Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovich

Book– I grabbed this audiobook for my commute to work. I was instantly hooked! The wonderfully talented, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, a Ghanaian-born Brit, brought the main character to life.

Peter Grant, Probationary Police Constable (rookie cop for us stateside) with London’s Metropolitan Police Services is having a rough time. His policing skills are found to be lacking by his superiors and is easily distracted and fancy’s hotshot PC, Lesley May who unlike Peter, is on the fast track to the Murder Team. Peter is resigned to join the pencil pushing ranks of the Case Progression Unit. Nothing can possibly make his life any worse! That is, until he is rudely introduced to a ghostly chap while on duty watching a murder site. Peter is not convinced ghosts are real; the supernatural is all just mumbo-jumbo! Yet, this ghost is real enough and Peter soon finds himself assigned to the charming C.I. Thomas Nightingale of the Economic and Specialist Crime. Nightingale takes an instant shine to Peter and his magical potential. Peter soon finds out that not only are ghosts and magic real, they have an established history in the city, and that he can have a part in this world. I won’t spoil the rest of the plot, but suffice to say this is a contemporary urban fantasy with aspects of mystery and magic, not to mention a very interesting London police procedural. Adult fans of Harry Potter will enjoy Aaronovitch’s grown up magical world.

Midnight Riot is Book 1 of the London River series.

The Favourite (2018)

Movie – In the court of Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman), early 18th century England, the physically and emotionally frail queen rules with the support of Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), her oldest and closest friend. When a cousin of Lady Sarah’s arrives at court, fallen on hard times and happy to take a job as a servant, Lady Sarah takes her under her wing, giving cousin Abigail a chance to regain her aristocratic status. War rages in France, Abigail (Emma Stone) takes advantage of Lady Sarah’s distraction to insinuate herself into the queen’s affections, and soon the war between the two women is as fierce as anything being fought on the Continent.

This is often described as a sex comedy, and while there’s quite a bit of sex and any number of funny moments, I wouldn’t call it a comedy – it’s far too bittersweet. The Favourite is a political story, full of backstabbing and dirty dealing, as nasty as anything out of House of Cards. It’s also a story about love and loyalty, including broken loyalties and broken hearts, and the particularly messy space occupied by women who love women in a time and social class when everyone must be married and produce heirs. This is a multi-layered film, and dismissing it as a sex comedy with good costumes (although the costumes are exceptional) is a great disservice.

Death and Other Holidays by Marci Vogel

Cover image for Death and other holidaysBook- This small book does not do much to answer the heavy handed “why’s” of death or delve into the existential. Death is not a tall, dark hooded figure carrying a sickle. There is not grand act of closure, nor will you be find a Steven Spielberg ending. And, those are all good things, as far as this novella is concerned.

Our protagonist of Death and Other Holidays is twenty-something April. She narrates her experiences, particularly two losses over the course of a year, month by month and splits her story into seasons. The chapters are tiny, nevertheless Vogel moves April’s story forward seamlessly, similarly in language that moves effortlessly. We experience those poignant moments in which she describes how her best friend Libby moves forward in her life, and despite her acute grief – the difference between what makes for passing the time and what may be a true encounter of love.

April’s story is not bogged down by the superfluous, but described in candid moments, such as the ones we miss. If you are a fast-paced reader, this is not be the book for you. This is one you take in to navigate the sad, the joy, and the hope.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

Book – I was excited for the recent release of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist & Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb and am happy to report that the book exceeded my expectations.

Lori explores her personal experiences from the point of view of as therapist and patient. The concept of therapists seeking therapy for themselves was one I had never before considered. This prompted me to question how we, as a society view therapists.  Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is insightful, deep, thought-provoking and shows therapists in a different light. At the base we are all human beings, but as a people who pay others to provide a service, she demonstrates a unique lens in which to view therapists. Lori also shares stories about the work she did with patients, which includes humorous narration when describing her true feelings of an especially difficult patient. I find the therapist-patient relationship particularly fascinating and enjoyed reading all of the experiences Lori had to share.

She begins the book leading up to a devastatingly unexpected breakup, which ultimately leads her to seek out a therapist when she hits the breaking point. The order of events are easy to follow, as she switched between the present and past narratives.  Learning about her career path and the events that ultimately led her to become a therapist, is a journey of seeking and discovery we may all relate to. Her story on this is enlightening. Lori is a relatable author and readers will find at least one aspect to connect with in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.