Feeds:
Posts
Comments

e3d81c992d99d71596956656d77434f414f4141

Emma O’Donovan is the girl every girl wants to be. She is clever, beautiful and the envy of her friends. Until the night that she goes to a party and her life takes a downhill turn. All of a sudden everyone hates her, she is classed as a whore and there are lurid photos of her all over Facebook. It’s made clear to the reader that what her friends and schoolmates initially consider to be her sleeping consensually with a group of men, was actually a group rape; however this doesn’t stop people taunting her and calling her all sorts of names.

Emma’s life falls apart when the case becomes public knowledge, her family start to split at the seams and people still blame her for what happened, and the book shows the aftermath of the terrible event.

I am in two minds about this book. I think it’s an important subject, and I quite like that O’Neill does not wrap everything up in a neat bow at the end, although I didn’t actually like the ending she chose to write. However, Emma is (I suspect intentionally) in the beginning at least, a deeply unpleasant young woman. She tries to get her friend’s boyfriend to fancy her, she is jealous of any girl who may be approaching being as pretty as Emma herself is and is unnecessarily unkind to people. None of this matters a jot – or at least none of it should matter a jot – of course when she is horrifically violated. What happened was wrong, full stop. The reaction of others was almost as horrific as the violation itself.

The first half of the book lays out Emma’s character and shows events leading up to the night of the party, while the second half deals with the aftermath. I did not like Emma’s mother at all, and felt that she was at least partly to blame for Emma’s obsession with her looks. Her father was not a likeable character too, although I suspect that his treatment of Emma after the rape was for some, all too accurate. I did however like her brother Bryan.

I feel that this is a book that people should read, and it is certainly one I raced through due to the flow of the writing, but can I say that I loved it? No – it’s hard to love a book with this subject. But I would probably recommend it.

Advertisements

118994-117030

If you haven’t heard of this musical, then all I can say is, where have you been hiding for the last  few years?! Causing fits of laughter, receiving accolades and plaudits aplenty and managing to offend a few people along the way, The Book of Mormon has carved out a huge name for itself, not least because it was written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

I was lucky enough to be able to see this show on Broadway in New York, and wow! What an experience! The story is fairly straightforward – after a brief intro explaining what The Book of Mormon actually is – we are plunged into the narrative of two young Mormon missionaries, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are given the task of preaching the Mormon religion in Uganda. However, when they arrive in the remote Ugandan village, they discover the inhabitants are more concerned with their own problems, such as famine, AIDS and trying to escape the tyranny of the local warlord.

As Elder Price becomes increasingly frustrated with his inability to get through to the locals, as well as his annoyance at being teamed with the misfit Elder Cunningham, it is in fact the said Elder Cunningham who gets through to the villagers in a most unconventional manner, leading to chaos – and much hilarity.

It must be said – as if everyone didn’t already know – that this is most definitely not a show for children or for the easily offended. It relentlessly takes the mickey out of organised religion (there is a song in it called F*** You God), there is a hefty dollop of swear words throughout, and references to all kinds of lewd and illegal acts. So there are plenty of reasons to think that this show wouldn’t have been a huge success…and there are plenty of reasons why it is absolutely a success and is now in its sixth year on Broadway.

In the production we saw, Mancunian actor Don Simpson played Elder Price – he was excellent, and had a wonderful singing voice and perfect comic timing. The more eccentric Elder Cunningham was played by Brian Sears, who was hilarious and had the whole audience rooting for him, bringing a sense of vulnerability to the character.

Nabulungi, beautiful daughter of the Ugandan doctor and the villager who is most enthusiastic to learn more about The Book of Mormon is played by Kim Exum. She too had a gorgeous voice and was exactly as sweet yet feisty as the role demands. The aforementioned Doctor Mafala was played by Billy Eugene Jones, and has the honour of getting to sing the last – and possibly the funniest – song lyric in the whole show (I’m not spoiling it for you here). The evil General was played by Derrick Williams, complete with yellow cowboy boots and utter confusion at Elder Price’s attempts to convert him.

There are some excellent songs in the show, and although I didn’t know any of them prior to attending, they were all very catchy – my favourites being the opening number Hello!, as well as You and Me (But Mostly Me), Sal Play Ka Siti, and Spooky Mormon Hell Dream, which accompanied an incredibly funny scene set in hell, as the title would suggest (complete with the characters of Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Genghis Khan and…Johnny Cochran.)

Overall, I really enjoyed this show, and the rest of the packed auditorium also seemed to love it. I would dearly like to see this show again and am already looking into the possibility of seeing it in London’s West End.

Highly, highly recommended (but not if you are easily offended!!)

(For more about this production, please click here.)

0575097582-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

I picked up this book because I had heard lots of good things about it, and because despite the fact that fantasy is not, and never has been a favourite genre of mine, the premise intrigued me.

The story is set in London and is narrated by Peter Jones, a young PC in the Metropolitan Police Service. This strange tale starts when he is trying to glean information about a vicious and unprovoked murder, only to find himself interviewing a witness who died more than a hundred years ago…

More murders follow and Jones and his partner Lesley and mentor Thomas Nightingale quickly work out that they are all linked, and something strange and unusual is causing them.

As if that weren’t enough, Peter and Nightingale also find themselves caught up in a feud between Mother Thames and Father Thames, who are arguing over who has jurisdiction of their River Thames; as a result, Peter meets the exotic and alluring Beverley Brook.

I enjoyed this book a lot – but not quite as much as I had hoped to, or indeed quite as much as the first fifty pages or so led me to think I might. I really liked the characters of Peter and Nightingale, and as narrators go, Peter is witty, likeable and extremely engaging. However, I think the plot got a bit too convoluted, mainly because the feud over the River Thames seemed pointless and really added nothing whatsoever to the main mystery, which was that of the murders. The  murders themselves were quite interesting and I liked that Peter had a foot in both the mortal world and the underworld of London where he could learn magic and make deals with ghosts.

So despite feeling that it was something of an anti-climax, the main two characters are enough for me to want to try the next book in the series. I also find that generally with series such as this one, the first book is never the strongest. This book has had very strong reviews elsewhere, so if you are thinking of reading it – and especially if fantasy is a genre you enjoy (bearing in mind that it is not one I usually choose to read) I would recommend giving this a try.

shitfacedlogo-resized_orig

Shit-Faced Shakespeare has been running in America and the UK since 2010, and has enjoyed great success. The concept is simple – a small group of actors (six in this case, plus the compere) stage an abridged version of a Shakespeare play, with the twist that one of the cast is drunk. Well…shit-faced actually. Before the show, the compere told the audience that the cast member (in this case the actor playing the part of Claudio, although you are not told beforehand which cast member is going to be drunk, and the cast rotate that particular duty from show to show) had had several beers and half a bottle of Tequila prior to the performance.

What followed on this occasion was a truly hilarious hour – yes the show is just an hour long, and there are LOTS of liberties taken with the Bard’s script! – where Claudio was clearly drunk, fluffing lines, paraphrasing, whipping off his sunglasses at will (don’t ask, it made perfect sense at the time), interrupting other actors and basically causing uproar. The other five cast members were forced to work around his unpredictability and improvise, but it was fairly clear that none of them were taking it very seriously in the first place – and this just made it even funnier.

Needless to say that if you are planning or hoping to see a faithful production of the play, this is NOT the show for you. For one thing, the characters of Dogberry and his cronies are completely shaved from the script, and in this version the bad guy is Don Pedro, not his brother Don John (who also is not in the play). A male audience member is dragged onto stage to play the part of Margaret – and to be fair, he certainly got into the spirit of things! On the other hand, if you are looking for a lot of belly laughs, and you are not easily offended, then I would highly recommend this show. It’s probably worth pointing out that there is a lot of swearing and crude behaviour in this show, but if that doesn’t bother you, then definitely try and catch Shit-Faced Shakespeare if you get chance. I will certainly go again if the opportunity arises!

0099512076-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

I honestly can’t remember whether I actually read these books – more commonly known as Alice in Wonderland, I guess due to the 1951 Disney film, which is an amalgamation of both of the Alice books – or whether the stories and characters are just so well known that I feel like I’ve read them.

Either way, I recently bought the dark retelling and continuation ‘Alice’ by Christina Henry, and decided to read the originals before reading this newer release. For anyone who has lived under a rock for their whole lives, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland tells the story of the strange encounters a young girl called Alice has when she falls down a rabbit hole and ends up in Wonderland. There she meets such characters as the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice steps through a mirror and ends up in a strange world where she meets the Red Queen and the White Queen, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and many other characters.

I have mixed feelings about these stories. On the one hand, I am not really the target audience anyway and I feel I should take that into account. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Carroll was both imaginative and intelligent. The stories are quite fantastical, and Through the Looking Glass includes several clever verses, one of which is the famous Jabberwocky poem.

For all that though…I can’t say I really enjoyed reading the book (I read one book which contained both stories). I definitely preferred the first one, but I got a little bored with Through the Looking Glass, and consequently took far longer to read it than I would have expected. Maybe it’s because fantasy – which I guess this book probably could be classed as – is not a favourite genre of mine; maybe it’s because as I say, I am not the target audience; maybe it’s just that no book can resonate with every reader.

I would not want to put anyone else off reading the book – it is after all a much-loved classic, so really what does my opinion matter? – but on a personal level, I felt a little disappointed by it. I still look forward to reading the Christina Henry book though!

img_0111-700x455

Funny Girl is based on the life of Fanny Brice, a singer and entertainer who became famous in the early 1900s. It’s definitely a fictionalised account of Fanny’s life, so if you are after a biography this is not the show to see. But if you are after a couple of hours of great entertainment, delivered by a superb cast, then you should definitely see it.

The story tells how Fanny didn’t fit into the leggy beauty look that people wanted to see on stage, and instead had to rely on her humour and fantastic voice. And the audience loved her! She joined the Ziegfeld Follies and became a main attraction and a huge star. Her private life was less successful – she fell deeply in love with Nick Arnstein, a cad and a gambler, but through it all the show went on, as it always must.

Natasha J Barnes was outstanding as Fanny – she had something of a baptism of fire in the role, being understudy for Sheridan Smith and finding herself thrust into the main role when Smith had to leave the tour for a while under fraught personal circumstances. Barnes has a quick wit, a very expressive face and a cheeky nod and wink, all with perfect comic timing. She is utterly endearing – and that voice! Wow!

Darius Campbell was fetching and charismatic as Nick. Far too smooth a character for my personal taste, but he inhabited the part well and his singing voice was just right too.

Full credit too to Rachel Izen who played Fanny’s mother and almost stole every scene she was in; Myra Sands as family friend Mrs Strakosh and Zoe Ann Brown as another family friend Mrs Meeker. Also to Joshua Lay who played Fanny’s friend, fellow performer and ardent admirer Eddie. His dancing was excellent, and I wished Fanny had ended up with him.

Beautiful songs, with the two most well known probably being People, and the uplifting belter, Don’t Rain On My Parade.

Overall, it’s a feel-good show with some poignant and tender moments. Natasha Barnes fully deserved the standing ovation she got at the end…I highly recommend this production!

1780339542-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

The third instalment of the Miss Fisher series starts with Phryne Fisher waking up on a train to discover that she and her fellow passengers have been chloroformed. After raising the alarm it is discovered that an elderly lady, Mrs Henderson, is missing from the train and is subsequently found dead. The honorable Miss Fisher is soon on the case, but the plot thickens when a young girl who was on the train is brought to her having lost her memory. Now Phryne is not only trying to discover who killed Mrs Henderson, but also where the girl has come from and what has happened to her to cause her to forget everything…

As with the previous two Miss Fisher novels, there is a great sense of fun in this book. However, there is a sinister undercurrent, which deals with the trafficking of young girls and a gruesome murder. The author does traverse this tightrope well though – conveying the characters’ (and by extension the readers’) disgust at the treatment of the girls, while still allowing Phryne’s sense of adventure and her liberated attitude towards sex to come through.

An enjoyable and for the most part undemanding and enjoyable read – if you like ‘cosy’ murder mysteries I would recommend the Phryne Fisher series. However, if complex character studies and intricate plots are more your thing, this series may well annoy you. I like these books very much, reading them as I do, sandwiched between other books.