What we loved: February 2023
Classic contemporaries, favourite movies, and new music. Plus, losing our escape room virginity.
Welcome to our second-ever monthly wrap Substack, and the only one we’ll probably ever write in the same place at the same time. At the end of this month, Michelle visited me (Caitlin) in Sydney. We went to book shopping together, to see Ed Sheeran in concert, to the Mardi Gras parade on Oxford Street, solved an escape room (Next Level Escape), and had an absolute blast hanging out together IRL. Right now we are sitting in a cafe, Michelle’s just finished her pancakes (which looked much better than my eggs on toast) and we’ll probably order another coffee to go.
In bookish news this month, we’ ve planned out Season 10 of the podcast which will start airing in March. We can’t wait to share these books and authors with you!
The Only Suspect by Louise Candlish
The Only Suspect was a rare pre-order – and being the eBook, I was excited to be able to download and start as soon as it was released. (There’s something about eBooks where I can start straight away and they’re not relegated to my massive TBR collection).
I can always rely on Louise Candlish to bring the character-driven psychological mystery vibe and The Only Suspect delivers. We have two timelines: the present and 1995. In the present, Alex lives with his wife in the outer suburbs of London. She’s campaigning to create a nature trail from a disused pathway – a place where a secret from Alex’s past risks being discovered. Back in 1995, Rick is living in Camden when he meets the charming Marina. But all is not as it seems…
I devoured this in a day or two. I had a few theories as the story progressed, but was still surprised by a few of the twists and turns. It’s not a bad place to start if you’ve never read Louise Candlish before. And if you have? I think you’re going to love it.
With Love From Wish & Co by Minnie Darke
All my February reading was podcast related, so instead of tell you about upcoming guests early, I’m going back to our Re-Read season.
With Love From Wish & Co is the third novel from Minnie Darke, every bit as dreamy and magical as the first two.
Marnie is the owner of Wish & Co, a gift-giving service, and the story starts when a gift for her biggest client’s wife on their 40th anniversary and his mistress’ birthday get mixed up. To save her business, she has to try and fix it. But things get even more complicated when Marnie starts to fall for his son.
I’ve described this book this way to a few people, and I know it sounds a bit wacky. But that’s what happens! Believe me, it’s such a delightful read. I bet you’ll surprise yourself with how you end up feeling about the characters.
In Case of Emergency by Poorna Bell
This book took me by surprise with its depth and emotion. I was expecting a rom-com, but it’s actually more about uncovering parts of yourself and repairing friend and family relationships in the process.
Bel is our fiercely independent main character. After a traumatic accident, she has to face the reality that her independence may have pushed many of her loved ones away. So she sets out to reconnect – first with a former best friend and then with her sister.
Through flashbacks to her teen years and events in the present, we learn how her parents and cultural heritage have shaped her in so many ways. I loved the way In Case of Emergency explored some intricacies of growing up British Indian and the way Bel and her sister have taken radically different paths in life.
Tell Me Everything by Laura Kay
Another Re-Read guest! Laura Kay’s second novel, Tell Me Everything, follows Natasha. She is a therapist but doesn’t really have her life together.
She’s finally moving out of her ex-girlfriend’s apartment a few years after they broke up and her love life is exclusively meaningless hookups, but when she meets Margot everything starts to change. Natasha is torn between starting something new and repairing broken relationships in more than one area of her life. Will she take her own advice?
This is a novel where all the side characters really shine, I particularly loved Natasha’s twin sister, Natalie. The circle of friends around Natasha, plus her family, and her therapist friends create such a full and rich world. Fit for a novel all about the types of relationships we should want and let into our lives.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
This is an 11th hour recommendation because we (Caitlin and I) realised this was back on Netflix Australia at about 1.30am today, when we were still too wired from the Mardi Gras parade to sleep.
This is such a brilliant mockumentary – the cameos alone are worth the watch. Ringo Starr even has an appearance! It follows Connor (Andy Samberg) as he struggles with fame as a solo artist after the break up of his boy band. The soundtrack is genuinely among my top-played songs on Spotify because The Lonely Island may be satire, but they’re also genuinely talented musicians.
If you love Andy Samberg, this is a must-watch. To quote Caitlin “I can’t wait to get home and watch this like 500 times”.
Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?
Holy moly, this documentary series was so good! I remember watching the trailer at the end of last year, and thinking it looked wacky and interesting. I’m so glad I remembered to go back to it, I can’t stop talking about it. Quick summary: Pepsi runs its ‘Pepsi Points’ campaign in the mid-90s, the TV commercial ends with ‘Harrier Jet: 7,000,000 points’ and no disclaimer. So a 20-year-old and his investor try to get the jet. The production of the show is excellent, with nostalgic re-enactments, lots of 90s music, cool graphics, and every single person interviewed does a blind Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi taste test. It’s such a captivating watch, suitable for all! (Streaming on Netflix)
This movie is one of my all-time favourites, one which always reminds me why I love being a journalist: because sometimes telling a story can be life-changing.
If you haven’t seen or heard of Spotlight, it follows the Boston Globe’s investigative journalism team as they look into reports of child sexual abuse by a priest. What they uncover is far more sinister and sent shockwaves throughout the world, triggering investigations in several countries. The list of places where abuse was found to have happened is shown at the end of the film and it’s heartwrenching.
Despite the dark subject, this film is sensitive to the survivors and interrogates the systemic failings that saw priests moved between parishes to continue the abuse. I also watch this in awe of what newsrooms used to be, and what dedicated and caring journalists can do in sharing important stories.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
I headed to the cinema to watch this five minutes after watching the trailer. Which sounds good, but I really just wanted to go to the cinema and needed to pick something. But I’m so glad I picked this!
Zoe (the lovely Lily James) is a documentarian in need of a project. Kaz is her childhood friend and neighbour who is about to enter into an arranged marriage. Why would an attractive, smart, and lovely doctor do such a thing today? Perfect subject for a documentary!
This romantic comedy is British, explores family and cultural expectations, and the impact they still have in modern and western society. It’s super funny and so full of joy. Plus Emma Thompson plays Lily James’ mum. It’s adorable, it’s entertaining, it’s fresh, it’s everything you want in a rom-com.
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The Fine Cotton Affair on Just the Gist
This is another kinda joint recommendation because we’re both massive Just the Gist fans and we’ve been longing for Rosie Waterland’s return to the podcast (although, we do love Jacob!)
This story, though, reminded us that we really missed hearing Rosie’s reactions to Jacob’s stories and I found myself laughing so much in this episode. It’s a very Queensland, bogan story about a bunch of men who drink too many beers and think they can swap one racing horse for another – even though, as Rosie keeps saying, the horses ARE A DIFFERENT COLOUR.
A delightful listen.
Everything to Everyone by Renee Rapp
You might know Renee Rapp if you watch Mindy Kaling’s The Sex Lives of College Girls, and you definitely will once the Mean Girls: The Musical movie comes out (she’s playing Regina George, a role she played on Broadway) But Everything to Everyone is her first EP, and while it came out last year, the deluxe version with a new song, ‘Bruises’, came out this week! My favourite song is ‘In The Kitchen’, which is perfect for singing very loudly in the car. Particularly the line, “So I'll dance with your ghost in the living room, and I'll play the piano alone.”
Janice Hallett on Not Too Busy to Write
I am a big fan of Janice Hallett’s intriguing found document thrillers and, at the time of listening, was eagerly awaiting her latest novel arriving at the library. It was fascinating to hear how Hallett approached the thriller in a new way and how her previous career in speechwriting and scripting helped the development of the narrative. I bought The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels as soon as I got to Sydney and I’m diving back in as soon as I get on the plane!
Heaven - Niall Horan
New Niall music is here! ‘Heaven’ is the first single from Niall Horan’s new album The Show, which doesn't come out until June. A long time to wait, but in the meantime, I’ll be listening to Heaven and also his second album, Heartbreak Weather. Go back and listen if you haven’t!
Next Level Escape Room, Sydney
We’re escape room newbies, but after reading Two Can Play That Game for the podcast and interviewing author (and gamemaster extraordinaire) Leanne Yong we knew we had to try one.
Luckily, with this trip in the works the stars aligned for us to check out the escape room company Leanne co-owns in the Sydney CBD. We went with a few other friends and all had a blast in the musical-themed room, The Show Must Go On. This was perfect for newbie escape room players because it’s very story-led and linear.
Leanne then also took us through the original Ex Libris game, featuring Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter and Treasure Island puzzle elements in non-linear style. We LOVED it! And it really brought out the best in us as a team.
If you’re in Sydney or visiting soon, do book in and enjoy! And stay tuned for our podcast episode with Leanne coming in March.
- Caitlin & Michelle
I loved Tell Me Everything (thanks to Michelle’s recommendation)! I've been putting off reading In Cade of Emergency - no idea why as I keep seeing it everywhere. You may have covinced me to give it a go!