Reviews: Peter Pan and Sightseers

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Two days, two very different shows. Yesterday, thanks to a Jack FM competition and the fact that Russell Grant's brother once capsized my canoe, I went to see Peter Pan at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury with my mum, brother, sister-in-law and nieces, aged 3 and 5. I haven't seen a panto for years – the last one I went to was a low budget, but very entertaining one in Aldershot.

Architecturally, The Waterside theatre has a distinctly Scandinavian feel to it, both inside and out, though the panto was decidedly British. It started slowly, with a few song and dance numbers, and I was concerned that the traditional panto had perhaps had its day – especially given there was no principal boy or dame in this performance. However, the appearance of a very sinister Captain Hook signalled the start of the audience participation and the remaining show was full of boos, hisses, catchphrases and singalongs. The 12 Days of Christmas was a highlight, part of the show was done Gangnam style and Russell Grant's cabin boy came complete with Strictly references and jokes about cruising … An entertaining evening, enjoyed equally by all three generations of my family!

And so to today, and a very civilised lunchtime spent in the Phoenix Picture House in Jericho, Oxford where the bar was open and we were able to sup a pint of Leffe while watching British black comedy Sightseers. This is the tale of an odd couple who embark on a caravan sightseeing tour of northern England, taking in the Crich Tram Museum, Mother Shipton's Cave and the Keswick Pencil Museum while offing anyone who annoys them along the way! Not a film for anyone with a weak composition as there were some stomach-churning moments but I really enjoyed this dark tale, which combines laugh out loud humour and comic book violence to create the oddest of love stories. Very impressed by the cinema too, and I think Sunday lunchtime film outings may become a more regular occurence!

 

Review – art journalling workshop

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I’ve never been a very creative person though I’ve often felt a need to do something artistic – but haven’t known what, or how to start. So when my friend Lisa Cherry invited me along to her first Art Journalling workshop I thought I might as well – and it’s started in me something that’s becoming a bit of an obsession!

The workshop took place on a beautifully sunny Saturday at a house in Longworth, Oxfordshire. The setting was stunning – a glass-walled dining room with a table big enough to seat eight comfortably, next to a wide patio area and gorgeous garden. The workshop was run by Joy Aitman, a scrapbooking expert who was responsible for the cover of Lisa’s book, Soul Journey (which, incidentally, I contributed to and edited). Continue reading

Review: Before I Go to Sleep

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Before I Go to Sleep
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This works on the same premise as the film 50 First Dates but is far more sinister. A woman wakes up in a strange bedroom, next to a strange man. He tells her he is her husband and they’ve been together for years. An accident caused a weird form of amnesia and though Christine can remember things during the day, as soon as she goes to sleep her memories disappear completely. Her doctor recommends she keep a diary and she starts writing her life story, as told to her by her husband, so that every day she can “remember” who she is. This technique seems to work and her memories start to return – but what she remembers and what her husband tells her don’t quite seem to be the same …

This was an interesting take on a well used mechanism but it didn’t quite work for me. The biggest issue was that every day Christine reads back through the journal in odd moments when her husband Ben is out. Though this would be quite possible during the week when he’s at work, she also managed to read the entire thing at weekends without him finding out – which just doesn’t seem possible as the journal gets longer and longer and her time alone seems to get shorter and shorter! This point aside, this was a well written thriller that has a sense of foreboding throughout that only increes as Christine’s life unravels to the shocking ending.

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Review: The Mozart Conspiracy

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The Mozart Conspiracy
The Mozart Conspiracy by Scott Mariani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in the Ben Hope series and the second Scott Mariani I’ve read. A roller coaster of a thriller involving Mozart, Freemasons, bad guys, car crashes, nuns and a beautiful woman. This was an exciting thriller with plenty of twists and turns. I’m really starting to warm to the character of Ben who is a curious mix of hard man and sensitive soul. The writing here is excellent as you can really picture the action unfolding before your eyes. How long till someone picks up on these books and turns them into films?! Great stuff.

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Review: 50 Reasons to Say Goodbye

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50 Reasons to Say Goodbye
50 Reasons to Say Goodbye by Nick Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another Kindle freebie and a book I wasn’t sure what I’d make of but actually it was very enjoyable. The story revolves around Mark, a young gay guy who drifts from relationship to relationship trying to find love.

Written as a series of short stories which sometimes entwine with each other, Mark travels from England to France to New York and back again, meeting men wherever he goes. In some ways it’s quite shocking how quickly sex follows a chance encounter, but the stories are actually sweetly told and I grew to love Mark as the book progressed. The ending … Well I don’t want to spoil the ending but I will certainly be downloading the next book in the series to find out how Mark fares. If you like chick lit and you’re not likely to be shocked by the gay sex (which isn’t especially graphic …. Except for the egg, beware it’s bizarre!) then this book will make a refreshing change.

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Review: In Search Of Adam

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In Search Of Adam
In Search Of Adam by Caroline Smailes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up as a freebie on my Kindle ages ago and stored it away in my Freebies folder meaning to read it some day …. So glad I did, for this is an extraordinary book, even more so when you realise it is the author’s debut novel.

In Search of Adam isn’t an easy read – it deals with child abuse, paedophilia, mental health issues and much more. However, the characters are incredibly strong and though this is (presumably) fictional, you just know that all over the country/world there are kids going through exactly the same experiences. There were scenes in this book that truly shocked me and it left me feeling upset and deeply unsettled.

If you’re looking for something light and fluffy this definitely isn’t for you – but if you’re prepared to jolted back to reality with a sickening thud give this a go.

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Review: The Alchemist’s Secret

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The Alchemist's Secret
The Alchemist’s Secret by Scott Mariani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picked this up cheap on Kindle as it sounded like a good holiday read and I wasn’t disappointed. I love all the conspiracy type books and so the plot here, about alchemy and the Cathars and Rennes le Chateau, appealed. I expected this to be an American book so was pleasantly surprised to find the main character Ben Hope is English. The book raced along at a fair pace with plenty of action and twists and turns – kind of like The Da Vinci Code on speed! Really happy to discover that it’s the first book of a series featuring Hope, so I’ll be reading the rest soon.

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Review: Wedding Tiers

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Wedding Tiers
Wedding Tiers by Trisha Ashley
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Having read and enjoyed Tricia Ashley’s “Twelve Days of Christmas” I had high hopes for this book – but was sadly disappointed. The storyline itself was okay, a bit soppy but I didn’t expect much more, and the characters were likeable enough, but the style of writing really annoyed me. To start with, conversation was used as a tool to bring characters’ back stories into the novel, but it meant that much of the conversation was then very stilted and unnatural – I really don’t think that friends since childhood would be talking to each other about past events in the way they did. There was also a lot of repetition – for example, it was mentioned that following the death of Libby’s Italian husband his brother had taken over the family restaurant business, but then every time the brother was mentioned it was along the lines of “Giovanni, who heads the family business after Joe’s death …”. AARGH! I’m an intelligent woman, I can remember thing, you already told me that twice! So annoying! I also found it really twee … The minute I read the name of the magazine Josie writes for – “Skint Old Northn Woman” – I could feel my twee-ness radar close to exploding.

I did persevere with the book but found it increasingly frustrating and It’s possibly put me off reading more by this author in future …. Sorry!

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Review: Me Before You

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Me Before You
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit I didn’t really pay much attention to the blurb about this book before I downloaded it for my Kindle to read on holiday. I’d read another book by Jojo Moyes (Love Letters) and quite enjoyed it, so thought this would be a good beach read. Wow …. It is an amazing book but quite a lot deeper than I expected.

The story revolves around Lou, a small town girl who finds herself unemployed after the cafe where she works shuts down. In desperation she starts working as a career for Will, a quadriplegic guy. Though Will is decidedly frosty to her at the beginning, over time he thaws out a little and a beautiful friendship develops. However, the relationship is tinged with sadness, for Will has decided to take his own life at Dignitas, and Lou’s employment is his parents’ last chance to get him to change his mind.

The characters in this book are incredibly strong and real and I found myself caught up in the relationship and willing things to turn out okay. All in all this is an amazing book, a love story on the surface but one that deals with some really serious issues and has you questioning your own beliefs and thinking about what you would do if you were in the shoes of Will or his parents. Highly recommended, and I’ll be reading more by this author in the future.

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Review: Jo Nesbo Collection: The Redbreast, The Snowman, The Devil’s Star

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Jo Nesbo Collection: The Redbreast, The Snowman, The Devil's Star
Jo Nesbo Collection: The Redbreast, The Snowman, The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review relates to The Devil’s Star which doesn’t appear to be listed on here individually, though it’s definitely available for Kindle as a standalone book.

This is the 4th Harry Hole book I’ve read and I enjoyed it enormously. I love watching the character of Harry develop (ie fall apart a bit more!) and the storyline had me hooked, especially when it all seemed to be wrapped up but then all was not as it seemed. It was a shame that Beate Lonn was not more involved in this book though – she had such a strong presence in the previous book, but seemed to be much more in the background here. I hope she’ll be back n form in the next in the series.

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