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What we loved: April 2023
A surprising crime recommendation and a podcast about camels
It’s been another mega month for us. We’ve released some banger episodes of the podcast (if we do say so ourselves). We recorded even more fabulous interviews. We both read a lot of books (thank you, public holidays).
Michelle’s plan to move back to the UK (possibly forever) is also underway, with visa applications submitted 🤞
We hope April has also been kind to you. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, we hope spring is really shining through. And if you’re down here with us, then hopefully, the scorching summer heat is mellowing a little.
Leave us a comment and let us know what you’ve loved reading/watching/listening to this month.
*denotes review copy
Between Us by Mhairi McFarlane*
Before you read any further, you should know that Mhairi McFarlane can do no wrong in my eyes and Between Us is no exception. It follows Roisin (and yes, I did Google pronunciation on page one) as she discovers her boyfriend Joe has added some of her deepest family secrets to the screenplay for his successful new crime drama. And if he’s done that, then what else on screen is mirrored in real life? There was a little less romance than in some of her previous novels, but I love the way this explored the dynamics between a group of old friends and how career success and money impact those bonds. I was, of course, absolutely glued to this from start to end.
Duck a l’Orange for Breakfast by Karina May*
Outside of ‘podcast reading’ I think I’ve been in a little bit of a reading slump this month. Luckily, we had incredible guests with incredible books lined up. Duck a l’Orange for Breakfast starts with Max after a recent break-up as she prepares for brain surgery. Trying to take her mind of things, she ends up cooking her way through her ex-boyfriend’s family cookbook (full of French recipes) with a Tinder match. A lot more happens, but no spoilers. It’s a delightful, funny and fresh rom-com with so much heart.
Hear all about this delightful novel in an upcoming episode of the podcast. Karina’s episode is available on May 10.
Homecoming by Kate Morton
It’s been about five years since Kate Morton released a new book, so Homecoming was among my most anticipated 2023 releases. I adore the way she weaves parallel timelines to create moving, beautiful family mysteries. In Homecoming we meet Jess in 2018, an Australian journalist who’s lived in London for 20 years. She rushes home to Sydney when she learns her beloved grandmother has had a fall and is in hospital. It’s here Jess uncovers a family connection to a mysterious death of a family in the Adelaide Hills on Christmas Eve in 1959. All of Morton’s books are chunky (600+ pages) yet I absolutely fly through them. Perfect if you love a character-driven story with a touch of historical fiction and a gripping plot.
Dark Mode by Ashley Kalagian Blunt*
Reagan has lived her life offline. She has no social media, no smartphone, and doesn’t allow photos. But one day on her morning run, she stumbles on a murder in a Sydney laneway. The victim looks exactly like her. Coincidence? As the case is being investigated and then more murder victims are found, Reagan is forced to confront her biggest fear: she’s been found. Dark Mode is a chilling and creepy read, and it’s so gripping. If you’re not into grizzly and gory crime thrillers, don’t worry because this is not one of them. I was so captivated by this book and so surprised by every twist and turn.
We dive deep into all the (slightly terrifying) themes of this book with Ashley this season. Her episode drops on May 17.
Life After Love Island: Untold
Regular podcast listeners will know that I have an inexplicable love of top-tier trash viewing, Love Island UK (and only this version). Life After Love Island: Untold is fascinating whether you’re keen on reality shows or just want a peek inside the world of social media influencing. Admittedly, this doco lacks depth by ignoring questions about the show’s safeguarding measures, online trolling and the death by suicide of past participants. However, if you consume any reality TV, it’s sure to be an interesting insight.
I hope you’ve seen clips or memes about this show, perhaps wondering what the big deal is. Jury Duty is an unscripted comedy mockumentary created by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky who were writers and producers on The Office. Ronald is a regular guy who thinks he’s participating in a documentary about the juror’s experience. He has no idea that it’s a fake case and everyone involved (including the judge, bailiff, lawyers, other jurors) are actors. All of them, not just ‘the guy from The Notebook’ James Marsden who happens to be there. He plays an exaggerated version of himself, creating chaos by trying to get out of jury duty for being famous or going on and on about some audition he’s missing. This show is so fresh, entertaining, uplifting, brilliant, and so unbelievably funny. I was laughing out loud so much. I sent Michelle a voice note when I was 10 minutes into the first episode telling her I’d be recommending it here. Jury Duty is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
Traces (season 2)
I was unsure about recommending Traces, but I’ve been hanging out for season two to become available in Australia. The first two episodes carry on from season one, but I think you could absolutely still pick up if you’ve missed the first season. The series follows investigators at a Scottish forensics lab and this season, they’re faced with someone planting bombs around Dundee. Each bomb is different, making it tricky for the scientists to pin down suspects. There’s a strong plotline relating to themes from Dark Mode, one of the reasons I wanted to recommend it in this newsletter.
I have been on a bit of a wacky streak. Miracle Workers is an anthology series starring Steve Buscemi and Daniel Radcliffe (plus a hilarious core cast). They’re an incredibly funny pair. In the first season, Buscemi plays God and Radcliffe plays a low-level angel who answers prayers. In season two, Dark Ages, Radcliffe is an incompetent prince while Buscemi is the town’s ‘shit-shoveller’. In season three, Oregon Trail, Radcliffe is a Reverend and Buscemi is a notorious outlaw recruited to lead a township to salvation in Oregon. I explain all this because I think knowing what you’re in for makes the experience more enjoyable. Go into it for wacky settings, silly storylines, an absolutely hilarious cast, and a bunch of laughs. The fourth season is coming soon, End Times, and I’m very excited. The first three seasons are available on Stan.
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The Trouble with Sugar and The 10,000 Steps Myth by Maintenance Phase
I’ve recommended this podcast before, but these two April episodes were absolutely stellar. The Trouble With Sugar busts three crucial myths around sugar – including the oft-repeated one that it’s more addictive than drugs. I was just going to recommend that episode until I heard the latest, which unpicks where and how we got the goal of 10k daily steps. Is it legit? Does it actually make us healthier?
Welcome To Our Show
Another month, another podcast to binge. Zooey Deschanel, Hannah Simone, and Lamorne Morris started their New Girl rewatch podcast in early 2022 (I think). It’s been on my radar, but I’m glad to have been able to start by listening quickly rather than week by week. (Generally, I enjoy letting my rewatch podcasts build up a bit and I listen and watch in bursts.) These three are fun to listen to and once again I am enjoying hearing about the making of one of my favourite sitcoms. If you’re a New Girl fan and if you’re into rewatch podcasts, give it a listen!
A Very British Cult
This BBC investigation into a so-called life coaching organisation is a fascinating – and heartbreaking – look at the psychology and wide-reaching impact of cults. I think there’s a bit of a myth that cults are always religious, and this does (in a sense) prove it wrong. Having put together a two episode audio documentary (see below) I could tell how much time, effort and skill has gone into creating this series.
Michelle’s ABC History Listen podcast, The Great Australian Camel Race!
Michelle put so much work into this audio documentary over months and months, and now it’s available! In 1988 a Queensland millionaire dreams up a race from Uluru to the Gold Coast. On camels. It’s a crazy story and a very enjoyable listen. Parts 1 and 2 are available on the ABC website, ABC Listen app, or your favourite podcast platform (except Spotify).
Comfort television shows
Much of what I’ve watched this month has been purely for comfort. The Great British Sewing Bee, Friday Night Dinner, Interior Design Masters, Gogglebox UK – the sort of television you can just put on after a long day at work and enjoy without really thinking too much. And, in the case of my favourite British sit-coms, find yourself genuinely unable to stop laughing. Sewing Bee, Interior Design Masters, and Bake Off are all available on Binge in Australia if you fancy something delightful and strangely addictive. But if your taste is completely different from mine, this recommendation still stands: go back to some of your favourite TV shows, the ones that just make you feel ridiculously happy.
James Corden has wrapped up his time as host on The Late Late Show with a bunch of incredible skits, guests, stunts, segments, everything. I really enjoy when a seemingly serious A-list celebrity can make fun of themselves. After previous segments where Tom Cruise takes James Corden skydiving or flying in a fighter jet, they explore the world of musical theatre. I don’t want to give any jokes away, but there are many delightful moments where Cruise pokes fun at his most iconic roles. Plus of course, multiple musical numbers from The Lion King. It’s a joy to watch. (Bonus: so is the last Carpool Karaoke with Adele. Their friendship is beautiful!)