are getting the real Giles and Mary and not some representation dreamt up in a marketing office. Much of the joy is in recognising our own traits in this couple’s interactions with one another. I think most of us would come off as a combination of Giles and Mary and would certainly appreciate each of their frustrations with one another. It provides a good, plausible picture of a long-term relationship in action. I don’t think you even need to be familiar with them to enjoy this book as the whole thing feels like we have been invited into their world and it is fun spending time with them.


The Diary Of Two Nobodies was published by Virgin in 2017


Gogglesprogs –A What I’ve Been Watching Review (Channel 4 2016)





I didn’t watch the initial one-off special at Christmas time.  It seemed a spin-off too far.  We’d only had a couple of editions of a Celebrity Gogglebox for charity and they were okay but didn’t have the natural feel of the original, which has been one of the best shows on TV series after series I’d managed to fast forward all the trailers for this that I’d seen but then a friend told me she’d seen a clip of a little girl observing that Donald Trump “had a black heart” and was ready to change my mind.


And I’m glad that I did.  Two episodes in and to an extent it seems as if we have entered the Gogglebox time machine, flipped the switch and found younger versions of the adults we’ve grown to love as these junior armchair critics seem to share many of the same characteristics.  That must be down to the genius of the selection process.  I thought we would be watching children showing off, but we are not.

What we are watching is children entranced by television and taking in the stories in a way which their video-clip dominated world might suggest was a thing of the past and from their viewing we can glean perceptions of the way they view the world.  The reason for Britain staying in the EU should be our continued participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, how buying the Queen vouchers for her birthday would be the most appropriate idea and there was something very poignant in watching children’s jaws drop and eyes spontaneously fill with tears at the sight of the Calais refugee camp.



The show itself is less topical because it has to be filmed over a longer period of time.  The first programme reviewed was an episode of “The Undateables” where the children really rooted for Tom, a young man with Tourettes Syndrome causing a sever twitch.  “How did he get his tattoo done if he has Tourettes?” might not occur to the adult mind but it is an extremely valid question.


Children watching adult television means that there is the potential for greater misunderstanding which makes for good TV.  Meryl Streep is confused with Britney Spears and Madonna, Sarah Palin becomes a place-name read from the rostrum she’s standing at and Jacob and Connor (who could be the childhood versions of Brighton hairdressers Stephen and Chris) have a discussion when a documentary about Trump states that his father drilled a mantra into his head.  Not knowing what a mantra is Jacob is horrified by such parental physical cruelty.  A few minutes later he is channelling loveably grumpy old man Leon with his “Oh no!” response to teen vampire flick “Twilight”.


Some things never change.  Enthusiastic responses to films such as “Harry Potter”, “Star Wars” and the enduring appeal of the music of Abba for successive generations through “Mamma Mia”.  Cue Ashton from Wales – “I’ve no idea who wrote that music but whoever you are I will take my dog off for you” (removing a toy dog off his head).  There was the childhood joy of watching a giraffe being born perhaps on a par with discovering “panties” and “penis” amongst the letters in an episode of “Countdown”.

Gogglebox itself was a interesting concept which has become a brilliant programme because of the way in which it has been thought out and because of the choice of individuals involved.  It looks like the junior spin-off will succeed for the same reasons.  If you like the adult version and haven’t yet plucked up the courage to watch this – seek it out.


fourstars – and by the time the series ends and we’ve got to know the children this will probably move to five stars.

Gogglesprogs is shown on Channel 4 on Friday at 8.00.  There have been two episodes so far, at least one of which will be available on the All-4 catch-up services