To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

When I was in Canada (a blog post will be coming soon) I ran out of books – not cool for a Bookworm – but luckily we knew that there was the Indigo Spirit Bookshop which would no doubt save the day. And it did!

I chose a holiday read – mainly because I was a little bit overwhelmed by choice, but also was worried about the different formats on my bookshelves (such a book geek I know). So, for the second time, Netflix inspired my book choice with ‘To All the Boys I Loved Before’, as I had watched the film and always want to read the books if there is one.

This is such a lovely read. It is a girly YA book, but there is something rather wonderful about it. For me, it was a great coming of age novel and seemed very relateable for anyone who ever had a teenage crush growing up. The journey of Lara-Jean goes on is one that I am pretty sure we all went on. (Although, I am till glad that I did not grow up with social media).

However, the real joy and emotional ride for me was the family unit with their dad bringing up 3 girls. I may have shed a little tear at the sweet moments in the story where they had family traditions and kept the memory of their mum alive.

This was an easy read but enjoyable – perfect for a relaxing holiday (or it can make it into the festive read category as it does cross into Christmas) – and I may well find my way to read the rest of the series (and rewatch the film).

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

With Netflix releasing its adaptation of ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, I decided it was time that I tried to read some of Jackson’s work.

I am usually not one for spooky novels but, as I have started to want to read books that fit seasons this year, I made a change. I could not put this book down once I started it. Shirley Jackson writes in a wonderfully accessible style which sucks you in – and also adds to how much she manages to spook her readers. Although it was clear that the TV adaptation was only really inspired by, rather than fully based, on the book both are wonderful in their own way.

Again, I do not want to spoil the novel for anyone who may want to read it. However, if you do, you will be as drawn into the mystery of Hill House as its inhabitants. I did not find it a terrifying read but it certainly can play on your mind as the story unfolds. What is real in the house and what isn’t? Is everyone having the same experience or is there more to it?

I am certainly glad that I chose to read this book in October, as it is idea for autumn. I am also glad that I did not assume I knew the story from the Netflix series – well, for me anyway. So, I have now discovered another author whose books I would like to read more.

Have you read any Shirley Jackson novels? What are your thoughts?

The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

So, I spotted that this was considered a must-read for autumn, which was the final little piece of encouragement I needed to pick up a copy – as, basically, I wanted to read it anyway – haha!

This is a brilliant thriller and I was genuinely surprised it was a debut novel. It is a clever and sophisticated plot with a twist on what seemed like every page. The tale is told in the past as well as the present – giving us the context around the strange events playing out, or almost, repeated in Eddie’s life. I genuinely can not say much about this book but I do not want to even hint at a spoiler for anyone who would want to pick it up. However, I would have liked a little bit more of the ‘spooky’ side of the tale – but this does not negatively impact the tale at all merely a personal preference.

I also could not believe the final chapter – it was not what I was expecting at all – maybe some of you would have spotted it, but I didn’t, so it was an excellent twist.

The Chalk Man – which works on more than one level in the story – is correctly identified as an excellent autumn/winter read. It is ideal for those dark nights when many of us like to be a little bit spooked.

Really excited to see what C J Tudor’s next book brings…

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I had spotted this book in the Bookstagram world, so when it was a bargain then I had to pick up a copy. Now, I had no idea what this novel was about, just that it was by the same author as ‘Gone Girl’.

When I started reading I was instantly hooked as there were so many strands to this novel that you simply wanted to know ‘Who, What, Where, When, Why, How’. There is a clever study of human nature and psychological throughout. The interactions between the characters are absolutely fascinating. Especially, when you realise the impact that someone’s actions and attitudes can have on someone else. Camille and her mother have a very strange and strained relationship but as secrets are uncovered there are even more surprises ahead for all. As well as the solution to the mystery gripping Wind Gap.

This book is not a comfortable read, as it deals with some very difficult issues, but it is compelling. I am glad I have read it and it will certainly stay with me for a long time to come – a good autumnal choice.

Have you read any Gillian Flynn novels?

Troilus and Cressida

Arriving at The RSC on a Saturday evening (two weeks ago – oops) in October, I realised that I did not have a clue what Troilus and Cressida is about. All I knew was that there was a ‘Mad Max’ feel to the production (confession number two – never seen it) and there had been a lot of positive hype about the production we were about to see.

Just before the play began, Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse offered me a whistle-stop synopsis which basically told me it was set during the Trojan War (something else that is not my forte). However, once the action began, my lack of background knowledge was not a problem. This story contains everything that I think makes a good play – humour, intrigue, action and a little bit of tragedy. You certainly can’t fully categorise this play into any niche as it is peppered with a little bit of everything.

Central to the plot is the power struggle between Greece and Troy. Well, in fact, power struggles as a whole. There are a lot of games played throughout to really find out who is top dog, or so that someone gets exactly what they want. Our star-crossed lovers (I know, traditionally a different play) are caught up amongst all the power plays, mainly thanks to Pandarus. This play certainly keeps you on your toes as the tension builds and the action unfolds.

The setting of this play may not be traditional but it works. The costumes are stunning, the set so versatile and the casting excellent. Although some characters may not be their ‘traditional’ gender, it is certainly the best actors in the role in every case.

The percussion, from the imagination of Evelyn Glennie, is perfect. Wonderfully performed throughout, it gels with the whole production.

So, for dare I say it, little known Shakespeare play, I was enthralled (and certainly need to brush up on my ancient history) and, for me, it has one of the best closing lines ever – ‘And at that time bequeath you my diseases’ (delivered perefectly by Oliver Ford-Davies).

War Horse (The UK Tour)

In this centenary year of the end of World War One, I can not think of a more emotional and wonderful play to have seen.

I have been a fan of the writing of Michael Morpurgo since I was a child. War Horse is, of course, one of the books I have read and taken to heart. So, over the last decade, this show has been on my to-be-seen list and it was so exciting to tick this one of the off the list on Saturday.

You arrive at the theatre already very full of emotions – well I did. World War One evokes so many emotions (as any war does) that you know you need to be prepared for quite an experience in the theatre. As soon as the show starts, you are engrossed in what is unfolding on the stage. It is so simple and yet so powerful. The beautiful use of folk music sets the scene and stirs the emotions. The beautiful ‘puppets’ that are the horse (and goose) almost make you forget they are puppets as they bond with the characters on the stage.

The reality of the experiences of those men in 1914-18 are not glossed over, but handled with care. Nothing is hidden when it comes to the horror of war for the soldiers, animals and civilians but it is cleverly portrayed and it more thought-provoking than shocking.

Something that this story does, which I always like to make the students I teach think about, is emphasise that these men were doing what their country told them  was right – on whichever side, the ordinary men were all victims of war.

By the end of this beautiful play I was quite a jumble of emotions, as you are fully invested in every single aspect of the story. The bond that Albert and Joey have is beautiful but also the support Joey and Topthorn gave others that they encountered is deeply moving. I may have shed some tears as I thought about all those people who had been touched by WWI and those of us who still are.

If you can catch this show, please do – every single member of this cast does the memory of World War One justice.

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

My reading habits have changed slightly since becoming a book blogger. Never before did I consider which month to read certain books, but now it seems to be one of the key considerations when deciding what to read. Therefore, I was really excited when it was revealed that this month’s ‘Maidens of Murder’ book was ‘The Pale Horse’, one I knew had a slightly spooky undercurrent.

Again, we were not taken on this adventure by Poirot or Miss Marple but Mark Easterbrook is our narrative provider. (Even the most recent ITV adaptation did add Miss Marple to the tale). A number of mysterious deaths have taken place, but when a priest is murdered after visiting one of the ‘victims’ it seems that there could be more to this than meets the eye. Mark Easterbrook becomes intrigued by this mystery, which seems to lead to a slightly strange public house called ‘The Pale Horse’. It appears that the ladies who inhabit it may have some connections to practicing the ‘dark arts’.

I really enjoyed this novel. If you read this little blog on a regular basis, you will know that I am an Agatha Christie fan but there are still a few novels that do not quite hit the spot, but this was not one of them. I just wanted to know what was happening next; there is a well-built-up tension – and the twist – well I did not spot that coming! (Although, as always, it seems so obvious when it is fully revealed).

So, October has got off to a suitably spooky start – A classic Christie!

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey

This is not a book I would ever read if I was faced with a choice. A strange statement, I realise, as I have clearly read it, but that is thanks to it arriving in a little bookish parcel from Hayley of Hayley From Home. I also actually enjoyed it – my first step into real zombie fiction.

Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. I was intrigued at every page and chapter about what was going to happen next. Melanie, the girl with all the gifts, appears to be living a monotonous life of routine and confinement. It does not seem to make sense and nor does the ‘fear’ people express around her and her ‘friends’. When an attack breaks the ‘life’ she is used to, and she finds herself on the run with four adults, she finally realises the uncomfortable truth, forges some unusual friendship and understands exactly what it is that makes her different.

The tale was a little bit slow in the middle but it did seem to reflect the development of the story and experiences of the characters. There are brilliantly jumpy moments, emotional moments and even moments of real humour. Although, the thing that really appealed to me was that this was a story with a heart. There is a real human side to this zombie book. And the twist was not one I expected, but was very well done.

This was an ideal book for the dark autumn nights – I am glad that Hayley sharing it with me pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to try something new.

Has a friend ever helped you find a surprising new read?

Simon Reeve – The Tour

As you may know, my lovely friend Miss W and I love an adventure. This time it was a trip to Birmingham Town Hall to hear the travel presenter/adventurer Simon Reeve speak on his tour, which has coincided with the release of his book ‘Step by Step’.

We have heard Simon Reeve speak before as an ambassador for Kuoni, so we knew we were in for a good night. We were looking forward to hearing which stories he would share at this event.

To begin with he shares some information about his background – which, although he has never hidden it, may surprise some. Then he discusses and shares the different series of events which led to him presenting the amazing BBC documentaries. The joy of listening to Simon Reeve speak is not only the passion with which he speaks but also the humour. It is clear that he appreciates every chance he has but he also wants people to understand that we can all learn from travel. We can all be enriched by any kind of travel; we do not have to go far to experience adventure.

Also, the emotion with which he tells some stories shows that maybe we have to really appreciate the privileged position that we are in and build out cultural literacy and understanding of those that may not be so lucky. A chance meeting could also change lives forever (a little like my friendship with Miss W).

I certainly left the show ready for an adventure, ready to read my copy of ‘Step by Step’ and with a desire to have even more awareness of the world around us. We do not need to experience life on a screen – we need to go out and adventure. So, thank you Miss W for an amazing birthday present – where are we off to next?

The Return of Theatre Club

 

September 22nd 2018 was the day that Theatre Club returned. It had a little break while a lot of exciting events took place but now it was back and as awesome as ever.

We shook it up a little this time, deciding one of us would organise food and the other the show. This way there was a surprise for both of us. After all, who does not enjoy a surprise?

So, for me, the surprise was brunch at ‘100 Wardour Street’ – and what a brunch (slightly alcoholic) it was. It was a three course food sensation – with a cocktail. And it was simply delicious. For me (and Mrs M) it was a starter of streaky bacon, duck eggs and tomato foccacia, followed by wild mushroom risotto (Mrs M had the Seabass), and concluded for us with waffles, berries and the most delicious Chantilly cream. It was perfectly accompanied by a ‘Cloud No 9’ cocktail, which was just a dreamy combination of gin, blueberries and lemon juice (there may have been other things but those were the best). We both absolutely loved the chance to sit down and put the world to rights – and it was a perfect place to do so.

After, it was my chance to spring the surprise, which was ‘School of Rock’. This was a show that had been on my radar for a while and was recommended by so many. It was a great choice! As soon as the lights went down, there was an excited vibe in the theatre. (As I would guess many of the audience had seen the film). The joy of this show is that it is full of humour for all, adults and children alike. The songs are catchy from the word go and you are filled with instant happiness. The talent shown by every child on the stage is extraordinary, singing, dancing, playing instruments and making people laugh. I also, as a teacher, loved the little life lesson about what a difference an inspirational adult can make, even if they are not the role model you would expect.

By the end of the show, you are encouraged to quite literally dance in the aisles. After all, you are witnessing a rock concert – so what else should you be doing other than having a great time?

For me, this really was a five-star show and a five-star day out with an awesome friend. I absolutely can not wait to start planning for our next Theatre Club, because making memories is one of the most precious things you can do.