Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Theatre Review: Secret Shakespeare by William Shakespeare and The Handlebards

So, my Edinburgh Fringe theatre reviews are ready to be posted! They’ll come as often as I can, but I have a lot of school work to do, plus I’m doing work exp
erience at a law firm and ugh travelling is tiring. They’ll come though. And book reviews will resume shortly, and maybe some other things. Thanks for sticking around!   

Title:  Secret Shakespeare (A Shakespeare play, but I can't say which one)
Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: James Farrell & Emma Sampson
Performed by: The Handlebards
Major cast:  Calum Hughes Mcintosh,  Callum Brodie, Tom Dixon, Paul Moss
Seen at:  ...somewhere pretty.

Review: The Handlebards are four actors who have been cycling up from London to Edinburgh, carrying their costumes and props, and stopping every so often to perform a show. Secret Shakespeare is where the audience joins them to meet up in the city centre, get given bikes, ride out about 5 miles-ish, and then enjoy the show. I'm not allowed to tell you much about the play in specifics, due to the secret thing, but I'll say what I can.
The ride was easy, even for someone who hasn't ridden for years, and led by professionals. We cycled through parts of the city I probably would never have seen if I'd spent all my time in the centre, so that was nice.
The location was beautiful. Beautiful behind the audience, beautiful behind the stage, it was a great place to be. It's an open air show, with tents providing the wings and gazebos for the audience to sit under. Oh, and the rain wasn't too bad!
When they said what play they were doing, I was very happy. I hadn't seen it before, but I was familiar with the storyline.
I love the puppetry. It's first used to illustrate the exposition speech, which was very useful because it is a confusing set up. It's later used to represent characters in some scenes where there's meant to be more than four characters on stage. Other ways of getting around the "only four actors" thing includes holding out key identifying costume pieces, audience participation, and plates.
The multiroling is superb. All four actors have to switch costumes and characters very very quickly, sometimes speaking back to themselves. Costume, voice, and movement changes make clearly defined characters. I really enjoyed the characterisation, especially of the women.
I did find it going a bit too fast in places, and I'm not sure if it's because of the Handlebards format or the writing. Probably both. Despite this, I really enjoyed the show.



Overall:  Strength 5 tea to an inventive take on an old play, and a great evening out.

Links:  Company

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Edinburgh Fringe 2015

You may have noticed from Twitter and Instagram, I'm at Edinburgh Fringe!! I'm having a brilliant time and I've seen some wonderful shows. Now, I've promised reviews to all the plays I've seen, and they are being written. But formatting and dealing with pictures does not work on my phone, so I'll post the properly formatted theatre reviews when I'm back at home. In the meantime, my reviews are uploaded to the Fringe ticketing website, so you can look at them there. 

Friday, 31 July 2015

Mini Reviews: Rainbow Boys and Shades of Grey

Title: Rainbow Boys
 Author: Alex Sanchez
Published: October 2001 by Simon and Schuster
Source: Bought
Review: A look at life for queer teens at the turn in the millenium. I like how some things, such as pressures of coming out, falling in love, and dealing with bullying, are themes that are still relevant today, but it really does seem firmly set in its time place. I also like the fact it shows people in different stages of accepting their sexuality, and various questions related to all of them.
 It felt like a gentle story of exploration. Our three main characters discover sexuality, new love, and new experiences.I feel it was probably a great book when it was first published, when the market of books featuring queer characters was very very small. Reading it today, when we have a lot more representation, with a lot more nuanced characters, I felt it was very very tropey- Nelson especially seemed like the archetypal flamboyant gay, with not much else going for him. On a much less serious note, “chartreuse” hair....  Then again, this was written in the early 2000s, so Rainbow Boys might be an originator of these tropes. Or maybe all that could get sold at that time. I don’t know. Despite this, I did enjoy following the characters and their emotions.  I also like how it did bring up the issue of safe sex well
My favourite thing is that whoever chose the models for the cover I got does not appear to have read the book.

Overall: Strength 3 tea to  an early LGB YA novel.
Links: Goodreads


Title : Shades of Grey
Author: Jasper Fforde
Published: December 2009 by Penguin
Source: Bought
Review: I picked this up because of the cover, and bought it because a review said it was "full of witticisms, wordplay, and puns", and was described as a cross between Douglas Adams and George Orwell. For me, it didn’t live up to the fun I expected from the comparison with Adams, but the Orwellian aspects were strong.
I most enjoyed reading about this new society Fforde created. Extracts from the Rulebook head every chapter, and we got a good look at the workings of the society as we learnt bits about it gradually. The characters were interesting, but I didn’t really connect.
I felt that plotwise, it took a long time to get going, and when it did, it was often really confusing. It did clear up towards the end, providing a clear set up for later books in the trilogy, but for this book, it was quite late. There’s many different strands, with a murder mystery, marrying to improve social status but maybe being in love with someone who you can’t marry, finding out about the Something That Happened. Normally, I like mixes like these, but for some reason, it felt really confusing here.

Overall: Stregnth 2 tea to a book with a great concept, but was less fun to read.

Links: Goodreads

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Snapshot reviews- Firestarter, Only Ever Yours, Firewallers, The Crane Wife

Hi everyone! Firstly, I had a brilliant time at the Sunday of YALC. I got more books than I should have done, and met so many wonderful people. Thank you everyone for a great day!

Second, Rebecca is the winner of a signed, unpersonalised copy of The Lost and the Found! I will post it some time this week/  There’s still one unsigned copy to be won... if you're reading this on Saturday 25th, there's a twitter giveaway going on... 


Third! I have a giant pile of books I’ve read that I don’t feel I can write fully about.  So I asked Georgia, aka the Bibliomaniac, if I could use her format of very mini reviews (such as here) and she said yes! Thank you, Georgia!  Here’s a very quick snapshot at some things I’ve been reading...





Friday, 17 July 2015

Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Title:  The Art of Being Normal
Author:  Lisa Williamson
Series:   N/A
Published:    1 January 2015 by David Fickling
Length:  368 pages
Source: library
Other info: This was Lisa’s debut
Summary :  Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.
On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.
When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…


Review: David, seen by everyone as a boy, really a girl, is continually teased and misunderstood by everyone bar his best friends, from parents to bullies. Leo is the new guy, with rumours about why he left his old school running around, and he just wants to be invisible. They  become friends after  Leo sticks up for David, and they
I enjoyed watching the friendship between David and Leo, the ups and downs and the things they tell eachother. Both narrations are well fleshed out, and so are most of the side characters.  My favourites were probably Alicia, Essie, and Felix, who are all great in their own way and who I want to befriends with.
I enjoyed the represntation of trans people here. I loved the fact that we see a trans character who has already undergone some of the transition process, and that being trans is not the only facet of their being, they have siblings, families, friends, and romantic issues to navigate too. I also liked the way we saw how gender expectations also influenced the trans characters’ perceptions of themselves, such as David’s despair at his growth spurt, defying his hopes to be small and feminine, because of the expectations society sets for women.
I  really appreciated the look at life as a queer child in a modern, less tolerant environment. I’m really lucky to live in a very tolerant school where our trans community, as far as I know, are treated with respect by both staff and students, and there’s no physical bullying. I know nationwide  figures for bullying, but like with many things, it all becomes more real, more important, if you’re reading a more fleshed out story, be it fact or fiction, than just looking at statistics.
I found  it weird that Leo continues to call David David and he when he’s learn David’s chosen name. I don’t know if that’s internalised cisnormativity or something. I just noticed and wondered why he of all people would continue  with that. It changes by the end though. Eh, I don’t know.
I really liked the look at  complex family relationships. Leo’s quest to find his father. David’s continual hiding and eventual coming out. The support given and not given to each child. It varies, and feeds into each character.
Emotions were had when reading this. Sadness for the environment that allows the continued bullying. Sadness and happiness when Leo and Alicia get together. Happiness and pride for David when coming out. Pure happiness at the Christmas ball they put up and how happy David.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to an eyeopening story about friendship, family, and  being transgender today.


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Book review and GIVEAWAY! The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke

Title:  The Lost and the Found
Author:   Cat Clarke
Published:   2 July 2015 by Quercus
Length:   441 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: Cat Clarke has written awesomeness! I have reviewed Entangled, Undone, A Kiss in the Dark, and Torn here. She has also written Fallen.

Summary : LOST. When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister. Faith's childhood was dominated by Laurel's disappearance - from her parents' broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister. FOUND. Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans' old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that's lost can be found again...

Review: Six year old Laurel Logan was abducted.  However, after thirteen years, she’s back. The Logan family must deal with the resulting media coverage, and the challenge of putting together a family that’s changed so much.
I wanted to read this because I generally love Cat Clarke (she’s one of the few authors with a collection on my keep-forever shelf) and she’s good at writing books that leave you thinking.
I loved how we didn’t see Faith drop everything she had in in the pre-return life when Laurel came back, she kept with her relationship and her  friendship and they supported her. I loved the relationship that grew between Faith and Laurel.  I loved the family relationship (my parents are separated and I totally understand the resentment from one parent when the other gets a new partner (also, Michael is absolutely wonderful with his cooking and love of Harry Potter)).
I loved the gradual revelation of things regarding Laurel. Cat tends to write brilliant characters, with lots of elements to them, and she’s done it again. You see things lots of things get set up that can change things majorly, little tensions build, and you want to know how it’ll play out, even though at times it does take time to get to the reveal. I did see the big twist coming from the start. Not the details, but the main thing.  But I’m really happy with the way it developed from there, because we got a new side of Laurel that I hadn’t expected.
My favourite thing was the questions raised regarding the treatment of missing people in the media. It’s so accurate and it’s nice to see it coming up and being challenged. Also, the very last paragraph of the penultimate chapter, the second person thing before the news article. That just left me with emotions.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a slowly growing thriller about family and  many kinds of relationships.

Here’s chapter 8 of THE LOST AND THE FOUND, in case this hasn’t convinced you to read it.



And hey, I have two copies of THE LOST AND THE FOUND to give away! UK ONLY, ends end of 15 July 2015. EXTENDED UNTIL 22 JULY To enter,  comment with your email address and why you want to  read this book! Upto three extra entries may be gained by linking your spreading of the word of the giveaway, ie by tweet, facebook, or your blog. Good luck, and don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!