Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Last Eight Weeks

Technically this is about the last ten weeks, since the last decent post about this was before  Fresher's week and we're also one week into the holiday, but uni term length has already got me seeing life in eight week blocks. My first time at university has been a hectic couple of months, but something I want to share.

University life

It's brilliant. The texts we're doing (read about them here)  have all gotten better with studying, and all my tutors this term have been helpful.  There's been a lot of socials and chances to meet some lovely people. My college full of people who are extremely friendly, and we have some beautiful surroundings- just look at my library!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Theatre Review- Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, performed by Poltergeist Theatre

Title: Much Ado About Nothing 
Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Jack Bradfield 
Performed by: Poltergeist Theatre
Seen at: The Michael Pilch Studio

Review: Shakespeare’s tale of two schemes concerning lovers – one to get a couple together, one to tear another couple apart- could conceivably happen anywhere. Jack Bradfield sets the action in a house party at the turn of the millennium, when anything might happen.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Carnegie Medal Nominations 2017

First, to anyone at YA Shot in Uxbridge today, have a great day! Second, if anyone here's going to be at the UKYA Blogging Awards at Uxbridge tonight, yay! I'll see you there.  On with the post!

photo from CILIP website

It seems to to come round quicker and quicker every year, Yesterday, the nominations for the CILIP Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway medals were released. Due to my being at uni now, I sadly don't have the brilliant booklet my school librarian produced which had all the blurbs of the books recommended, so this post is based upon a)the bits I've heard from social media over the year and b)when I googled the things with interesting titles. But here- a list of the books that I am glad to see on the list, and would totally bump up a reading pile if I had time to do any reading for pleasure right now.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

National Coming Out Day 2016

National Coming Out Day is the celebration of people coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, an ally to the LGBTQ community, or something else-however you want to define yourself. In coming out, you can increase the representation of LGBTQ people in your community, reduce the silence which can help perpetuate negative stereotypes and hatred because there's no-one to speak out against them, or to remind perpetrators that queer people are real, and everywhere, and not some other alien concept. It can also help you just be happier with yourself and acknowledge who you are for you.

photo credit: trec_lit MmmmmMmmm via photopin (license)

Sunday, 2 October 2016

What I'm Taking to Uni

So this past few months, many exciting things have been happening for me, which have been better documented on instagram and twitter. I had another packed Edinburgh Fringe, full of brilliant comedians, poets, and theatre pieces. I've had some great times with my friends, which is just as well because we're now scattered across the country and the continent,  because we're all off to uni! I can't believe I was in Year 8 when I started this blog and I now I've got a place at my first choice university to study Classics and French, but hey, time flies!

Along the many bags of clothes and equipment I have packed before I move into the college tomorrow, obviously, I have books, and I thought I'd share what I'm taking. But first, exciting news... 

I got nominated, alongside Sally of The Dark Dictator, and Andrew of The Pewter Wolf, in the UKYA Blogger Awards for Champion of Diversity! Thank you for everyone who nominated me, in despite of the fact that my championing of diverse books, at least this past couple of years, hasn't really been via my blog, more in person- see my TEDx Talk on why you should read diversely, which I might vlog some day seeing as I'm not sure what happened to the footage, the We Need Diverse Books board we put up at my school that stayed in a main corridor for over a year, and anyone who has read Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda because they asked me for a recommendation and that's been my go to book to pass on. I hope to be able to step up both my blog and my promotion of a range of books in the future, and it's nice to have a little spur to do so. And congrats to everyone else who got nominated, in all categories! You can find a list of all categories and nominees here (until it gets buried when they tweet other things).

The main post is under the cut- the books I'm  taking-and hopefully keeping up there, if they fit on whatever shelving they give me!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Theatre Review- Macbeth, performed by Act Three Theatre

Title: Macbeth
Writer: William Shakespeare
Performed by: Act Three Theatre
Major cast: Josh Beecham, Ned Walkely, Simon Morgan
Seen at: Paradise in the Vault, Edinburgh Fringe
Summary: An exciting new take on William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Using the original language but set in a young offenders’ prison, it is bold, fast-paced, and performed entirely with a cast of three.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Theatre Review: This Much by John Fitzpatrick, performed by Moving Dust

I am aware that my timeliness is terrible. I saw this show eight months ago, I wrote this review eight months ago, I found it again tonight.  
I saw it at Edinburgh, and it's now playing at Soho Theatre as part of the Pride festival. 

Title: This Much (or A Act of Violence Towards The Institution of Marriage)
Writer: John Fitzpatrick
Director: Kate Sagovsky
Performed by: Moving Dust
Cast: Lewis Hart, Simon Carroll-Jones, and James Parris
Seen at: Zoo City

Thursday, 2 June 2016


Hey, it's been a long time since I had a giveaway for you...but here one is! To celebrate today's release of A Crown of Dragons, the last book in the series of The Unicorne Files by Chris d'Lacey, Laura from Chicken House has kindly offered the chance to win the whole trilogy!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Theatre Review- Richard III and Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, performed by The Handlebards

Review written with input from two of my friends who saw it with me, Lottie and Amy. Their opinion is reflected here too. 

Title: "Richard III" and "Much Ado About Nothing"
Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Emma Sampson  (Richard III), Nicola Samer (Much Ado)
Performed by: The Handlebards
Major cast: Liam Mansfield, Matt Maltby, Paul Hillar, and Stanton Plummer-Cambridge
Seen at: The Museum of the Order of St. John

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Book Review- This Is Not a Love Story by Keren David

Title: This Is Not A Love Story
Author: Keren David
Series:  N/A
Published:  7 May 2015 by Atom
Length: 352 pages
Source: library
Other info: Keren David has also written the When I Was Joe series (When I Was Joe, Almost True, and Another Life), Salvage, Lisa's Guide to Winning the Lottery, and Cuckoo. 
Summary : Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that's impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father's unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn't take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect?
In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time.
But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone's heart survive?
Review: Kitty and Theo have recently moved to Amsterdam. Kitty's mother's boyfriend's son is Ethan. The three of them must deal with falling in love, keeping secrets from each other, and getting through life.
I wanted to read this because it kept getting flagged up in chats for featuring bisecusl boys, and I'd been meaning to read things by Keren for a long time. Keren reading short story from Ethan's viewpoint made me want to know more about him and therefore I started on this.
It did seem a bit wandering regarding Kitty and Ethan's story, to start with (probably because I'm generally less interested in people working out who they like until there's bigger conflicts involved). I did like seeing the development of Theo's relationship with Sophie, which is told partially by flashback partially in the present too. I also liked seeing all the relationship strands between Kitty, Theo and Ethan converge and how that all panned out. The building and breakdown of relationships in this book are tumultuous, but good to read about.
I really enjoyed reading about different cultures - Jewish and Dutch. I especially liked that Keren provided characters with different attitudes to aspects of their culture, offering a range of characters within such an under-represented group.
The side characters made a good group. My favourite was Rachel, Kitty's sister, who was funny, and a good support for Kitty.
There's a lot of things our main trio have to deal with. Family relationships, working out friendships, health issues, fitting in when moving abroad... A lot is happening here, and I quite liked seeing how Theo and Kitty fit in after the move.
Part one is the climatic event, part two is before, part three is after. I liked this structure, as it catches your attention immediately, and establishes characters.
I loved the ending. Kitty's discussion with her friends is good for reminding all of us of some lessons in life. Characters' justifications for the way they wanted things were realistic, especially Ethan's (last paragraphs of chapter 44) and while the strands unpacked within the novel are tied up, there's still an openendedness for the future.
Strength 4 tea to a story that is not about love, but is about relationships, romantic, familial, and friendshippy, and overall about life.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Theatre Review-A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed by the Arcola Queer Collective

Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Writer: William Shakespeare and Patrick Cash and company
Director: Nick Connaughton
Performed by: Arcola Queer Directive
Cast:  Sheena Anyanwu, Diego Benzoni, Miss Cairo, Daniel Correia, Anthony Cranfield, Vickie Dillon, Rudi Douglas, Camilla Harding, James Hartley, Stuart Honey, Damien Hughes, Krishna Istha, Rubyyy Jones, Damien Kileen, Bex Large, Phil Rhys Thomas.
Seen at: Arcola Theatre

Review: Hermia and Lysander are a happy couple, much to the protests of Hermia's homophobic mother Egeus. Helena is a young man in love with Demetrius, who pushes him away. The couples all get mixed up at a nightclub, La Forêt, when the owner Oberon uses Puck to matchmake. Meanwhile, Oberon's relationship to his wife Titania is breaking down over the care of an abducted Irish musician, while the backstage team of La Forêt prepare for their turn in the spotlight. Through Shakespearean verse and contemporary additions, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a tale of love, relationships, and how that all works out.

I was very excited for this. Midsummer is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and the fact that they were making it to include queer characters and modernised made me even more interested.
I'm glad I knew it had added monologues before going in. I wouldn't have hated it if I hadn't, I would just have been puzzled to start with. The monologues are good additions, and I'll come to them later.
We're introduced to the last night of La Forêt. Introducing Puck as the in house drug dealer sets the tone. Then for the rest of the play, which happens mostly as Shakespeare intended, with some flashback scenes and speeches added in. 

I like most of the new characterisations. The Mechanicals have a weird love triangle/pining thing going on (Flute loves Quince, Snug makes physical moves on Quince, I'm not sure whether Quince reciprocates either of them. It's not really explored, or maybe I didn't notice it ) but they do produce a good play by the end of it. Theseus and Hippolyta were...bizarre. Were they high? Their comments are amusing ("Hermia can go to a convent or die" "That's a bit much." And "I will kiss the wall's hole" "Shakespeare is a pervert") but I'm not sure where their characters were going.
Other characters get better development. Puck is a cabaret, Doctor Frankenfurter like figure, introduced by a monologue of how he ran away then got into this culture. Hermia talks about her relationship with her mother. Helena's speech about porn and falling for Demetrius is funny and makes you love him. Bottom comes out of character and delivers a passionate speech, including poetry, about their identity and society, which I thought was a brilliant performance. 

There are four characters that this production of Midsummer changed my views on. First, Demetrius, who from the Shakespeare is normally one of my lesser favourites due to him being a bit of an asshole. Here, his speech about HIV gives him a reason for pushing Helena away, despite his feelings for him, and does not make him seem heartless.I also liked it because Oberon, listening to this speech, now has a more valid reason to work to get Helena and Demetrius together and finally yay bisexual visibility. Then there's Oberon and Titania, who are again a warring couple, but there's a confrontation scene at the start of the second half between them that is distinctly modern and pulls up the issues in their lives as they discuss the family and identity they left behind and how to go forwards. We see more flaws in both their characters than from the Shakespeare, and added new levels of manipulativeness, and I liked the new take on the relationship. Finally, there's the kidnapped boy they're fighting over-Irish here, as opposed to Indian, and given a chance to talk about his new life and chemsex, as opposed to being namedropped and maybe brought on with the fairies. He also provides really good keyboard and singing. 

The staging of this is good. They stay mostly on the main stage but sometimes use the upper level, where the Irish Boy and keyboard is stationed, and an aisle, for the flashbacks.I also enjoyed the little bits of audience interaction which made it more inclusive, but not so much to intrude on the main action.

They make full use of innuendo in the Pyramus and Thisbe scene, and the Titania and Bottom seduction scene, providing adult physical comedy that differs to the comedy I'm used to seeing from Midsummer (and the comedy that others are used to too-the performance I was at saw a group of old people leave for the interval and not come back).

The comedy is less present in the lover's fight scene, when Lysander and Demetrius are both artifically in love with Helena, while Hermia looks on. I think it might be because it takes the bad situation for Hermia (having both her suitors completely change tack and court her best friend Hermia) and makes it worse because there's something a little more heartwrenching as her girlfriend Lysander (who I think might have been a lesbian?) starts wooing a gay boy, and the friendship and romance falls apart. 

I think the strength of this performance is that they take the issues surrounding courtship and marriage that are present in the Shakespeare, and look at the issues surrounding courtship and marriage today, particularly within the queer community.

Overall:  Strength 4.5 tea to a play that easily weaves together Shakespearean and modern stories to create a play that is both funny and serious, but entirely powerful.
Arcola Queer Collective is currently performing Le Petit Prince, between 8 -13 February. More information here.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Book Review- Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

First post of 2016! I'm starting as I hope to go on, with a review. Enjoy!
Title: Because You'll Never Meet Me
Author: Leah Thomas
Series: N/A
Published: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Length: 344 pages
Source: Publisher
Other info: This is Leah Thomas's debut. A sequel,  currently Nowhere Near You, should come in 2017.

Summary: Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.
A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

Review: Ollie is allergic to electricity-contact with devices means he'll have a seizure, or it will short out. Moritz was born without eyeballs and he has a pacemaker. And they live on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Still, they form a friendship, writing letters to each other, talking about their present and past.

I got sent this by the publishers. I didn't know what to expect, but the blurb looked good.
The story is told through the letters between Moritz and Ollie. Both write totally differently, reflecting their contrasting personalities. I think Ollie's style was more engaging, it is, for the most part, more enthusiastic, while Moritz is more controlled. However they're both styles that make you want to read on to learn about the characters, as they tell you about their struggles to interact with society, and their attempts to make it work.

Most of the book is telling us about the lives of the boys, separate from society for different reasons, but trying to interact. We meet friends like Liz, Fieke, and Owen, who help our main characters develop. I really liked watching Moritz and Ollie change, especially Ollie, as they both become more confident to do things on their own. Favourite moment- Moritz being taught how to read ink on paper.

When we do learn about their history, which seems quite late considering its focus in the blurb, for me, it's very out of the blue. I liked that we got a lot of coming of age and different stories, and this ending... I didn't see it coming, and it's a bit of a genre shift. Then again, I guess all the references to Daredevil does bring in some elements of it early...  I still prefer the friendship/growing up differently element of this story.  However, I did like the very ending, and the fact that you wonder about the stories of the other people who would be involved. I didn't see it coming, and There's a lot that could be written, in fanfic or by Thomas, or can be left open to your imagination.

Overall: Strength 4 tea to a story about an unusual friendship between two characters you love to watch.

Links: Amazon | Goodreads |  Foyles