Thursday, 27 February 2014

Theatre Review- The Collected by Dominic Bray

This will be on at the Oxford Firestation on Thursday 6 March. You should totally go and see it.

Title: The Collected
Writer: Dominic Bray
Performed by: Timeless Theatre Productions
Directed by: Hannah Phillips
Major cast: Rebecca Bujeda, Alex Hudson, Declan Kitchener, David Cox
Seen at: Bucks New Uni
Warnings: abuse
Review: Lily, after growing up with an abusive father, lives with neighbours Tom and his aunt Maggie. Tom and Lily's friendship grows, as does Tom's love for Lily. But then everything goes wrong. War breaks out and young men are called to the front line. There, Tom becomes best friends with Eddie. Meanwhile, Lily leaves for London and trains as a nurse. Later, Eddie is injured and is sent back to Lily’s hospital. Love and life tangle as death watches over them all.
I went because one of my friends is a cast member (Eddie) and it was advertised as something inspired my Marcus Zusak (I loved The Book Thief with all my heart) so of course I had to go.
The first act is mostly character and relationship exposition, with comedy, and a little seriousness. It was nice to watch, and but felt a little dragged out in some places. The second act was where the major conflict happens, and this was really intriguing to watch as relationships change with simple actions.
Maggie, the nurses, and Eddie provide comedic relief in the first act, with words, actions, and, in Eddies case, getting Tommy to make out passionately with his helmet. In the second act, we see completely different sides to them, which I liked.
I really like the fact that Death is ALWAYS  on stage, in the shadows, observing, and narrating as scenes change. I also find it interesting that he always has a drink with him. He does however have a tendency to spoil things, which takes away from the emotional impact of certain things happening.
The girl who plays Lily is a really good actress-emotion pours off her, and you really feel for Lily. I also liked Tom and Eddie, and Maggie. Tom, I feel bad for in the way his character developed after the war takes its toll on him.  The ending isn’t particularly happy, and is satisfying when it does end (towards the end, there’s Death interrupting to make little speeches more and more which made me think that it was going to end when the story wasn’t done yet, but luckily that didn’t happen.

Overall: Strength 4 tea to a small production that pulls you in from the start and doesn't let you go.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Book Review- Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Title: Level 2
 Author: Lenore Appelhans

Series:  The Memory Chronicles #1
Published: 15 January 2013 by Usborne
Length: 330 pages
Source: Bought

Summary : Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost-family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian-a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life-comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.

Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind

Review: Felica Ward died and did not go to heaven. Instead, she is in a blindingly white afterlife known as Level 2. There, she replays memories over and over again- memories of Neil, a boy who she knew when she was alive and really wants to see more of. Then, someone else in Level 2 dies. Then, she learns about a rebellion, and has to decide what she's going to do about it.
 I liked the idea of being able to rewatch your memories  and the concept's originality  made me really excited to read Level 2.
It was fun when we started seeing the memories, with the whole set up seeming a bit like fantastical  Youtube. I also liked this way of seeing characters' backstory.
The romance, while being set up as a love triangle by the publishers,  isn’t really one, but I liked the way that it was slowly built and we get to see two sides of Felicia.
Felicia,  she doesn't accept answers without questioning them, which I liked about her. I also liked wondering about what happened while she was a live, and finding it out. I didn't really connect or care for any of the other characters. Julian is pretty much the opposite of Neil, one being badboylike and the other one being sweet and kind. 
I like the mix of computer/scifi elements, and the religion and mythology of the angels and the general world that Lenore has built up. The angels aren't the ones you often see in YA, mysterious romantic things, but they’re very good new interpretations. I would have liked to know a little more about them.
The plot, I got a little lost at points, but the ending was good.   The little ending there was. The whole rebels vs Morati thing is finished off very quickly, possibly a bit too much so.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book where I was hoping for more. I’d still like to read Level 3, though.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Three Year Blogoversary! Wow.

Explanation for that gif of Misha Collins dancing like a maniac: That is essentially me when I reaslised I've been reading and writing about books for three years now. It does not seem like that long.

First, some stats. Since starting Death Books and Tea, I have....

  • Posted 711 (712 with this) posts
  • Had 1761 comments made, which I find amazing considering my comment sprees happen once in a blue moon

  • Gained lots of followers. I'm not going to try and count them, because some people follow me in different ways. But I'm amazed that so many of you stick around for my ramblings. Thank you.

I'm sorry, but I can't host a giveaway at the moment. Spent too much money on books (and other things like birthday presents and postage and club fees...but mostly books).  Instead, I'm going to do shoutouts of awesomeness. All these people are people I've either met in real life or have just talked to on the interwebs, and have a lot of love for. 
  • Alek Cristea
  • Leo Cristea (Jet Black Ink)
  • Georgia (Bibliomaniac)
  • Charlie Morris
  • Lisa (Over The Effing Rainbow)
  • Stacey (The Pretty Books)
  • Cait (The Cait Files)
  • Tom Easton
  • Laura Lam
  • James Dawson
  • Kim Curran
  • Lou Morgan
  • Tom Pollock
  • TomPL
  • Liz de Jager
  • Darren (Bookzone for Boys)
  • Raimy (Raimy Rawr)
  • Bella (Cheezyfeet Books)
  • Amy (Amy Bookworm)
  • Caroline (Portrait of a Woman)
  • Liz (Planet Print)
  • Jim (YAYeahYeah)
  • Andrew (The Pewter Wolf)
  • Lucy (Queen of Contemporary)
  • Cicely (Cicely Loves Books)
  • Jesse Owen (Books4Teens)
  • Laura (Sister Spooky)
  • Amber (Mile Long Bookshelf)
  • Kirsty (Overflowing Library)
  • Beverly (A Reading Daydreamer)
  • Sean Cummings
  • Emma Marree
  • Chelsea Pitcher
  • M and Little M (We Sat Down)
  • Ryan (Empire of Books)

  • Angry Robot/ Strange Chemistry
  • Hot Key Books
  • Hachette
  • Headline
  • Random House
  • Harper Collins
  • Macmillan 
  • Solaris
  • Indigo
  • Titan
  • Walker
  • Oxford University Press
  • Quercus

I'm fairly sure that I will have missed at least one person off this list. Probably more of you. That doesn't mean I don't love you. I just  can't think of you at this time. 
To everyone who  reads this blog, favourites, comments, publicises, chats to me...thank you.  I really appreciate it.  I hope to carry on blogging and being friends with you guys for a long time. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Author Interview- T. S. Easton

Today, we have author T. S. Easton talking to us about Boys Don't Knit and lots of other things. I really enjoyed Boys Don't Knit, so was looking forwards to seeing his answers!

Who would you say that Boys Don't Knit is for?
The book is suitable for ages 11+. Not that there’s anything inappropriate for younger readers but some of the concepts and jokes are a little old for middle-grade readers. I’d like to think it should appeal to both boys and girls.

Did you learn anything while writing Boys Don't Knit?
I learned to knit. Badly. I also learned rather more about yarn grades than I’d ever expected to know.

Who's your favourite character and why?
Other than Ben (more about him later) I like Mrs Frensham. At first she’s terrifying, rude and mistrustful, but once Ben breaks through the barriers armed only with a ball of yarn and a mouldy knitting pattern she becomes his protector, confidant and friend. She’s still quite rude to him, though.

Were you actively trying to challenge gender stereotypes with Boys Don't Knit?
I hadn’t intended to when I started writing. I just wanted to try and write a funny book. But the tension created when Ben is trying to hide his yarny secret really drives the narrative. Ben only developed as a real character when I realised I had to perch him, uncomfortably, on the fence between the gender roles.

If Boys Don't Knit were a film, what would be on the soundtrack?
Probably Mr Brightside by The Killers. My iTunes shuffle function seemed to throw it up a lot while I was writing the book. (I always listen to loud music when writing). It has the same sense of developing panic that Ben feels as the book progresses. Other than that, all I know is that it would be an album full of guilty pleasures.

Are there any characters you think you or anyone else can relate to?
I think most boys can relate to Ben. Ben has certain characteristics which some might consider feminine. Not just knitting, but writing a diary for example. I think a lot of boys possess such characteristics, they just hide them for fear of being mocked. We all need to learn that it’s OK to knit, or to write, or to dance. And we also need to remember that we don’t have to watch Jeremy Clarkson if we don’t want

What are you reading at the moment?
I’m between books. I don’t have much time for reading unfortunately as most of my ‘spare’ time I spend writing. I recently read the Wool trilogy by Hugh Howey which I enjoyed enormously.

Handwriting or typing-which do you prefer?
Typing. Hate handwriting. I correct myself as I go.

Do you have different enjoyment levels for writing different genres?
I enjoy writing humour more, but find it more difficult. It’s hard to be funny at 6.30am on a train on a damp Tuesday in February. When writing my thrillers I find I get into the flow of writing far more easily and write the books more quickly.

What keeps you writing?
I love that there are people out there who want to read my books. It’s humbling and makes me want to try harder.

Is there anything else you want to say?
Please follow me on Twitter! @tomeaston I love getting feedback and try to respond to everyone.

Thank you very much for agreeing to the interview! Tom cn be found on Facebook, Twitter, and at his website.

Boys Don't Knit
Ben Fletcher must get to grips with his more 'feminine' side following an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady and a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso from Waitrose. All a big misunderstanding of course. To avoid the Young Offenders unit, Ben is ordered to give something back to the community and develop his sense of social alignment. Take up a hobby and keep on the straight and narrow. The hot teacher he likes runs a knitting group so Ben, reluctantly at first, gets 'stuck in'. Not easy when your dad is a sports fan and thinks Jeremy Clarkson is God. To his surprise, Ben finds that he likes knitting and that he has a mean competitive streak. If he can just keep it all a secret from his mates...and notice that the girl of his dreams, girl-next-door Megan Hooper has a bit of a thing for him..

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Book Review- Boys Don't Knit by T. S. Easton

Title: Boys Don't Knit
 Author: T. S. Easton
Series: Boys Don't Knit #1
Published: 1  January 2014 by Hot Key Books
Length:227 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: There's an amazon page for a sequel, An English Boy in New York!
Summary : Ben Fletcher must get to grips with his more 'feminine' side following an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady and a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso from Waitrose. All a big misunderstanding of course. To avoid the Young Offenders unit, Ben is ordered to give something back to the community and develop his sense of social alignment. Take up a hobby and keep on the straight and narrow. The hot teacher he likes runs a knitting group so Ben, reluctantly at first, gets 'stuck in'. Not easy when your dad is a sports fan and thinks Jeremy Clarkson is God. To his surprise, Ben finds that he likes knitting and that he has a mean competitive streak. If he can just keep it all a secret from his mates...and notice that the girl of his dreams, girl-next-door Megan Hooper has a bit of a thing for him...(less)
Review:  Ben Fletcher is in trouble after an incident with Waitrose, a bottle of wine, and a lollipop later. As a result, he has to keep a diary to show to his probation officer, which is what we read. He also has to give something back to the community, which will be helping out the lollipop lady. He also has to take up a hobby, which is knitting, because it's taught the the teacher he likes.  He starts, it he likes it, he gets good at it. Now all he has to do is deal with his family, friends and lovelife.
I heard about this from the Hot Key brunch thing. I decided to read it because of my project I'm doing which is all about gender stereotypes in YA (which I will post up here when it's done) and this definitely fit into my “cisgender characters challenging stereotypes). Boys Don't Knit  was full of this-and a lot more.
I was not expecting the sheer amount of fun I got from this. From the beginning, it's told in a fun style, with a look at Ben's family life. Ben is a good narrator, he's chatty, he's relatable, he seems totally real with his priorities, thoughts and actions. I like the fact that Ben really gets into what he wouldn't have chosen to do, and goes on to get really good at it. I like the fact that he and his friends aren't thuggy, they're nicer, and they're all supportive of Ben.   All the characters are likeable- Megan, Jessica, Joe, and  others. Aside from Jeannette. Who was funny.
I liked the way that Tom looked at the challenging of stereotypes and Ben's worries about being seen as different.   There's one thing with Ben's dad, who is comically masculine (Top Gear, thinking he can do things etc) and where he's not particularly accepting that the fact his son's started knitting. But everyone else is fine with it, and I think this helps in the real world because readers will pick up on characters' positive reactions and be more accepting of real people who challenge stereotypes.
There's a few plotlines going on, like keeping knitting from his family, from his friends, Ben's love life, Ben's success with his knitting, Miss Swallow's life, and they were all really well woven together.
As I said, the writing is diary style and chatty. It also works in a lot of pop-culture references, and so many oneliners that keep you laughing from start to finish.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a really fun book. Good for fans of Adrian Mole- ie everyone.

Links: Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads | Author website

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Book Review-Red by Alison Cherry

 Author: Alison Cherry
Series:  N/A
Published: 2 January 2014 by Quercus
Length: 320 pages
Source:  publishers 

Summary :
Top student. Beauty queen. Girlfriend of the hottest football jock: Felicity's got everything. And it's all down to her red, red hair.
Felicity lives in Scarletville, the world's only redhead sanctuary, where red hair is celebrated, protected - and the key to sucess.
But Felicity has a secret. A red hot secret. And if anyone finds out, she's finished.
Because Felicity's actually a natural blonde.
And in Scarletville, blondes need not apply.

Review: In Scarlettville, red hair is  prized. If you have redhair, you'll win beauty pagents, be wildly successful and have a good life. Felicity has been enjoyting this, and is going for the title of Miss Scarlet. But she can only do this if she can keep her secret: she's naturally strawberry blonde and gets her red from a secret  salon. 
When I read the summary for Red, I was hoping  for a critique on the way that society judges people on appearance, race, general unfounded discriminaton, viewed through the lens of a reversed society. I didn't get this as much as it could have been, which was a  little sad, because there could have been a really good message going through this, instead of just at the end.
Felicity is really shallow, and i'm not sure whehter that's more to her mother's influence or herself. She's not that bright, and she doens't really do much.  I really liked Gabby, brunette, main “antagonist”, who is trying to change the views of those in Scarletville and is essentially campaigning for equality. She didnt go about it in the best way-full of bitchiness and backstabbing, but her intentions I liked. Ivy, who doesn't really care, is an ok character.  Haylie may have been interesting. Jonathan was interesting, but he dind't get that much development.
The plot, I didn't really get with that much at all. The ending, i'm not entirel sure what just happened.

Overall:  Stregnth 2 tea to a book that should have been satire, but wasn't.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Theatre Review-Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse

This was going to go up later in the week, but as it's Hiddleston's birthday, I thought it appropriate to do it today!

Title: Coriolanus
Writer: William Shakespeare
Directed by: Josie Rourke
Major cast: Tom Hiddleston, Hadley Fraser,
Seen at: the cinema, NT Live screening. Performed at the Donmar Warehouse.
Warnings: graphic gore

Review:Caius Martius  has been fighting with Coriolus. Returning to Rome, he is placed in as a senator  and given the name Coriolanus. However, with his rude attitude, and the fact that he was made more for war and not politics, this doesn't go well and leads to his exil e and downfall. 
I didn't know much about the  play. I hadn't heard of it before, and I'm glad it's being done (rarely done plays being done make me happy). I went to see it because a friend of mine really likes Tom Hidldeston and we went to go with her.

We went to a livescreen version (National Theatre, I love you for doing these things) and had a short feature with the presenter woman who is always there, which was a little annoying because I think we all just wanted to see the play.   We were kind of surprised at the audience- in a giant cinema screen, there were possibly ten teenagers total?  Mostly older people.  Also one of our English teachers. 

It starts off dramatically, with a boy, Martius' son, coming along and painting a box in red paint on the stage. For most of the first act, the whole cast are on stage, either acting, or simply sitting at the back.  This did have the effect of being a little distracting- in the words of another friend, Tomato,  “I kept getting distracted by Hadley Fraser's face”.

The scene changes were amazing. They weren't much-just movements of chairs, perfectly timed and choreographs, to dramatic music, but that was enough for this very minimalistic staging  propswise. In terms of what they did to the stage-that's a bit less minimalistic.  They made paper things come out everywhere. They made a shower scene happen. For Coriolanus. For Tom Hiddleston. I'm sure most people appreciated that.

 Tom Hiddleston and Hadley Fraser both play their parts very well. Hiddlestone puts a lot into the way he carries himself in the performance, which I liked. Birgitte Hjort Sorense, who played Virgilia, Martius' wife, was quiet and I liked the way that she was all, with her facial expression and attitude, “seriously?” when Deborah Findley aka Virgilia aka his mother and Mark Gatiss aka Menenius a family friend, was all “Yeah! He's coming back with loads of wounds! He's a man now!”

For the care put into creating the giant wounds across Coriolanus' body, even they're only seen in one short scene, props to the makeup department.  And whoever had to go find/make/supply all the fake blood.

Around the middle of the play, I didn't understand Coriolanus. He goes back to Aufidus-the guy he very nearly killed and offers to let Aufidius kill him- and then he  gets welcomed like an old  friend and I don't understand why Aufidus would be “you nearly killed me a few acts ago” and lets him lead a new assault on Rome.

The ending was really unexpected, and really well carried out. This made the bows mildly amusing- small cast of 14 (I think), all looking immaculate, bar Hiddleston and Fraser, faces totally covered in blood.

Overall: Strength 4 tea to a powerful staging of a play I wish I'd known about before.
  Links: | NT Live|   Theatre

Monday, 3 February 2014

Red Dragon-Thomas Harris

Title: Red Dragon
 Author: Thomas Harris
Series: Hannibal Lecter #1
Published: 1981, my edition May 1990  
Length: 454 pages 
Warnings: Everything. Gore. Sex. Not for little ones. 
Source: bought
Other info: There's lots of films and spinoffs of this series. You probably know  The Silence of the Lambs. There's also Hannibal and Hannibal Rising. 
Summary :Will Graham stands in a silent, empty house communing with a killer. An FBI instructor with a gift for hunting madmen, Graham knows what his murderer looks like, how he thinks, and what he did to his victims after they died. Now Graham must try to catch him. But to do it, he must feel the heat of a killer's brain, draw on the macabre advice of a dangerous mental patient, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and follow a trail of microscopic clues to the place where another family has already been chosen to die--and where an innocent woman has found the Dragon first.

Review: There's a killer on the loose  and Will Graham, FBI man who's good at profiling  mad people, as well as visualizing the murder, must find him. Wouldn't be so bad if last time he'd gone on a madman hunt, he'd almost been killed by Hannibal Lecter, and wanted to retire. But seeing as this guy is killing a lot of people, and
I read this because I  watched Hannibal and quite enjoyed it, and, as always with book to screen adaptations, I try and read the source material.
I like that this book is very plot focused, as opposed to the TV show (which I know is very very different because that's a prequel and Red Dragon hasn't happened yet and is a TV show and totally different) which is very character focused. I like the plot focus, especially by the end, when the plot really gets along quickly,  which is nice, especially when the start is slower.
you feel for the characters. Well, Will Graham and the killer. Guy had an awful back story.  Will Graham, you feel bad for because of the whole empathizing wholly with killers driving him insane,  and I liked him, though  I'm not sure how much Hugh Dancy looking like a kicked puppy influenced that. Hannibal Lecter, despite being the guy the series is named after, doesn't appear much in Red Dragon, but what we see of him is intriguing.
The psychology aspect is interesting to start with, but after a little while, you do want it to just speed up a bit.  Some parts of this were creepy, in both good ways and  bad ways.

 Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a good mystery thriller horror thing, that wasn't quite I was expecting.

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads |

Sunday, 2 February 2014

News! OUP edition

Februrary already... What have I done with my life in the start of January? Not much...oops. I did some things though.

Friday-that was good. The wonderful Charlie invited me to the OUP night called Storm Your Imagination. It was for Joss Stirling's Storm and Stone and Nikki Sheehan's Who Framed Klaris Cliff. It was held at the 1901 Arts Club, which is an amazing venue-small, cosy, and just the right size for us all.  Also warm-a big plus when it's tipping it down.
We had talks from both Joss, about detectives and Nikki, about imaginary friends. Both made their books, well the research behind them, seem fascinating and I'm looking forwards to reading both of those things.
OUP provided Siege and Storm, and Who Framed Klaris Cliff. They also gave us The Private Blog of Joe Cowley by Ben Davis, which looks quite funny, and Replica by Jack Heath, which I was looking forwards to reading before and didn't know it had been picked up in the UK.  We also got a notebook and excellent food.
My favourite thing about all blogging events is meeting people. I had good chats to Charlie and Hattie, from OUP, and also to Darren (Book Zone for Boys) and Jim (YaYeahYeah) and Stacey (The Pretty Books). I also saw, but didn't speak much to: Daphne (Winged Reviews), Kerrie (Read and Repeat), Jess (Library Mice), Chrissi (Chrissi Reads), Orli (Blame my Bookshelf), Julianne (This Fleeting Dream), Clover (Fluttering Butterflies), Amy (Spreading UKYA)and lots more who I can't remember at the time.
Thank you, OUP, for the great night!

Other things I got this week...well I had a bit of a bad morning today. So I bought some books. I now also have Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson, a giant historical fantasy thing, Living Dolls by Natasha Stewart, and a book on French language/culture.

I went to the livescreen of Coriolanus on Thursday. It was pretty good. I'll do a writeup soon.

Charlie told me that Orion have picked up Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin! We always need more queer lit in the main market.  *has research thrown at her* Golden Boy has been released! I need to find it.

You can sign up to be a community book giver for World Book Night! More info here.

I'm not sure if I've said this already, but there's going to be a readalong of the Tom Pollock's Skyscraper Throne series, before they release Our Lady of the Streets. More info here.

Awesome of the week-All of this website- Honest Book Copy.
Most especially Emma Maree's copy of Pantomime.