Month: January 2018

Robin Hood’s Dawn- Review

Characters

What’s not to love about Robin Hood? There’s something charming and engaging about the legend from England. In this book he is presented with a wonderful, boyish charm and a brilliant relationship with his friends. He’s provided with political enemies and motivation to fight for what is right. While I would argue he is not the protagonist of the book (It is certainly an ensamble), he is the focus.

Marion in this book is my favourite portrayal outside of the Disney animation. I’ve always struggled with how other books and film represent her, where as in Robin Hood’s Dawn, the characteristic of head strong woman does not conflict with her feminity,

Plot

The plot does exactly what it perhaps suggests in the title; it is an origins of sorts. There is detail in the history, ensuring readers understand where in which the story is based. It is rich in historical context and ensure you are there on the front lines. It doesn’t boil the ideas of Robin Hood down to the parable-like meanings some other retellings do and it’s a refreshing change to see the story show how much of an impact the Crusades are believed to have had upon the citizens of England.

Writing

The story moves between many characters to give the historical setting its richness. It does make the initial chapters a little broken and choppy, but the payoff is very much worth it. It becomes a fast and easy read that will have you begging for the sequel.

Robin Hood’s Dawn- Extract

Chapter 6:  The Earl of Sherwood Forest

25 August 1188, Sherwood Forest

Forcing himself to redirect his thoughts away from Marian’s perilous circumstances, Robin returned to his scrutiny of Gisborne’s weapon.  He frowned at the sword and mumbled, “Interesting.”

“What is it, Lord Robin?” inquired Much.

Robin revealed, “This sword is quite distinctive.”

Will leaned closer for a better view.  “It looks like any other sword, except for all those marks on the blade.”

Robin inspected the extravagant weapon as he described it.  “This is an excellent sword, equal to the one I carry.  It’s unlikely that a landless knight like Gisborne would own such a weapon, although sometimes a wealthy noble will award a superior sword to his favorite squire on the occasion of his knighthood, especially if the knight will be tasked with guarding the lord.”

Much felt confused. “Gisborne is Argentan’s captain; he was probably his squire too.  Why does the quality of this sword surprise you?”

Robin countered, “Much, do you remember the Barony of Argentan from our travels through Normandy?” At the quick shake of Much’s head, he disclosed, “Well, I remember it.  Argentan is not prosperous; it is small and insignificant.  I wonder how Baron de Argentan could afford to give such an expensive weapon to his captain.”

Rising, the three men strolled to a nearby spot brightened by a shaft of light, and Robin held the blade where the sun’s rays could illuminate its elaborate designs.  He continued to study it as Will and Much watched.

Much commented, “Those marks look like letters.”

An amazed Will stared at Much.  “You can read?”

Much’s ruddy complexion darkened slightly in self-consciousness.  “I can read a little.  I was allowed to listen to Lord Robin’s lessons, and his tutor kindly taught me many things.”

Robin pointed to the elegant etching on the blade.  “Notice these two lions – I saw something similar on Argentan’s ring.  Above the lions is a rising sun, and below them is a peculiar inscription.”

Much squinted at the blade and grumbled in frustration.  “I know my reading is not as well-practiced as yours, but I cannot decipher any of those words.”

Robin smiled affectionately at his friend.  “Be at ease, Much.  It is not English; it is written in Latin.  I’ve seen this style of inscribed sword in the past, but typically they are engraved with prayers, such as ‘In the Name of the Father.’”

“Do you know what it says?” asked Will.

Robin replied, “I can translate it, even though the letters are crowded together.  It says, ‘From Shadows to Glory:  I am Immortal, and My Kingdom Awaits.’”  He harrumphed grimly, flustered by the unexpected phrase.  He lowered the sword from the patch of sunlight as he became lost in his thoughts.

Robin blew out an exasperated breath. “Argentan mentioned shadows, but he was speaking in riddles.  I must think on this more.  For now, I will keep this sword; I want Gisborne to know that I have it.”

Following Much and Will back to the campfire, Robin plotted Marian’s rescue.

 

Review- Julius Caesar @_bridgetheatre

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Director: Nicholas Hytner
Staring: David Calder/ Ben Whishaw/ Michelle Fairley/ David Morrissey

Story
A play of two parts, the first deals with the political unrest in Caesar’s Rome and the coup that it inspires. The successful assassination leads to a second half fueled by civil war between Brutus’ exciled rebels and Marc Anthony’s coalition army.
It’s a simple story in its progression but this allows for the complexity of politics to be highlighted and emotions, vengeance and violence to run high.

Cast
I’d be lying if i said I didn’t buy a ticket to the play for the cast. Who could stay away with even one of the names that have been HBO staples over the years?
It’s been commented upon many times how good British talent is on American tv and there’s no better place to see it than in a contemporary Shakespeare, complete with interactive groundlings.
It’s hard to say anyone stood out, as the entire cast worked in such harmony that no one stood alone.
David Morrissey’s Marc Anthony did have me hoping he’ll work with Hytner again and bring the character’s other tragedy to life. Morrissey truly brought his all for the second half of this 2 hour play, ensuring no one missed, or wanted, an interval.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

When it came to Anthony’s iconic speech , Morrissey delivered it with such an understated grief-ridden power, he gave a new lease of life to what could be considered a tired and over used line.

Ben Whishaw is a delight, as always. Having seen Whishaw own the stage in the intimate setting of the Almeida theatre, it was good to see that he plays well with a bigger cast too. His character, Brutus, is a wonderful, flawed but well intended and Whishaw draws on the inner turmoil to pull the audience in further.

Production (music, set, costume, lighting)
The newly opened Bridge Theatre is really something else. This is a new age of theatre and it’s filled with endless possibilities. The current production is presented as an immersive promenade; allowing the traditional groundlings of the Globe to establish a crowd within the Forum’s of Rome.
The costumes bring proceedings out of Rome of old, and establish it instead in a world devoid of time with current political undertones. Without spoiling anything, I would advise people wanting to see the performance to buy Promenade tickets and arrive in plenty of time to spend at least 15 minutes prior to performance starting inside the theatre proper.
Props are used sparingly and well; just wait for the scene change and how the props are utilised near the final act of the play. The lighting is obtrusive at times, which adds to the tone.

 

Never have I ever seen such an ingenious production that has me considering tickets for the following day.


Julius Ceasar plays at the Bridge Theatre until 15th April with an NT Live performance broadcast in cinemas on 22nd March. Buy your tickets here

Book Review: Second Best Friend by @NonPratt

Description: Stunning novella by a hot talent in YA, in a gorgeous collectable edition. Jade and Becky have always been best friends; inseparable and often indistinguishable. But when a spiteful comment from an awful ex pushes Jade to the edge, she begins to see that she has always been second best in everything. When the school election offers her the chance to finally be number one, Jade learns just how far she is willing to go to be better than her closest friend. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+

Buy it here

Characters

There are so many characters to empathise with. The protagonist, Jade is wonderfully messed up in that way that we all are and there are some fears that she has that I face even now. Becky’s past comes back to haunt her in a way everyone will relate to.

Then there’s Nick. I’m in love with Nick and I wish I had him in my life. He’s perhaps my favourite of them all. He is true to himself and someone I’d respect completely.

Plot

The plot is fast paced and emotionally charged. However, a lot is packed into 137 pages. From the first page, dominos are put in place ready for the topple as the book reaches its close.

Writing

Non’s writing has always been clean, character driven and emotive. Second Best Friend is no exception. Not going to lie, I do prefer her longer novels but I hang onto every word and even then, it’s not enough. So yes, I’m greedy, I have questions and I’m not quite ready to leave these characters.

However, Non must be commended for what she is trying to achieve here. Both this and her previous Novella are accessible to many, including those who perhaps have lost their love of reading.

THE EXTINCTION TRIALS, Q&A with S M Wilson

ET-Blogger-tour

HG: Which character, if any, did you relate to?

SMW: It has to be heroine, Storm.  She’s angry and feels abandoned, and I felt that as I wrote her.  But Storm has a big heart and a strong sense of ethics and I hope that comes through.

HG: If you were to enter the trials, what would your motivation be?

SMW: Food!  I will admit to being a complete food lover.  I’m not particularly sporty.  The chances of me completing any of the trials is less than slim, but, if you were waving chocolate at me I would probably have a go.

HG: Comparisons to books like Hunger Games and Jurassic park are inevitable despite your book’s unique storytelling and plot. Are comparisons something you embrace as a writer?

SMW: I am so flattered by those comparisons.  Nowadays people only think of the Jurassic Park film, but the book by Michael Crichton is fabulous, so atmospheric and I hope I’ve captured a little of that in mine.  As for the Hunger Games, I read all those books, I loved the fight-to-the-death element.  So, yes, I’m happy with comparisons!

HG: You are able to write with two distinct voices for both of your main characters; was there a process behind this? 

SMW: No.  I’m very methodical.  I just wrote it in alternate chapters. I found it easy as both characters have very different motivations.

HG: Who would survive longer in the Trials; Katniss Everdeen or Alan Grant?

SMW: Nope!  That’s completely unfair.  You can’t make me choose between them.  Can I go for Chris Pratt’s character in Jurassic World instead please? Owen Grady looks like he could survive just about anything with that twinkling smile.  Can I be controversial though and say I might send a raptor after the heroine…

HG: Going to go all Sherlock on you now. If you were to give your fans three, individual and unrelated, words as clues for the next book, what would they be?

SMW: The title of the next book would have to be one of them: (TO BE REVEALED this weekend on #SundayYA!) It speaks volumes!

The other two I would choose are mystery and surprise.  They’re going to venture into some unexplored territory and get a few shocks along the way!

HG: Normally, this sort of book would have readers clambering for your back catalogue of books. Being your debut novel, everyone will be a little disappointed and be itching for that sequel. What 3 books would you recommend while they wait?

SMW: One I’ve already mentioned Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.  Love, love, love it.

The other two are YA.  Warcross by Marie Lu and Invictus by Ryan Graudin.  Read both of these books this year and just loved them.


Sign up for the Usborne YA newsletter here for information about upcoming releases and the extract release for the second Extinction Trials book.

The Extinction Trials by @susanwilsonbook @Usborne

The Extinction Trials by @susanwilsonbook @Usborne

From Goodreads: Betrayal. Sacrifice. Survival.

Welcome to the Extinction Trials.

In Stormchaser and Lincoln’s ruined world, the only way to survive is to risk everything. To face a contest more dangerous than anyone can imagine. And they will do anything to win.

But in a land full of monsters – human and reptilian – they can’t afford to trust anyone. Perhaps not even each other…

Buy it here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Extinction-Trials/dp/1474927343/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509827914&sr=8-1&keywords=extinction+trials
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34865995-the-extinction-trials?ac=1&from_search=true

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My first thoughts

Described as Jurassic Park meets Hunger Games, Extinction Trials was always going to be something I loved. This description doesn’t quite do this wonderful book justice; it’s so much more.

The Characters

Storm and Lincoln are wonderful, strong and focused protagonists; they become people you root for from the very beginning.
Lincoln is well motivated and head strong, but there’s a mystery surrounding him that makes him more human. Storm finds herself questioning why she gets involved, she’s our moral compass within this ethical story. Her love of dinosaurs is all of us. The characters, together, move the story along without bogging it down with retreads.

They are joined by many other characters including an interesting collection of antagonists. All are well developed, motivated and positioned within the narrative.

The Plot

A McGuffin plot with action sequences that are enveloped within a dystopian world beyond our imagination. The narrative takes a wonderful episodic approach and follows the protagonists through their entrance, training and mission to the dinosaur populated part of earth.
Of course, knowing this is the first of what is going to be a wonderful trilogy, it’s not that simple and there’s a gut wrenching finale that has your heart in your mouth and sets up the sequel that I cannot wait to read.

The Writing

The comparisons to Jurassic part don’t end with the pre-historic species headlining the novel; Wilson’s writing opens the novel up to a clear translation to a cinematic interpretation. Something Michael Crichton was famous for.

It’s quite interesting that Wilson has used a third person narrative, allowing for an omnipresent view point, yet choses to follow Storm and Lincoln exclusively. It works so incredibly well and helps the characters to keep things from the reader.

One of my favourite things about this novel was the chapter lengths; there was a beautiful inconsistency to the length of chapters. There was no discernible pattern and it fascinated me; it felt like a visual representation of the chaos that would ensue.


ET-Blogger-tour

Clean by Juno Dawson

First thoughts

This is almost the novel I’ve been waiting for from Juno. I won’t lie, I’ve struggled with Juno’s work since moving from her Point Horror homage; I was comfortable with it and not ready to let go. I will always buy her work in the hopes that it will be the next Say Her Name or Hollow Pike; it’s always the cross an excellent writer has to carry. I am delighted to say that the hope paid off; this is Juno’s best work to date.

Characters

I can’t say I relate to any of the characters, they are put on a higher level to the reader. However, that’s no bad thing. Had I related to even one of them, this book would have destroyed me. I needed that little bit of detachment.

You can empathise though and what Juno provides is an eclectic group of addicts; food, OCD and sex. It enable the characters to get to the root of their problems.

Our protagonist, Lexi, is one of the Russian elite. There’s enough about the character to make that believable; Baba Yaga, I’m looking at you.

She’s not very likeable; the anger pours off the page in waves. However, her personality won’t stop you reading the book because you know it’s the drugs talking and you will want the best for her. She grows as the story progresses.

Plot

Initially, the plot reminded me on my favourite story arc and episode of Private Practice, in which one of the main characters ended up in a private rehab facility.

The chapters are numbered and named after each stage of recovery, which gives you a certain sense of where the plot is going. However, to say it’s a story of recovery doesn’t quite do Juno or her story justice.

It’s more a journey of self discovery, self repair and self acceptance. One that is not easy, or painless. Lexi’s dependancy on other people as well as drugs is something she needs to set right before she can be well.

Writing

Juno has found a wonderful voice with this novel. It’s modern, engaging and very real. While I struggle to get along with some of the dialogue, that’s a personal preference and I can accept it was necessary to give the story context and grounding.

The chapters are long, but fit the story telling. As someone who devoured the book, it certainly didn’t come as a hinderance.

It’s a self contained story and while I have questions, I’m not needing a sequel. However, what it has left me with is a want for a trilogy from Juno. I think I’m ready for a Juno Dawson world that I can fall into.

Pinocchio

Pinocchio

The National Theatre

2.12.2017 (2nd Preview performance)

Story

The story sticks very close to source. For me, having not read the book, that’s the Disney movie.

The songs, however, seem out of place but find new homes that fit well within the production.

It always has been a dark tale, and this interpretation is now exception. Even the joyous laughs and giggles from little ones can’t avert your mind from the evil that follows Pinocchio or the pain Geppetto feels.

Cast

It’s a wonderful ensemble of talented actors and puppeteers with stand out performances from Joe Idris-Roberts and Audrey Bisson who play Pinocchio and Jiminy Crickey respectively.

Idris-Roberts gives his all, and is anything but wooden as the young puppet on a mission to become a real boy. On, or off strings, he will charm you and disarm you. It’s Idris-Roberts who has me gearing for a second viewing.

Then there is the wonderful and playful Audrey Bisson. She plays and operates Jiminy Cricket; Pinocchio’s conscience. She has a delightful sense of timing and humour, bringing a wonderful and playful tone to the play.

Production (music, set, costume, lighting)

This was a beautiful set that used the lighting to give the audience a sense of size.

The use of puppetry was quite simply breathtaking.

The highlight for costumes for me was the Fox. Such a stunning outfit, complete with platform shoes to provide added height.

I hope to see this play again before it finishes in March.

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Release date: 21.9.2017

Description: Time is running out . . .

Farway McCarthy was born outside of time. With nowhere to call home and nothing to anchor him to the present, Far captains a crew on a dangerous mission into the past.

When he collides with Eliot – a mysterious, secretive girl, whose very appearance raises questions about time itself – Far immediately distrusts her.

But he must take a leap of faith, following Eliot on a race against time, if he is to protect everything he’s ever loved from disappearing forever . . .

Buy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1510102868/ref=mp_s_a_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1514300221&sr=8-13&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=invictus

Characters

Far and Eliot are the most interesting of the group. I don’t find them relatable, but they’re certainly likeable. Far isn’t as much of a hot head as you first expect; he’s Harry Potter but lacking the ignorance of his upbringing.

Plot

It’s a wonderful time travelling plot, that doesn’t fall into the trappings that some other books fall into. It has a feeling of the tv show Timeless about it, but it quickly diverts from the individual cases of time travel to a much larger story.

Writing

It’s a solid novel, written in third person and doesn’t hold back on the action. It has a delightful way of incorporating swear words that reminds me of Eion Colfer’s Artemis Fowl.

I personally could have done with it being about 100 pages shorter, but I was having to drown out Christmas TV and my father’s chatter so I was pulled out of it a fair bit.

Everless by @Sara__Holland

Characters

It’s not often you find a book where you enjoy and relate to most of the characters. From the protagonist to the staff at Everless, each one is fully developed and invite you in to this world. They are likeable, unlikeable and with one in particular you will be utterly conflicted from start to finish.

Jules is strong, angry and the perfect protagonist to be on this journey with. Her voice is clear and strong, even when under pressure.

Interestingly, it is Liam who was my favourite character from the outset. For the first time, I’ve not trusted the protagonist’s opinion. I willed it to be false. I put that down, in part, to Sara Holland’s writing.

Plot

It’s a heroes quest unlike any I’ve read before. It pulls you in from the very start and you’re along for the ride as ? learns about herself and the dangerous world she lives in.

The addition of the time bleeding and blood iron is genius. Elements relating to time can often feel overwhelmingly futuristic. However, we are treated to what I would consider a delightful fusion of steam punk and Historical Britain.

Writing

Sara Holland’s first person narrative unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced before. The ability to develop other characters and imply that there is an alternative view is utterly seamless. It’s only reflecting that I’ve realised I questioned Jules’ understanding throughout the novel.

The only time I stopped reading was when i paused to text my best friend, Gem, to tell her that she has to read this book.

One thing that really hit home with me was this quote: “It’s possible to feel joy and grief at the same time.”

No one, not even myself, has ever been able to articulate how depression feels to me. Not only has Holland done this, she has done it in such a beautiful and haunting way.