Five From Five!

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Time for some cake for today reviewsrevues .com is five years old!  To mark this momentous celebration I thought I’d take a look back at the five most visited and read posts of the last five years.  If you would like to read the whole post just click on the links.

5. Let’s Groove – The Best Of Earth Wind & Fire

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The most read of my 100 Essential CD listings which I took almost five years to complete, finishing it off just before Christmas is this 17 track 1996 compilation which I placed at number 30 in my rundown.  Since publishing this back in October 2015 the founding member and lynchpin of the group Maurice White has passed away (an event I commemorated in my “After The Love Has Gone” post in February 2016).  A quick click on the group’s website has shown me that they have a series of live dates lined up in Las Vegas which would seem to be a fitting location for a group who revelled in spectacle even back in the day when such visual extravagance was very unusual.

4. Jamestown 

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A Sky One series which (and I’m still a little embarrassed by this considering the number of people who have read this review over the years) I gave up on after one episode. My three star rating obviously did not deter viewers as it obviously established itself a good fanbase and ran for three series of eight episodes each before winding up in June 2019.  Mostly filmed in Hungary with the village of Vertesascsa posing as the Virginia Settlement I certainly remember that it was very visually appealing so maybe it would be a good series for me to revisit while the weather is so gloomy outside.

3.Scott and Bailey 

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My review was for the first episode of Series 5 which became the last series of this much-missed ITV show.  Surrane Jones’ career went up another level after this with award-winning “Doctor Foster” and much-acclaimed historical drama “Gentle Jack” but this would also feature amongst her all-time best roles as far as I am concerned and the great strength of this was how much of an ensemble piece it was with some very strong female characterisations significantly from performers who had made their mark in “Coronation Street” including Amelia Bulmore, Sally Lindsay and Tracie Bennett as well of course Lesley Sharp as Janet Scott.

2. Last Laugh In Vegas

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I was never totally convinced about the motivation behind this show.  It felt slightly exploitational taking a group of performers out in the twilight of their careers to perform at venues they probably would have struggled at in their heyday.  It felt as if it was exploiting both the artistes and our memories of them.  On the other hand, however, it was filled with a sense of pathos which I wasn’t exactly expecting which made you will the participants on during what was largely one performance probably in front of a specially invited audience.  If the whole premise was to manipulate us as viewers the personalities involved gave it a different spin and it was this which made it worth watching and must have kept people wanting to know what it was all about considering the number of visits this review has had since the five week series aired in April 2018.  I don’t think it was the kick-start to a later phase of their careers as the stars were hoping and sadly in December 2019 we lost the great Kenny Lynch who did look very frail here.  This was almost certainly a one-off series I can’t see ITV resurrecting this idea in the near future.

1. The Level

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I’m still to learn five years into this  blogging lark what it is which really drives up the traffic towards a particular post.  If I knew I’d probably employ it more often.  I certainly do not know why this has become by far my most visited post with over double the numbers of the review in 2nd place.  A six part ITV series which began in September 2016 and which got me viewing because of its Brighton location and casting which included Rob James-Collier, Lindsey Coulson, Noel Clark and Amanda Burton.  The central figure in the series was played by Karla Crome more recently seen in the 2019 BBC series “The Victim” which I didn’t watch.  Director Andy Goddard’s most recent work has been on the fascinating sounding forthcoming film “Six Minutes To Midnight” a British set WWII film starring Eddie Izzard and Judi Dench.

I’m going off to celebrate these five years but my special thanks to all of the readers and visitors to reviewsrevues.com since 2015.  Keep visiting and I’ll keep posting!

What You Have Been Reading – The Top Posts Of 2019.

The results are in!  Let’s begin the countdown of the ten most visited (and hopefully read) posts of 2019.  There are now 665 posts on this site for your delectation and it does seem you enjoy digging around for older posts as only one of my 2019 Top 10 actually appeared this year, the rest were posted before 2019 started and in a couple of cases didn’t cause that much interest at the time and have become slow burners.  There have been 95 new posts this year which is a little down from my peak numbers but I’m still pretty proud of myself thinking this is pretty good going after nearly 5 years as reviewsrevues.com.

The counters were all zeroed last January 1st so these reflect the most read posts since then.  The figures in brackets relate to when I last has a countdown back in April when I was celebrating the 600th post.  To read the original reviews (and bump up their figures even further) just click on the link to the post.

10 (-) 63 Up– This is the only new post from 2019. This seven yearly update of a group of participants began back in 1964 when they were seven years old.  In June this year we had the latest in what is always a five star experience.  Shown as a three parter with director Michael Apted still at the helm this is an experiment which at the time it commenced was revolutionary and now is just fascinating.

9 (3) Atlantic Ballroom – Waldeck   CD review as part of my rather sparse Music Now Thread (although I may have more time to concentrate on this now that the Essential CD rundown is complete).  Originally posted in November 2018.

8 (8) Mary Portas; Secret Shopper.  Posted in January 2016.  This Channel 4 series saw Mary investigating customer service.

7 (7) Once Upon A Time – Donna Summer.  Posted in March 2018.  This 1977 double album which I placed at #85 on my Essential CD list has this year been the most read of my CD reviews

6 (4) The Diary Of Two Nobodies – Giles Wood & Mary Killen.  Posted in Jan 2018. The “Gogglebox” pair still pulling in people interested in finding out more about them away from their TV viewing chairs.

5 (-) Nutshell – Ian McEwan.  Posted in April 2016.  I will hopefully get round to reading and reviewing author McEwan’s 2019 published “Machines Like Me” (as featured on my 2019- What I Should Have Read post).  In the meantime plenty of you still want to know what I thought about this original crime novel.

4 (2) Scott and Bailey – Also posted in April 2016.  The 5th and final series of this obviously much missed TV series seems to have become established as the most read of my television reviews.

3(-) Past Caring – Robert Goddard.  I was exploring Robert Goddard’s back catalogue in January 2018 when I posted a review of his novel from 1986.  I didn’t love this early work and did feel confident that he has written some real gems in the twenty-five or so novels since this.  He is one of those authors who people when returning his library books are very keen to recommend to me.  I should certainly seek out more by him in 2020.

2(-) The Dark Circle – Linda Grant.  Her 2019 published “A Stranger City” just missed out on my end of year Top 10 but you still seem to be seeking out her 2016 novel the review of which I posted in October of that year.  This was her 7th novel and is set largely in a TB sanatorium in post-war Britain.  This has been the most read fiction review this year.

1(1) This Is Going To Hurt – Adam Kay– Came in as a new entry in the 600th post and is now looking established at the top of the pile.  His much awaited “T’Was The Nightshift Before Christmas” was a much slimmer tome than hoped for but no doubt found its way into many stockings over the festive period, but this is the book which Kay fans will return to.  The interest in this review is no surprise, despite the book being published in 2017 and not being picked up by me until November 2018 this is (according to the bestseller.co.uk website) the third biggest selling book in Britain in 2019.

The new entries

In my next couple of posts I’m intending to look ahead to what should be coming up in 2020 book-wise and also scouting around the blogosphere to see what some of the other bloggers have really enjoyed in 2019 before we knuckle down to the real reviewing business in 2020!

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

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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!!

 

What You Have Been Reading – The Top 10 posts of 2016

Christmas and New Year plays odd tricks with you.  First day back at work yesterday and on journey home it seemed as if the festive season was ages ago.  I was surprised to still see the twinkling lights from the bus and even more so when I got home to see the Christmas tree and decorations all up.  It only takes a couple of days of the New Year to get us all moving on………..

But before I crack on fully with 2017 I want to take just one more retrospective look at 2016.  Personally it was pretty momentous.  At the start of the year I was getting myself prepared for a 10th season at my guest house on the Isle of Wight.  Well, since then, books have taken over.  Following months of uncertainty the guest house has been sold and I have moved to a new house in the same town and have begun working with books (as well as being surrounded by them at home) working within the Isle Of Wight Library Service.  The reviews, interviews and magazine assignments have kept coming and at the times of upheaval, of not knowing where I would be living, of winding the business up, of dealing with the loss of close family members reading has very much kept me sane.  If insanity was threatened it was due to BT Open Reach and EE my internet providers who took forever between them to get me a phone line and internet access – but that’s all sorted now and after a few years of feeling life was on a bit of a plateau 2017 feels a very positive change of year.

I’m delighted with the way reviewsrevues.com has gone from strength to strength (despite erratic postings towards the end of the year- thanks again for making this so difficult, BT).  In fact compared to last year there has been an astonishing 76% rise in traffic on the site.  That’s thanks to you all reading this.  Let’s finish 2016 off with a countdown of your ten most read of the 158 posts I published during the year. Just click on the links to revisit the full reviews.

10. The Author Strikes Back- Benita Jayne – Author of “Sacred Crystal Pyramid”and old school chum makes it into the Top 10 with our interview held back in July

9. The Author Strikes Back – Chris Whitaker – The most read of the author interviews I’ve published on here this year.  Chris had to put up with me interviewing him twice, once for here and once for the Nudge site.  He was charming both times.

8. Tall Oaks – Chris Whitaker Showing that the author interviews drive traffic to the original review.  Chris’ crime debut was also a hit on Nudge which has led to a nomination for the Book Noir book of the year.  If you enjoyed his book you can register your appreciation here.

7. The Evenings – Gerard Reve– I had quite a lot of reservations about this book which I reviewed in October but the review of this Dutch translation has attracted a lot of attention.

6. The Rovers – Sky 1 football themed comedy with Craig Cash and Sue Johnston.  This was funny and attracted enough reads on here to suggest a second series is a serious proposition.

5. Giles Coren: My Failed Novel – Sky Arts one-off programme on the perils for a first-time novelist.  A real eye-opener.

4. Make! Craft Britain – Another one-off programme, this time on BBC4.  There’s a lot of crafters out there (and yes I did finish making my Clanger)

3. Lets Groove- The Best Of Earth Wind & Fire– I actually posted this in October 2015 but the lasting legacy of this group and the sad passing of Maurice White (one of the seemingly vast number of celebrities who were imporant to me who died in 2016) has ensured that this has had high readership figures throughout the year.

2. Scott and Bailey – ITV series.  People seemed to be facing up to the disappointment of there being apparently no more by reading about it.  I’ll say it again…  I love Scott and Bailey.

 

 

1.The Level – ITV.  My review of this appeared after the first episode at the start of October.  I moved not long after and lost track of reviewsrevues for a time.  I was astonished to see that views for this had gone through the roof whilst I was doing other things and it is the most read review  on here by a clear mile.  Over 1300 views ahead of the number 2 read.  The series started promisingly but lost its way a little at times but the readers keep coming.  There’s certainly a lot of interest in this series, ITV, if you are thinking of recommissioning or looking towards overseas sales.

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Right. that’s enough 2016.  Let’s get on with 2017!

Scott and Bailey – Series 5 (ITV 2016) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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I love Scott and Bailey.  I had thought that with Suranne Jones’ success in “Dr Foster” that we might have seen the last of this Manchester-set Police drama so I was delighted to see it back for Series 5.  There are only three episodes but I know that for the next three weeks this is going to be the highlight of my television viewing.

There have been changes.  Amelia Bulmore is no longer in it as Scott and Bailey’s boss, DCI Gill Murray and I still haven’t got over the departure of Tracie Bennett who was absolutely brilliant as Rachel Bailey’s Mum.  Also, Sally Wainwright, writer of the exemplary “Happy Valley”  who created this alongside Diane Taylor has handed on the script-writing duties.  The whole conception of the show is fascinating, if a little complex.  The idea was originally drawn up by Suranne and co-star Sally Lindsay, who plays her sister,  who were lamenting the lack of strong parts for women.  They took it to Nicola Schindler of Red Productions who commissioned Sally Wainwright to produce a script.  ITV felt it needed a bit more work before they green-lighted it so Wainwright joined up with Diane Taylor, an ex Detective Inspector from Greater Manchester Police to add that touch of authenticity.  It shows that it is very much a labour of love from all the women concerned and its strength has always been in its depiction of women, aided by a superb cast.  By the last series Amelia Bulmore had written a number of episodes and put her character very much through the wringer as she struggled to cope with alcoholism.

Scott and Bailey’s two Sallys – Wainwright and Lindsay

This is a drama which has always held its “Coronation Street” credentials close.  Set in Manchester with Jones and Lindsey and Bulmore all much- loved Street alumni.  This connection goes further as writer of this episode (and a number of others) is Lee Warburton, who apart from being the first man I have mentioned in relation to this programme also took his turn in the Street as Tony Horrocks (1995-8).

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At the start of the episode Rachel (Surrane Jones) has returned after a year in London, where if the brief montage shown was anything to go by she had a good time.  She turns up back at her old job after her secondment in vice without having told best friend Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) that she was back.  I was initially a little concerned because what you need in this programme is someone to rankle Rachel and put her back up as this is what Jones is so superb at (cf: “Dr Foster) and I thought that their boss had always served this role but new character Anna (Jing Lusi) will fill this gap with aplomb.  There was (as there was in “Happy Valley”)  a wonderfully excruciating moment when someone takes banter too far .  In this case it was Anna who had got inappropriate by saying “the bitch is back” about Rachel and got the Suranne Jones hard stare which may even eclipse the force-field of a Sarah Lancashire “Happy Valley” hard stare.

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Keeping the comparisons with “HV” going is that both shows have real humour in the blackness and the humour is driven by the writing and characterisation.  When Rachel arrives at the crime scene after a year away she is greeted by  the on-site pathologist, Scary Mary, with “Hello stranger.  Put on weight?  We need to crack on.”  Rachel, whose sister is staying with her at her flat has a fondness for air fresheners, Bailey tells Scott, “The other morning I woke up, I thought I’d been embalmed” and when Rachel is appointed Acting Detective Inspector for the case she is told by her superior, Supt. Julie Dodson (Pippa Haywood), “Be ready to brief a Gold meeting at 12 and don’t come dressed like Little Mix”.  Warburton in his scripts has not abandoned the two locations which really brings out the best in the characters – the ladies loo (about 20 mins in) and having a cigarette in the alley (about 30 mins).  These are Scott and Bailey essentials as it is the scenes between Jones and Sharp which add much to its greatness.

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There’s a pretty explosive plot going on as well, it’s not all fag and loo breaks.  This is intense, modern crime where phones and computers play a part.  There’s serial killing going on, fairly randomly and it becomes evident from the Dark Net (still never sure what that is although as Rachel says “It’s not illegal to use the Dark Net” it always seems to bring up things that are) that someone is killing and filming and it could be a grisly version of “Dare” that the police officers are dealing with.  Technology is moving so fast that the police cannot keep up with it.  A potential love interest for Rachel if the twinkle in his eye is anything to go by SCAS Neil Simpson (Gregg Chillin who despite his name previously smouldered throughout “Da Vinci’s Demons”) tells her, “In terms of internet crime the police are like your granny trying to programme the video player.” How our use of modern technology is impacting our lives is also brought home dramatically for Janet whose family is plunged into chaos caused by boundaries being overstepped.

I would imagine (although I don’t want to know) that this plot line will continue for the three episodes as it is a crime spree which has continued for seven years I don’t imagine it will be solved too quickly but I will be there hanging off every line and watching the best girl-cop duo ever (yes, it far eclipses “Cagney and Lacey”) and some of the best performances you’ll see this year on television.

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Scott and Bailey Series 5 began on ITV at 9.00 pm  on Wednesday 13th April.  It is available on catch-up on the ITV hub