She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah! It Was Only Ever You is a romantic story about three strong, young women and their relationships with one charming man living in New York City. It’s an engrossing, light and sweet tale that will leave you wondering how it will end and who will wind up with whom.

This story is set in an almost identical place to Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn. It is the 1950s and a time when many Irish people made a passage in order to have a new life in America. Instead of focusing on one main protagonist, Kate Kerrigan frames the story though a group of young people. Her prose is quite light and whimsical at times and for this reason, it occasionally reminds me of Marian Keyes’s work.

Kate Kerrigan’s real name is Morag Prunty and she is a journalist and best-selling author. Her most famous novel is The Dress. In It Was Only Ever You Kerrigan provides a smoking soundtrack and backdrop that takes in jazz, ballads and early rock ‘n’ roll. It is a period when people were just learning how to rock around the clock and they did so with gusto. Kerrigan’s main character, Patrick is a dreamboat by all accounts and a fledgling singer.

Patrick was a poor boy from County Mayo in Ireland. He found love in the form of an artistic, rich girl and Doctor’s daughter named Rose. The pair were besotted but Rose’s parents did not approve of the relationship. Patrick’s head was also filled with big ambitions of his own. He leaves Ireland and goes to New York while his heart pines for Rose and he works a lowly job because he is indebted to his employer. This world is a very different one to that inhabited by a caring socialite named Ava. She is an idealistic girl who is aware that she won’t win any prizes for her looks. Ava remains optimistic however, and continues to frequent the dance halls in the hopes of finding a nice husband.

Shelia is the most interesting character of them all. The orphan of parents who died during the Holocaust, Shelia is the kind of girl who is determined and knows exactly what she wants. Shelia is a vanguard and an inspiration. She is trying to forge her own way in the music industry, a world that is almost exclusively controlled by men. It’s fortunate that Shelia has a nose for talent and she hopes she can discover music’s next big thing.

It Was Only Ever You is like a patchwork quilt of different emotions that show a group of young people falling in and out of love and discovering themselves. This is a story about love, loss and following your dreams and it is set amongst the glamourous New York nightclub scene of yesteryear. The story features some likeable and well-developed characters and the story feels very authentic. It Was Only Ever You is a pleasant book to read not least because it shows a group of fine characters marching to the beat of their own drums.


***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit:




The chapter in India’s history when it was subject to colonial rule has been shown on our screens before. It was the theme in The Jewel in the Crown television series and there have been countless films and things about Mahatma Ghandi. Indian Summers is a TV series that covers this well-trodden path. It may not be the most original rendering of this story but it is one pleasant, beautiful and nostalgic drama.

The second series begins some three years after the first one left off. Some things have changed with respect to the characters in this time. The most noteworthy is that civil servant, Aafrin Dalal (the gorgeous, Nikesh Patel) has become a rebel and is promoting terrorism. The private secretary, Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) is married and has designs on the viceroy’s role. Whelan’s sister, Alice (Jemima West) is shackled by an unhappy marriage to one angry and careless man named Charlie (Blake Ritson) while her heart is somewhere else.

This series deals with a number of different storylines and threads including matters of the heart and the state. Club owner, Cynthia Coffin (Julie Walters) is as manipulative as ever while Sooni (Aysha Kala) is the most inspiring. The plots also throws up a number of different moral dilemmas. Over the course of ten episodes there are a few deaths, one marriage and some reunions. The series is supported by a great cast who capture the full gamut of different emotions. Indian Summers also succeeds at chronicling an important chapter in India’s history and maintaining a certain pace while keeping the tensions high.

The setting is absolutely stunning. The story and series is set in Simla in the foothills of the Himalayas but Indian Summers itself is shot in Penang in Malaysia. We can forgive this artistic licence when we consider how much care and detail has been applied to the creation of props and the wonderful costumes. All of these things add up to make a sumptuous period drama that is like pure eye candy. The special features include an adequate making of featurette that reveals some good insights into how this show was made, but there was also room for more information.

Indian Summers is a colourful drama that is brimming with some spice and so many different threads that at times it feels like a tapestry. This is not the most crucial series you’ll ever watch but it does cover a significant part of India’s history as it seeks independence from the British rule. This serial is an interesting look at the politics and the personal proclivities of the locals and individuals living abroad as they face all manner of different challenges that life throws at them. In short this is a sprawling story told in a way that is as pleasant as a stroll through the English countryside.


Originally published on 24 October 2016 at the following website:

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Many of us are familiar with Disney’s version of Beauty & the Beast. The film shows the cursed Beast who captures the beautiful Belle, and it is only after Belle sees the creature’s inner “goodness” and falls in love that the spell is broken. Some people may consider that the Beast is actually rewarded with Belle’s love and not punished for his wrongdoings. Author Zoë Marriott has decided to redress this imbalance and tell the story from a feminist’s perspective.



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Hands up who thinks pizza and beer is a winning combination. For those who agree then there’s a new restaurant to add to your bucket list, a clever dual-concept pairing of Fratelli Famous and The Bavarian at World Square from the rapidly expanding Urban Purveyor Group. The restaurant features a communal bar, shared indoor and outdoor seating and separate kitchens producing pizzas – with a DIY focus – and assorted German finery.


Fratelli Famous – the casual sister restaurant to Fratelli Fresh – have three different pizza bases available. There is a light and crispy sourdough where the dough is fermented with a starter culture. There is also the Napolitana, a classic dough that yields a thin and crispy base. The kitchen offers an eight-inch gluten free variety (the other bases are available in eight and 12 inch sizes) that has gluten-free flour in place of semolina flour.


There is a real technique to working and stretching the dough. The pizza side of the restaurant has nine classic savoury pizzas on sale (each $14) as well as breakfast and dessert varieties. As with the other Fratelli Famous which now fits in nicely at Westfield Sydney, you can create your own pizza here. According to Pizza Executive Chef, William the key to a great topping is to find the right balance of flavours.


Once you have selected your base it’s time to choose a sauce. There are four different kinds to choose from including a green pine nut pesto and a white one made up predominantly of fior di latte cheese. There are also two red varieties made of San Marzano tomatoes and one of these has been cooked with Italian meatballs for a heartier, full-bodied flavour. The next step is to select your cheese from a range including feta and vegan cheese as well as an array of Italian ones (gorgonzola, fior de latte mozzarella, fontina, scamorza and parmesan.)


There is a range of seasonings available including oregano, chilli flakes, fennel seeds and salts. The proteins feature various Italian cured meats (pancetta, salami and nduja) as well as chorizo, ham and lemon-roasted chicken. To balance out the meats there vegetable, fruit and nut toppings including broccolini, mushroom, olives, eggplant and pine nuts. The pizza is cooked for 90 seconds and can then be dressed with chilli oil, hot buffalo or sweet barbeque sauce. Fratelli Famous also allow people to create their own salads and they have a number of different ingredients available.


The Bavarian is the sister restaurant to the Bavarian Bier Café, a fast causal spin-off that over on the German side of the restaurant has 17 beers on tap and plenty more for sale in bottles. This is the place where there is a beer for everyone with casual drinkers typically favouring the sweeter, malty varieties, while your beer aficionados go for ones with hops flavours and astringent tastes. Urban Purveyor Group also own the Urban Brewing Co. where they create 11 exclusive craft beers.


The Bavarian stable of restaurants are famous for their steins so it’s important that the beers don’t contain too much carbon dioxide otherwise they would create some slight abdominal discomfort in the drinker. The bartenders are very knowledgeable and can suggest food pairings to accompany the beers and signatures across schnitzels, burgers, sausages and pork dishes.


Some of the beers available range from the subtle and sweet Italian style lager, Bella Birra all the way up to the bitter and hoppy, Devil’s Daughter Indian Pale Ale (IPA). The Bavarian has recently launched a seasonal, summer brew called Sweet Caroline, which would make Neil Diamond proud because she’s a very refreshing and drinkable drop. Sweet Caroline also has a slight astringency which lends the beer a fine, moorish quality. One of the few dark lagers to be found in Australia is the Hofbräu Dunkel, which boasts a sweet quality reminiscent of caramel. It’s a stark contrast to the spicy Butcher’s Bride Pale Ale with its grassy notes and dry finish. The group’s house lager, The Munich is a great one to end a night on and it’s a smooth and refreshing drink.


The Bavarian have a beer passport promotion running until 31st December this year: if you sample eight of their beers across multiple settings and get your passport stamped you receive a limited edition t-shirt and go in the running to win a private beer and pizza party for up to 20 people.


The partnership between Fratelli Famous and The Bavarian is an unexpected match – it’s not everyday you see a restaurant split into Italian and German – but it works incredibly well for the area. This dual-concept store in Sydney looks poised to be a big hit, and those out west can be rest assured they’ll be getting one soon enough in Penrith.


Originally published on 19 October 2016 at the following website:

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Woody Allen’s latest film should be renamed “High Society.” This beautifully-shot comedy is a nostalgic but throwaway look at the glitz and glamour of some halcyon days in Hollywood and the smoky nightlife of New York. It’s ultimately like a pleasant and lightweight dream that celebrates money even though the thirties was synonymous for some with the great depression.

Café Society is like most of Allen’s films in that it is full of snappy dialogue and features the famous director as a sleepy narrator. One of the best pieces of advice this film offers is to “Live everyday like it’s your last because one day you’ll be right” as well as other existential points and jabs at religion. This may be a romantic tale but in true Allen style this romance is one where your head is in charge, not your heart.

Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg doing his best Woody Allen impression) stars as a wide-eyed kid who is initially seduced by the bright lights of Hollywood. Bobby’s Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) is a Hollywood hotshot. He takes pity on his nephew and offers the kid some odd jobs. Bobby seems to enjoy elements of La-La land (his encounter with a first-time prostitute is hilarious) but he soon comes to hate the excess and fakery of it all. It’s a sentiment that is shared by his uncle’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart who proves she doesn’t need to pout her way through every film.) Stewart puts in a fine performance where the chemistry with her former cast mate, Eisenberg is particularly obvious.

Vonnie is given the job of showing Bobby around town. The two youngsters bond over Mexican food and Bobby becomes completely smitten. But Vonnie holds her cards closely to her chest. The reason she does so is because she’s smart and savvy and because she also has an elusive boyfriend that she started dating a year before meeting Bobby.

Eventually Bobby returns home to New York. He takes a job working in a nightclub with his gangster brother. Bobby meets a divorcee at the club (an effervescent Blake Lively) and romance blossoms. The pair seem happy until Vonnie shows up at the club with someone Bobby knows all too well.

Café Society is like The Great Gatsby in that it celebrates youth, beauty and jazz. The story itself is quite flimsy and predictable but it’s a film that offers entertainment and enjoyment, pure and simple. This depiction of love triangles and professional dreams is one opulent ride and a fun look at a brief but rich period in the thirties in America. In Café Society’s world the depression never happened and everyone was free to enjoy themselves, rambling through the richness and splendour that was the society set. This is ultimately fun for audiences to watch but don’t expect it to change your life or your riches.


Originally published on 18 October 2016 at the following website:

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Imagine a scenario where a computer virus has the ability to affect a country’s power supply. It sounds like the plot of a thrilling, science fiction film. It is frightening to think that this could be the future of cyberwarfare, especially when one considers this in light of the Stuxnet event. Zero Days is a terrifying documentary about this very attack.

Zero Days is the latest documentary from prolific filmmaker, Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.) Gibney does an excellent job of covering a highly classified event and breaking down this complex computer catastrophe into some easily digestible and easy-to-understand elements. While there are some questions that are left unanswered – both the Israeli and American governments have denied responsibility for the attack – this film does lift the veil on some aspects of this important piece of cyberwarfare and it will get us thinking (and worrying) about what comes next.

The Stuxnet virus was first identified in 2010. It was a very sophisticated and targeted piece of computer code. It was apparent to those in the know that this was not the work of a lone hacker. Gibney interviews some representatives from the anti-virus companies, Symantec and Kaspersky Labs who explain the mechanics behind it all. They prove excellent talent as they show how interconnected everything is and how computer malware can compromise and affect physical, real-world items.

In this case a number of nuclear centrifuges in Iran were destroyed by this malware. Gibney also describes things within the context of the assassination of some Iranian nuclear scientists. This documentary also shows what happened when the attack occurred and how it left the nuclear boffins and IT experts scratching their heads.

The most illuminating interviewee is actually an actress named Joanne Tucker. She is playing the role of a number of anonymous intelligence analysts, including individuals that work at America’s National Security Agency. This commentary provides an informative take on how analysts could infiltrate and compromise systems and the other things that they were and are able to achieve. It’s scary stuff that proves that the battlelines for the next major war will literally be in cyberspace and through computers and technology, not the battlegrounds and artillery of yesteryear.

Alex Gibney’s fresh and topical documentary is a terrifying and slick look at cyberwarfare. This entertaining and comprehensive documentary serves as a cautionary tale of what can happen when technologies are compromised and information falls into the wrong hands. Zero Days does an excellent job of chronicling a subject that could have remained shrouded in the shadows and offers us a bitter pill as food for thought.


Originally published on 17 October 2016 at the following website:

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Darktown is like a rose in the field of police procedurals. It deals with some thorny issues with respect to a vanguard group of African-American cops working in Atlanta in 1948. It’s a period in history where people were still reeling from the Second World War and it was before civil rights existed. This novel is ultimately a complex tale of morality that simultaneously feels like a TV series (especially one dealing with a murder investigation) and a classic story like To Kill A Mockingbird.

Lucius Boggs is the son of a preacher and one of the eight African-American men working in a special police force in Atlanta. He has a partner named Tommy Smith and together they walk and police their own unique beat. They have no squad cars, they do not work out of official police headquarters and they patrol their own native neighbourhood (it’s a different part of town to the one that is inhabited by the affluent white Americans.)

One night Boggs and Smith witness a drunken white man drive into a lamppost and assault his female passenger. These policemen call for help from some white cops. One of the men that turn up proves to be a corrupt and violent racist. The latter lets the perpetrator off the hook without even a slap on the wrist. Boggs and Smith become concerned and angry when they discover what happened that night and when they learn that the drunken criminal was the last person to see a murdered black woman alive.

Thomas Mullen constructs a rich and vivid tale about the ensuing murder investigation. It’s a tangled web where some crooked white cops despise and question the authority of their African-American counterparts. It’s also the scene of racial prejudices, a place where segregation is the norm and where it’s not uncommon for the characters to see race-related hate crimes. Some of these scenes make this book an uncomfortable one to read. But Darktown is also an important story and Mullen should be applauded for tacking this subject matter and for providing such a detailed backdrop for his characters. It’s obvious that this book has been meticulously researched.

Darktown is a gritty and raw murder thriller. It’s a page turner that will engage you and leave you guessing what’s around the next corner. This book is due to be adapted into a TV series starring Jamie Foxx and it should make for powerful viewing. Darktown describes a sad but true chapter in American history and Mullen has tackled some rather complex subject matter with great finesse. This novel is a well-written one that proves there is no black or white with respect to justice, just various shades of grey.


***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a Bookstr giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit:




Everybody has their own line with respect to what they consider funny versus what is taboo. For some people there is no topic or thing that is off limits while others believe that some subjects – irrespective of the quality of the joke –are in poor taste. The Last Laugh is a documentary that examines all of the different sides to this argument while framing things through the prism that is the Holocaust. This film is ultimately an important conversation and dialogue that poses more questions than it offers answers.

Filmmaker and writer, Ferne Pearlstein has made an ambitious documentary that segues off into other topics like aids, molestation and 9/11 but predominantly focuses on the relationship between the Holocaust and comedy. She frames part of the tale through a warm and vibrant survivor named Renee Firestone, a lady who lost her sister at the camps and who subsequently went on to work as an educator and activist. She is a woman that takes a positive approach to life and feels she can laugh and enjoy things. But there are some scenes where she is shown some rather subversive material by contemporary comics like Sarah Silverman and Ricky Gervais where she fails to find their jokes funny.

Firestone proves a very interesting interview subject, especially when her outlook to life proves to be such a stark contrast to another Auschwitz survivor who feels she can no longer laugh and enjoy things because she’s plagued by the shadows of the millions of Jewish people who were killed. This documentary also includes another fascinating and surprising discussion about the cabarets and revues that took place at the concentration camps. It’s intriguing to see that some people were able to react to these horrifying circumstances by trying to make other people smile and laugh.

This film includes interviews with lots of comedians and comedy writers including Sarah Silverman, Mel Brooks (The Producers’ creator who poked fun at Hitler and the Nazis for years but who draws the line at joking about the Holocaust) as well as Seinfeld writer, Larry Charles. The film includes scenes from the famous sitcom about nothing including the jokes about the Soup Nazi and when Seinfeld was caught making out with his girlfriend during Schindler’s List as well as scenes from Curb Your Enthusiasm and Hogan’s Heroes and stand-up slots from Silverman, Gervais and Chris Rock, to name a few.

The Last Laugh covers a lot of ground in its 90 minutes. It includes the sombre tales of some Auschwitz survivors while asking whether it is okay to make jokes about tragedies like these. This documentary is a balanced one and the opinions are quite varied with some sitting in the pro free speech camp while others believe there is a line that should not be crossed. This film is provocative and outrageous at times and at other moments is quite intelligent and thought-provoking. This film proves that there is no resounding case for the affirmative or the negative, but instead that the discussion and debate needs to continue.

Originally published on 14 October 2016 at the following website:

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If the prospect of Israeli cuisine leaves you hungry to learn more then there is one documentary film for you. In Search of Israeli Cuisine attempts to answer the question, “What is Israeli cuisine?” In doing so it examines a diverse range of different influences and food styles on Israeli food, which ranges from street food and cafes to home cooking and fine dining, plus everything in between. This film will make your mouth water, will leave you wishing smell-o-vision existed and will whet your appetite for more.

The film is directed by documentarian, Roger Sherman. It is presented by an amiable, down-to-earth Israeli-American chef named Michael Solomonov. The latter grew up in America and Israel and he owns his own restaurant in Philadelphia. At Zahav, Solomonov has created a menu that specialises in Israeli food.

In Search of Israeli Cuisine features a number of talking head interviews with chefs, food journalists, farmers, producers and cookbook authors. Some of these commentators claim that the definition of “Israeli food” is hard to quantify. Others claim that Israel is a country that is too young to have a “cuisine” as yet. There are Palestinian commentators that say that the Israeli recipes borrow heavily from the Palestinian and Arabic traditions. But at the end of the day the best comment made by chefs of either Israeli or Palestinian extraction is that food is not political and that anyone can be your friend provided they are eating at your table. It’s a wonderful comment especially when you consider that Israel has been long associated with war and conflict.

Solomonov travels to some Israeli wineries and restaurants. It is great to see that many of the latter have a big emphasis on using local produce. It seems that the tides have turned because in the past many people in Israel were eating merely to survive, rather than for pleasure or enjoyment. Solomonov also visits a cheesemaker who produces his products in a cave. The presenter also describes the kosher laws even though the inhabitants of a major city like Tel Aviv are currently more secular in their beliefs and approaches to food. Solomonov also describes Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish people and their different cuisines. One fascinating thing in this documentary is how important ingredients like: olive oil, hummus, lemons and eggplant are to their recipes.

Israeli food looks positively mouth-watering in this documentary. The filmmaker and presenter have done an excellent job of showing such vibrant and rich Israeli food is, as well as showcasing chefs, writers and other food professionals who are knowledgeable and passionate about it. At the end of the day this documentary is also like a travelogue, cooking show and history lesson in that it celebrates how exciting and dynamic Israeli culture and cuisine is. At the end of the day this is a joyful celebration of food, glorious food!


Originally published on 11 October 2016 at the following website:

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Most people were introduced to James “Jim” Foley when he appeared in a bright orange jumpsuit and reports (and video) confirmed that he had been the first American citizen to be murdered by ISIS. It was a moment where the Islamic State had stripped away his humanity and reduced Foley to a casualty. In the film, Jim: The James Foley Story, those closest to him set about reclaiming Foley’s story and offering us a glimpse into his complex and good-natured character.

The documentary is directed and co-written by Foley’s childhood friend, Brian Oakes, who is making his directorial debut here. The story is like a labour of love for Jim, who is shown as a restless and principled guy. Foley was a disorganised man but he believed in the importance of his work in capturing the plight of those individuals who were displaced and affected by war and conflict zones, first in Iraq and Libya and ultimately in Syria.

This film is by no means a perfect one. It does gloss over and omit some things, like Foley’s relationship with British photo journalist, John Cantlie (who was captured with Jim and remains so) is not explored. There is also little airtime given to the work that was undertaken by governments in order to negotiate with the captors for the release of prisoners (several journalists from Continental Europe were released but how this was achieved is not explained here.) The addition of some of the key facts would have made for a more comprehensive and complete tale.

Jim: The James Foley Story does succeed in creating a good portrait of Jim. The film utilises some archive footage of Jim speaking at his alma mater as well as family photos and Foley’s work from the frontline. The latter contains harrowing images of deceased and injured Syrians. These images are graphic and hard to watch but it is what Foley wanted the world to see. The filmmaker of this documentary did make the right decision however, to show only a short excerpt of Foley’s video with ISIS and it thankfully left out the gruesome beheading.

This story also contains a series of re-enactments to give the audience an idea of the brutality Foley and others experienced while in captivity. The interviews with Foley’s fellow prisoners are particularly striking and illuminating. Like Foley’s friends, colleagues and family members, they describe Jim as a caring and self-less creature who put other’s needs before his own.

Jim: The James Foley Story is an important documentary that shines a light on the late conflict journalist, James Foley. It also make us stop and appreciate what journalists and civilians caught up in war and other conflicts have to deal with on a daily basis. This story is ultimately one that will make you pause as it tugs at your heartstrings and makes you want to cry over the darkness in the world. But if there is some hope to be had here it means that it will also make you want to reach out and embrace your loved ones.


Originally published on 11 October 2016 at the following website:

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