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Archive for May, 2017

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Lily Riser was kidnapped at the age of sixteen and held captive for eight years. This story opens with the day she makes her escape, when her captor makes a mistake which enables her and daughter Sky to run away. However, when Lily is reunited with her family and begins the painful process of trying to move on from her ordeal she realises that escaping was just the beginning…

I thought the premise of this book was really intriguing. Rather than focusing on the kidnap and ‘whodunnit’, instead we are told pretty much straight away who took Lily and the chapters, although told in the third person, then alternate between the points of view of Lily; her twin sister Abby who has been in mourning for her sister for the last eight years; their mother Eve, whose life has fallen to pieces; and Rick, Lily’s teacher who kidnapped her and is almost immediately arrested for the crime.

However, while I was really looking forward to reading this book, I found it disappointing. I finished it and it’s certainly a quick, undemanding read but to use one of my favourite analogies, it was like eating cheap chocolate – you know it’s not much good, but it’s not bad enough to not enjoy it. I spotted a mistaken in the timeline on page 2, which didn’t bode well, and things didn’t particularly improve. None of the characters seemed believable or particularly well drawn to me – indeed all of them behaved in a way which seemed entirely unrealistic, and potential plot points are dangled and then abandoned (such as Lily’s feelings towards high school boyfriend Wes). Rick is little more than a caricature, and it’s hard to believe that such a resourceful and intelligent (albeit completely evil) man would make such an obvious mistake as he did at the beginning of the book or entertain other plans which he did throughout the story. Also the writing seemed over-wrought and melodramatic, almost like watching one of those cheap made for tv suspense films.

As has become the norm for almost any psychological thriller in the last couple of years, this book has been compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. This should have rung alarm bells for me because I thought that both of those books were completely over-rated, but beware – even if you loved those novels, this one is nothing like them.

So overall, I would give five out of five for the idea behind the story, but probably only 1.5 out of 5 for the execution. Disappointing.

 

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This is the second book in the Miss Marple series and it takes on a bit of a different format. The premise is that every week, a group of friends including an author, a clergyman, an artist, an actress, a doctor, a solicitor, a retired police commissioner and a Colonel and his wife, and of course, Miss Marple herself, meet up and discuss mysteries and crimes which they have come across in their lives. They each know how their own stories turn out but the challenge is for the others to guess the truth. Naturally, and despite their initial dismissal of Miss Marple as a naive old lady who has led a sheltered life, it is she who works out all the mysteries before anyone else is able to do so.

The format deviates in the last story of the book, where Miss Marple requests the assistance of the former police commissioner to uncover a murder and stop a miscarriage of justice.

I’m not generally a huge fan of short stories but I did enjoy this collection. My favourites were probably The Blue Geranium, The Bloodstained Pavement and The Companion. Each story shows off Christie’s talent for plotting, red herrings and drop feeding clues, and the reader is shown more of Miss Marple’s quick and clever mind. I didn’t feel that we really got to know the rest of the characters in any great fashion – they were all painted with very broad brush strokes – but these stories are far more about the mysteries than the narrators.

Overall, a very enjoyable and easy reading collection. I look forward to continuing my quest to read through the books of Agatha Christie.

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Black Swan Green is a fictional village in Worcestershire where in 1982, 13 year old Jason Taylor lives with his parents and sister. This book, narrated by Jason, tells the story of a year in his life. It’s a tumultuous year – Jason is clearly intelligent and sensitive,  but he’s also a young boy with a stammer, picked on at school and unable to pick up the subtle hints of disharmony in his parents’ marriage.

But Black Swan Green is also a very funny book, in parts anyway. Jason is an engaging narrator and entirely believable. The events he describes are things that we will all be familiar with and take on huge significance in a young mind. It’s less of a flowing story, more joined up snapshots of a year in the life. Each chapter concentrates on a different main event, but they all string together nicely.

I felt for Jason, partly because he was so believable. I wanted him to be able to go to school without fear of what the bullies would do next (and boy did I want those bullies to get their comeuppance). I wanted him to get the girl, to overcome his stutter (or more importantly overcome the misery it caused him). The other characters are beautifully drawn as well – I enjoyed the chapter about his visiting cousin Hugo – handsome, charming and loved by all, but who’s true colours are revealed, to Jason at least.

As someone who was also a teenager in the 1980s, this book resonated with me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for it’s humour, truth and beautiful writing.

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There can’t be many theatre goers who have not at least heard of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Evita, which tells the story of Argentine First Lady Eva Peron. And surely any musicals fan worth their salt knows the shows most famous song, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. I saw my first production of this musical back in 2013; I went to see it pretty much on a whim and was absolutely blown away by it, so when I heard that another production of the show was touring, I just knew I had to see it.

In this particular production, Emma Hatton – fresh from the West End production of Wicked – takes the title role and Gian Marco Shiaretti has been making waves with his excellent performance as the cynical narrator Che.

However, during the performance that we saw, Che was played by understudy Matias Stegmann – and he certainly did not disappoint!! With arguably the largest part in the whole play, tasked with relating Eva’s story to the audience while maintaining a healthy cynicism about how effective she actually was in her role of First Lady, Matias Stegmann radiated star quality – he had a beautiful voice and the charisma required for the role and I will be looking out for this actor in the future.

Emma Hatton as Evita was also superb throughout – her voice is second to none and her rendition of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina actually moved me to tears. This is the song that the audience was waiting for and she did not disappoint – as she stood on the balcony ready to begin, you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. What pressure!! I must also mention Sarah O’Connor, who played Juan Peron’s girlfriend (ousted when the social climbing and ambitious Eva came on the scene) and who performed the beautiful Another Suitcase Another Hall wonderfully. Such a sweet sweet voice – another one to look out for in future. Kudos also to Kevin Stephen-Jones as Juan Peron. Peron himself is actually not a major role in the play, but Stephen-Jones nevertheless stood out in the part.

With beautiful music and a stellar cast, this show is one to look out for – if you get chance, I highly highly recommend that you go and see it!

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Click here for my review of the 2013 production of Evita

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After four years of dating with no proposal, Anna (Amy Adams) is fed up of waiting. So when boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) is working in Dublin during Leap Year, she decides to take advantage of an old tradition and travel from Boston to Ireland to propose. But the plane gets diverted and she has to rely on surly Irishman Declan (Matthew Goode) to get her to Dublin. Although they detest each other on sight, she needs the transport and he needs the money, and well…you can probably guess the rest…

Okay, so lets be honest – the ending of this film is pretty predictable. You only really need to read the synopsis to guess how things turn out, and that is usually the case with romantic comedies. But in this case, the journey – both for the characters and the viewers – is so much fun that you just don’t care. Personally I loved this movie. I thought it was genuinely funny – there’s lots of slapstick humour and physical comedy – and there was genuine chemistry between the two main stars. I’ve read other reviews of this film and it does seem to be something of a Marmite movie, where people either love or hate it, and I definitely fall into the love territory. The comedy moments were genuinely comedic and the romance scenes were genuinely romantic. Amy Adams is adorable as Anna, in a role that could have just been plain annoying but in which she injected enough sympathy to make us actually like this young woman. Matthew Goode was also excellent as Declan – his accent slipped a couple of times, but only a couple.

If you like rom-coms, I would highly recommend this film. Give it a go, I doubt you will be disappointed.

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Year of release: 2010

Director: Anand Tucker

Writers: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont

Main cast: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott

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This book introduces The Honourable Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective – except to those of us who discovered Phryne through the television series adapted from the books. Having loved the show, I decided to start reading the books and see how they compared.

In this first Miss Fisher novel, Phryne catches a thief at a dinner party and a couple there are so taken with her quick thinking and detection that they ask her to travel from her home in London to her native Australia; they believe that their daughter Lydia is being poisoned by her husband and wish Phryne to investigate. However, when Phryne arrives she discovers that things are far more complicated than they first seem, and also gets involved with tracking down an illegal abortionist. Busy she may be, but our indefatigable detective also manages to find time for a fling with a Russian dancer!

This book was highly enjoyable in many ways – Kerry Greenwood has an amusing turn of phrase and is very good at picking the humour out of any situation and relaying it to the reader. Given the subjects covered in the book, this is no mean feat! In all honesty the plot is a little bit clunky and gets a bit tied up in itself – it felt like there was maybe a bit too much going on, and the poisoning case was actually less interesting than the search for the illegal abortionist. However, it is the first book in the series and does a good job of introducing us to several characters who (as viewers of the show will know) become regulars in the storylines; Phryne’s maid Dot; the two cab drivers Bert and Cec; and of course Detective Inspector Jack Robinson – although for those viewers liked me who adored the chemistry between Phryne and Jack, well sorry to disappoint but there is absolutely no romance between the two in the book series, and Jack is actually very different to his on-screen incarnation.

Phryne Fisher is a delightfully almost-but-not-quite over the top creation, with charm and more than a touch of impish sauciness. Based on the first book, I can only say that despite it’s flaws, I’m really looking forward to reading more in the series.

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